Barkley tops Heisman Predictor

Ryan McCrystal is the developer of the Heisman Predictor, and his early take on the 2012 Heisman Trophy race for ESPN.com puts USC QB Matt Barkley squarely in the lead.

You know, not unlike Stanford QB Andrew Luck was last year.

Here's McCrystal's take on 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.

McCrystral's other top Pac-12 candidate might surprise you: Oregon RB Kenjon Barner. And, yes, McCrystal knows about De'Anthony Thomas. He writes:

A few weeks ago it was hard to imagine Barner as a legitimate Heisman candidate. But with Thomas and James bolting for the NFL, Barner has suddenly emerged as the star of the Ducks' offense.

As a relatively unknown contender, Barner enters the season at a disadvantage, but starring in Chip Kelly's offense should quickly solve that problem. Assuming he posts numbers similar to James' stats from the past two seasons, Barner should be in contention.

The key to Barner's candidacy will be how he performs against USC. Running backs are at a disadvantage in the Heisman voting already, and it would be nearly impossible to overcome a loss in a head-to-head battle with Barkley.

Another obstacle Barner might need to overcome is his own teammate, De'Anthony Thomas. As a true freshman in 2011, Thomas racked up 1,200 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns, and will likely see an increased role this season. With two similar players excelling on the same team, it might be difficult for either to build momentum in the Heisman race.

Barner's Heisman scenario: 20+ TD, beat USC, lead Oregon to Pac-12 title; 132 Predictor points.

McCrystal also includes Washington QB Keith Price and USC WR Robert Woods among his "other candidates."