fair point that
I am not making this up. But I do need to get it off my chest.
(thanks, mom, but we'll have gnome ore of those presents.)
I am not making this up.
I am not making it up when I say that the most serious fight, in fact, the only serious fight, my wife and I have had since we began courting is the fight over our future children, that is, the college football fandom of said future children.
I am also not making it up when I say that at the time I tried to quell my wife's rage by paraphrasing Thucydides. After all, I said, Michigan and Alabama are like Athens and Sparta--a whale against an elephant. They're just not likely to bump heads much, if at all. I mean, honey, they've played all of three times in a hundred-some years. Why can't our kids grow up to support both of them?
That actually worked, for a few weeks, until Dave Brandon Created the Future, or rather Jerry Jones took a(nother) turn as Applegate. Also, We Created the Future, and a Baby Apostle is on the way, whose fandom is at stake this evening.
At least, that's all that was until I told of our arrangement to my uncle, a Domer alum who likes to live vicariously through people who have viable teams to cheer for. He suggested that those stakes weren't nearly high enough. You need more than the fandom at stake, he said. His name should be at stake. "Bo" if Michigan wins, "Bear" if Alabama wins. I laughed it off. Who of us here knows a woman that would go along with such a preposterous idea?
I am also not making it up when I say that after I laughed it off, my wife said that she would actually be fine with it.*
*For those of you who are shaking your heads NoWayWouldAWomanEverEverAgreeToThat I should admit that her sole stipulation was that his formal name, should Michigan somehow hold back her vaunted Tide, would be spelled "Beau". (She is a Southerner, after all.) I said, well, OK. I'm still going to spell (and pronounce) it "Bo".
What if it's a girl? Good question. We've only had one sonogram, at 20 weeks, and that's all we'll have since we go to a midwife at a birthing center, and that's how that rolls. (I guess you could say the girl's got some Ann Arbor in her after all.) I'm told they can sometimes be inaccurate, but if Denard's arm isn't what we hope it can be, that will be all I have to hang my child's name on at the end of the day.
Three chances for me to look stupid in 3.5 hours (and for the rest of my/his life):
- This could all probably have been avoided had I sprung for travel and tickets to the game.
- This could all have been avoided had I just married some girl in Ann Arbor who only was aware of football to the extent that it impacted her UMS tickets or hair appointments downtown.
- This could be my only chance to have a son with the same name as one of Harvey Updyke's.
PREDICTION: This is my son, fergodsakes! GO BLUE!
Not as detailed of a forecast today due to most watching the game inside, and the game itself being in the Cowboys stadium. For the first day of meteorological fall, feels more like summer! If you're down south (lucky!), sunny, hot, and humid is the story of the day, with a slight chance of isolated storms across N. TX this afternoon due to afternoon heating (most stay dry but if you're caught in a storm-expect possible brief heavy rain, lightning, and gusty winds). Here at home, we might see a passing shower for the southern counties and Ann Arbor has a slight chance of rain. We'll see a good amount sun, but expect cloud cover to increase throughout the afternoon/evening.If you're in Arlington...
Hot, Hot, Hot! Heat index near 105 today with mostly sunny skies. Winds are out of the SSW at 10-15mph, so don't expect to cool down much towards kickoff! With all of the afternoon heating, don't rule out the chance of a pop-up storm moving through.
Remember it's a 7:00 CT start when you look at that watch! Outside it's still 98 degrees (heat index a couple degrees over 100), and we're going to have to wait until after 10pm for the temps to drop below 90! Dewpoints are also in the upper 60s, so expect to feel that heavy, humid air.
By 2am, still lingering at 81 degrees and very humid. Winds remain out of the south at about 10mph. We'll see partly cloudy skies overnight, with a low of 76. Looking ahead to Sunday-mostly sunny skies with SSW winds at 10-15mph, and a high of 99 degrees-so expect flights to be on time!
If you're staying home... We're all jealous of you that get to be there! Cheer extra loud please!! We're already in the mid 70s (feels like 80) and we might get a passing shower in our southern counties (particularly Lenawee and Monroe I'm lookin at you) due to a stalled front along the OH valley and the remnants of Isaac making his presence known... a slight chance of rain in A2. Hitting a high of 82 today-73 by kickoff and mid 60s by the game's end. Expect cloud cover to increase tonight. For those returning home Sunday, Ann Arbor welcomes you with some sun and some clouds, an easterly wind at 5-10mph, a high of 80 and dewpoints in the 50s & 60s-much less humid here! Flights should be a-ok here too. Have safe travels, or have fun watching here at home! Hail.
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI, and temporarily for NBC25 in Flint/Saginaw, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
Just a note: Writing your picks in the comment section is NOT a valid entry. You must enter your picks using the form below or at this link. Feel free to discuss your picks here, but you must submit the form in order to enter the contest.
[ED: Bump. Get your picks in!]
