When asked about the Heisman Trophy race -- regardless of whether it's winter, spring, summer or early fall -- my answer is always the same: Check back with me in the second half of October.
Why? Because I have lived through the days of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Those were the guys who were anointed before the season even started, but were upset by players who arrived on Labor Day weekend as barely blips on the Downtown Athletic Club's radar screen. We've seen guys get off to hot starts and fade, and others who get off to slow starts and surge.
Until we get to the six-game mark, it's foolish to even speculate, though it sure is fun.
Now stiff-arm go-time has finally arrived. And the lead pack of five appears to be pretty uniform, no matter which Heisman predictor you choose to believe. ESPN's very own panel of experts entered the weekend with a 1-to-5 ranking of Geno Smith, Braxton Miller, Collin Klein, Manti Te'o and De'Anthony Thomas. (My personal top five is close, though I have Klein over Miller and hot on Smith's heels.)
But who are the players not among that top five who should be? Who are the players being penalized because of a lack of preseason buzz, youth, the record of their teams -- or the lack of a big brand name on the side of their helmets?
With that in mind, here's a list of the top five guys who should be higher in the Heisman conversation.
5. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson TigersESPN.com Heisman Watch Ranking: 12th
You could almost make this a Clemson edition that has a 1A in Hopkins and a 1B in quarterback Tajh Boyd. Forget about Clemson's demoralizing loss to Florida State. That's not on these guys, who combined for four TDs that night. You do that and you expect to win. You don't expect your defense to roll over. (Of course, that could be said for most of the players on this list during this offensively defenseless season.)