The 2011 Heisman Trophy ceremony took place Saturday night, and very few people were talking about players like Robert Griffin III or Montee Ball as serious candidates before this season. So it's ridiculously early to be speculating on 2012 candidates. But it is a lot of fun.
Wisconsin's Ball is only a junior, and if he decides to come back for his senior season he'll be one of the preseason Heisman favorites in 2012. Most expect him to make the leap to the NFL, however, and his stock might never be higher.
So we'll assume Ball does not return as we examine some other potential Big Ten Heisman candidates next season:
Michigan QB Denard Robinson: Well, of course. Robinson has been in the Heisman conversation in the early part of the past two years, and voters are very familiar with his abilities. A couple of things could be in his favor in 2012: He'll be a senior, and he'll enter his third year as a starter. He'll also be in the second year of Al Borges' offensive system. Robinson will have to cut down on his interceptions, develop into a better passer and compete against the insane numbers he has put up the past two seasons. But he'll definitely be on the radar if Michigan keeps winning under Brady Hoke.
Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead: Burkhead blossomed into a star this season, rushing for 1,268 yards and 15 touchdowns, and is expected to come back for his senior season. He might not always be flashy, but few backs run harder. If Nebraska can have a big season, he can get into the mix, along with possibly his backfield mate, quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller: It's probably wildly unfair to put Miller on this list. He'll only be a sophomore and will be learning a new system. But he did show signs of stardom as a rookie, and now he'll be showcased in Urban Meyer's spread system. Next season is likely too soon for Miller to make many Heisman waves, but don't be surprised if he's competing for the statue before his career in Columbus is over.