After a great first year of Pick Six on MGoBlog, we’re back by popular demand. Unfortunately, we never had a results post in order to honor the original creators . (The MGoBlog summary will be posted after Blue-Gray Sky releases their results from 2009) This year I will be handling the technical details but we are going to have somebody else write the recaps. If you are interested in the job of writing the weekly summaries send an email to email@example.com.
Onto the contest. Here's how it works.
1. We divide the top 25 into 5 groups of 5 based on the preseason AP Poll: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc. For this year's poll, the groups are:
- A: Southern Cal, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon
- B: Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina, Arkansas
- C: West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Clemson, Texas
- D: Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, TCU
- E: Stanford, Kansas State, Florida, Boise State, Louisville
2. Before the season starts you pick one team from each group, plus one unranked team. You're trying to pick the teams you think will finish highest in the final AP poll (after the bowl games).
3. Each week we'll try to update and publish the standings in a spreadsheet so you can track the progress of your teams. You get 25 points for having the #1 team, 24 points for the #2 team, on down to 1 point for the #25 team. Unranked teams get zero points.
4. The winner is the person with the most points (i.e. the highest ranked teams) after the bowl season. The midseason standings are only for entertainment purposes. Only the final AP poll counts.
5. And the grand prize? I will personally give the winner 10 meaningless upvotes. Plus, last year some guy named Brian offered a small prize.
Throughout the season someone will hopefully give regular updates on the progress of the contest in the Diaries.
That's it for the Pick Six: short, sweet and simple. The entry form closes on Thursday August 30 before the first kickoff, so get your picks in now. Good luck!
As kickoff for Team 133 approaches, our MGoHistory journey continues. Our past stops in 1986 and 1971 found pleasant memories of Michigan glory past. Now let’s set the Omni to a more recent time, a more familiar time. We’re arriving just 15 years past (no way it’s been 15 years!) and the Omni shows green, which means history is right….oh so right. We have arrived in 1997!
The 90’s are in full swing and the PC has become as ubiquitous a household item as the television. This coupled with the rise of the World Wide Web on the internet has spawned the Dot Com boom. Speculation into online businesses drives financial markets into huge gains worldwide, making countless computer geeks into millionaires overnight. Riding the wave of this economic boom, Bill Clinton begins his second term as president after a landslide victory over Bob Dole the previous November. On the surface, things seem to be running smooth for the president, but the turmoil of the Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment trial loom just a year away.
In Great Britain, Tony Blair wins the general election, becoming Prime Minister and sovereign control of Hong Kong is returned to China. The British also cause a stir when Scottish scientists announce the successful cloning of an adult sheep, Dolly; and a little known children’s author, J.K. Rowling publishes her first novel, “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone”. Britain stays center stage on a sadder note when hundreds of millions mourn the untimely death of Princess Diana.
The Earth sees the return of comet Hale-Bopp for the first time in over 4000 years and NASA successfully lands the Pathfinder probe on the surface of Mars. Justice is served for many in Oklahoma with the conviction and subsequent death sentence of Timothy McVeigh for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing. More positively, Steve Jobs returns to head a foundering Apple Computer where he will lead the next revolution in consumer technology that most of us take for granted today.
On the popular front, Americans line-up to see “Titanic” and Leonard DiCaprio becomes a star. Americans also line up to see “Batman and Robin” and it almost ruins George Clooney’s career. Young people the world over inexplicably go crazy for the Spice Girls and Hanson while fans of hip hop and rap mourn the passing of the Notorious B.I.G. We all flock to our television sets on Thursday to watch “Must See TV” on NBC and see Ellen DeGeneres come out of the closet on ABC. Animated TV achieves a few hallmarks when “The Simpsons” become the longest running animated primetime show while another animated cult classic, “South Park”, debuts on cable’s Comedy Central.
Brett Favre leads Green Bay to their first Super Bowl championship in 30 years, the Red Wings bring the Stanley Cup back to Detroit for the first time in 40 years, and the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan win the NBA championship for the 5thtime in 7 years. Mike Tyson meets Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight championship, but rather than fight him, he tries to have him for supper.
For Michigan athletics, the 90’s were one of the great decades of the school’s history. By 1997 Jon Urbanchek has built Michigan Swimming into a powerhouse, winning his 11thBig 10 title in 12 years. Not to be outdone, the women’s swim team under Jim Richardson wins their 11thstraight Big 10 title. Women’s softball has also become the dominant program in the Big 10 under Carol Hutchins winning their 3rdstraight Big 10 tournament title and their making their 3rdstraight Super-Regional in the NCAA tourney. Mens Baseball under Geoff Zahn wins the Big 10 Conference title as well.
The men’s basketball team also continues to be one of the elite teams in the Big 10 under Steve Fischer Featuring notable players such as Robert Traylor (may he rest in peace), Maurice Taylor, and Louis Bullock; Michigan hoops follows up an NIT championship in March by winning the inaugural Big 10 Tournament at the end of the 1997-98 season. This all becomes overshadowed though with the breaking of the Ed Martin story in June which costs Steve Fischer his job, Michigan all of the banners it won during the decade, and creates a vacuum in Michigan basketball recruiting that allows MSU’s Tom Izzo to become a coaching legend.
