Sport Ranking Heisman contenders from Big Ten

05:30  13 august  2017
05:30  13 august  2017 Source:   College Football News

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PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Quarterback Trace McSorley #9 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with running back Saquon Barkley #26 after rushing for a 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter against the USC Trojans during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Quarterback Trace McSorley #9 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with running back Saquon Barkley #26 after rushing for a 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter against the USC Trojans during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.

Contact @PhilHarrisonCFB

The Big Ten had as good of a regular season as it's had in a very long time last year, and is poised to make a loud noise again this year. Here are the top five players from the conference that will be hanging around the lobby all year for the coveted Hesiman Trophy.

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Justin Jackson, Northwestern RB

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5. Wilton Speight, Michigan QB

Speight won the quarterback battle over transfer John O'Korn last year, and he didn't disappoint. The 6-6, 243 pounder showed poise beyond his years as a first year starter, throwing for over 2,600 yards and completing 61.6% of his passe. He often had a penchant for the clutch play when it was needed. He wasn't asked to do a ton in 2016 with the nation's best defense playing border control against opposing offenses, but he'll be asked to open it up a bit this year.

4. L.J. Scott, Michigan State RB

If Scott can show more consistency this year than last, he'll be the next great Spartan back. He spurned Urban Meyer and Ohio State when he went to East Lansing, and he showed his potential against the Buckeyes last year with 233 all-purpose yards and two TDs.

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But it’s darned difficult to win the Heisman Trophy as a non-quarterback these days, and this isn’t a list ranking the best players. Plays within a Gus Malzahn offense. Auburn looks like a strong SEC and potentially a national contender . WR Duke Williams returns.

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He's big and strong enough to get the tough yards, but possesses enough break away speed to get past the second level when things open up. He'll be used on hand-offs and out of the backfield in the passing game, and should get plenty of touches this year.

3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB

It seems like Barrett should have a doctorate degree by now, but he's only just a recent grad still playing football. He flashed on the scene in 2014 as a freshman starter with his uncanny running, leadership, and ability to make good decisions with his arm. He is a true dual-threat that has re-written a slew of Big Ten records.

If there's one knock on Barrett, it's that he has become almost too careful in the passing game. If he can take some more chances down field to loosen things up a bit, he'll be as dangerous as he was when he almost got an invite to New York his freshman year.

2. Trace McSorley, Penn State QB

Once McSorley realized that he had two legs last year, the season took off for Penn State. A true dual-threat, the 6-0, 205 lb. senior has a knack for the big play, slinging the ball for almost 3,800 yards and 31 TDs. Despite the big-plays, he threw just eight passes to the other team.

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If No. 9 does the same thing this year as he did the second half of 2016, he should be in the race throughout. The only drawback is the potential of one of his teammates taking votes away from him.

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB

Barkley could very well become Penn State's second ever Heisman winner as arguably the nation's top back. He's built for being an every-down back at 223 lbs., and has great straight-line speed with an underrated ability to make people miss in the open field.

In 2017, he should fine plenty of room to run behind a solid offensive line, and defenses that will have to respect the passing game of Trace McSorley. Like the Penn State QB, hopefully the votes don't split too much to take away from what should be a whale of a season.

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Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for College Football News. Follow his opinion and analysis all year long. Follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB

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