Just like with the presidential election, now that the 2013 Heisman race is over, it's on to the next one.
Not 24 hours after Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston hoisted the Heisman, College Football Talk took a look at some names that could be in contention for next year's Heisman Trophy, and their list contained a pair of Big Ten players. Who could snap the conference's seven-season Heisman-less streak?
One of the obvious favorites is Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, who finished ninth in voting this season and fifth the year before. Miller is the two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year after a pair of spectacular campaigns in which he flashed his ability to pile up the points on the ground and threw the air. Miller has been the offensive leader of a Buckeye team that has won all but one of the games its played in the past two seasons, and if he's in full health next season — his candidacy this year was derailed thanks to three missed games, despite finishing the season with strong numbers — he could be the favorite to win the award.
The other player listed by College Football Talk is Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, who was one half of an amazing backfield combo this season with teammate James White. Gordon was the Big Ten's top back for the first half of the season until White came on and ate into Gordon's numbers. The duo finished second and third in the conference in rushing. Next year will be Gordon's junior year, and White, a senior this season, will be gone. That could open up Gordon to get nearly all the carries and do even better than he did this season. Though, freshman Corey Clement was also very good this season with significantly fewer carries than the other two. If head coach Gary Andersen wants, he could team Gordon with Clement like he did Gordon and White. It would likely eliminate any Heisman chances in the Badger backfield, but it could be better for the team as a whole.
Though those were the only two Big Ten players on College Football Talk's list — and certainly the conference's two best 2014 Heisman candidates as things stand right now — could some other names emerge? Here are some more dark-horse names to keep an eye on next season.
Add a trio of names to Gordon's when it comes to potential Heisman-candidate running backs from the Big Ten. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah led the conference with 1,568 rushing yards this season and finished second to Ohio State's Carlos Hyde with 130.7 yards on the ground per game. He joined Hyde, a senior and the Big Ten Running back of the Year, on the All-Big Ten First Teams. Then there's Jeremy Langford, the workhorse of the Michigan State offense. Langford rushed for more than 100 yards in each one of the Spartans' last eight games, all wins for the conference champs. And Minnesota's David Cobb added six 100-plus-yard days in his march to 1,111 yards on the ground this season. Abdullah, Langford and Cobb would all be seniors next season.
And finally, there's a pair of Nittany Lions that could make some noise in this discussion next season. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a great season this year as a true freshman. Only two Big Ten signal-callers threw for more yards than Hackenberg, who matured as the season went on and figures to get even better heading into his sophomore season. And his favorite target, wide receiver Allen Robinson, was named Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year after his excellent junior campaign in 2013. Robinson led the conference in receptions and receiving yards, averaging more than 119 per game. This duo could make the Lions offense a scary one in 2014.
Of course, Winston is just a redshirt freshman and was named the youngest Heisman winner ever on Saturday, meaning he'll have a lot to say about who wins next year. But if you've got the speculation bug, games like these are always fun to play.