No surprise: Barkley is Heisman frontrunner

The Heisman Pundit's early forecast for the 2012 award Tuesday featured a number of Notre Dame opponents. Ours is no different.

Two of the top four Heisman candidates in Ryan McCrystal's prediction formula are scheduled to face the Irish, as are three of the top six.

The frontrunner, of course, is USC quarterback Matt Barkley:

While the results of the last few seasons have bucked this trend, historically, Heisman voters are drawn to players from traditional powers who enter the year as household names. If Barkley, coming off a sixth-place finish in the Heisman voting, simply matches his statistics from 2011 and leads USC to a BCS bowl game, he'll be a serious contender.

Barkley's biggest challenge could be USC's schedule. It's tough to win the award without playing on the national stage, and Barkley may not get many opportunities. The toughest opponent on the Trojans' schedule is Oregon, which, after losing Darron Thomas and LaMichael James to the NFL, may not be able to provide Barkley with the challenge he needs.

Barkley's Heisman scenario: Lead USC to BCS National Championship Game, 40+ TD; 150 Predictor points

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, another Irish opponent, comes in at No. 4. Oklahoma signal caller Landry Jones is No. 6.

Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods receives consideration after failing to crack the 10-man list.

The Heisman Pundit, as you'll recall, had Barkley and Robinson atop its list, with Jones also at No. 6. The site also listed Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Touissant, who was No. 12 on its 15-man list.