In hockey, Red Berenson fields what is arguably one of the greatest hockey teams of all time. The 1997 Wolverines are the defending National Champions and sport a line-up that include All-Americans Brian Wiseman, John Madden, Marty Turco as well as Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison. The team also includes no less than 5 additional NHL players in Jason Botterill, Mike Legg, Bill Muckalt, Matt Herr, and Bubba Berenzweig.
The Michigan icers win both the CCHA regular season and tournament championships and are overwhelming favorites to repeat as NCAA champions going to into the tournament. Michigan cruised to the Frozen Four, dispatching Minnesota 7-4 only to lose in the semi-finals to Boston University in OT, 3-2 and illustrating the highlighting the frustrating fact about the NCAA hockey tournament, the best team doesn’t always win because pucks bounce. This is why you must always hate BU…always….so much. In terms of Michigan disappointments in athletics, the 1996-97 teams’ loss to BU has to rank near the top.
Michigan football in 1997 is lead by former assistant coach Lloyd Carr, who is in his third season as Michigan’s top guy. Unlike the rest of Michigan athletics, the football team is in the midst of a malaise which has seen them finish four straight seasons with four losses. Grumbling has begun amongst the Michigan faithful and some in the media snidely comment that the “M” in Michigan has come to mean mediocre. With former walk-on Brian Griese being the starter by Carr over the stronger-armed Scott Dreisbach and Tom Brady and a meh 14thranking in the AP poll coming into their opener with #8 Colorado, expectations are guarded to say the least.
Of course, we all know how this turns out. Michigan, lead by the legendary Charles Woodson and All-American Glen Steele never let anyone score…ever and Brian Griese heads a workmanlike Michigan offense to an undefeated season, it’s first Big 10 title since 1992. The regular season is highlighted by an epic shellacking of #2 Penn State and a defeat of #4 Ohio in Ann Arbor to clinch a Rose Bowl berth. Woodson goes on to win just about every award a player can earn, including becoming the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, which Tennessee fans deem to be the greatest injustice ever….EVER! Coach Carr is named Walter Camp Coach of the Year and Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann wins the Frank Broyles Award as the top coaching assistant.
Michigan goes on to defeat Washington State, lead by future NFL super-bust Ryan Leaf, 21-16 in the 1998 Rose Bowl securing the AP Poll National Championship. Michigan enters the Rose Bowl the undisputed number one team in the country, but Nebraska splits the title off their impressive win over Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl and some strange final Coaches Poll shenanigans, prompting years of speculation from the Michigan fanbase over which coach screwed us. I’m not saying it was Phil Fulmer, but karma is a bitch and Tennessee has had a pretty precipitous slide in the past decade and a half…just sayin’.
1997 may seem too many to be not that long ago, but it was pre 9/11, pre-Google, pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-Apple iPod/Phone/Pad, pre-reality TV, pre-Great Recession, pre-WiFi. The world has changed a LOT in the past 15 years. 1997 was the culmination of a dominant era for U of M sports. An era that saw the football program tower over Ohio and MSU, hockey rise to become the preeminent power in college, and basketball being one of the great programs in the Big 10*. Let’s hope that the current caretakers of our beloved Maize and Blue are ready to give birth to a new era of Michigan domination that will make our hearts soar and our enemies’ heads explode in frustration. Enjoy the season and we’ll pick this up again in the winter of 2013.
The Notre Dame series takes a hiatus on Michigan's 2018 and 2019 schedules. I am assuming that Michigan would seek to replace with the Irish with an opponent of comparable stature.
(Feel free to insert your favorite joke about how Notre Dame really doesn't have the stature everyone assumes. The fact is, the media treats Notre Dame as if they were an elite team, whether they are or not.)
I checked the future schedules on fbschedules.com, of every opponent that could be considered a plausible replacement for Notre Dame. I even checked a few that are marginal, like Syracuse and Pitt. But I didn't check teams like Duke or Louisville that no rational person would consider a like-for-like trade with Notre Dame.
I assumed that no school would agree to schedule Michigan if they already had a tough out-of-conference game scheduled in either or both of those years. For instance, Oklahoma and LSU have a home-and-home scheduled in 2018-19. Scratch both of them off the list. (One of the premium message boards reported this week that Dave Brandon had approached Oklahoma, and was told no thanks, though it didn't say for what years.)
These are the findings:
I. Definitely Unavailable
Oklahoma and LSU (home & home vs. each other)
Texas A&M and Oregon (home & home vs. each other)
Texas (USC, @Maryland in 2018; Notre Dame in 2019)
USC (@Texas in 2018, in addition to the usual Notre Dame h/h)
II. Probably Unavailable
Alabama (hosting Georgia Tech in 2019)
Georgia Tech (hosting Ole Miss in 2018; @Alabama in 2019; plus Georgia h/h)
Stanford (Virginia in 2018; @Northwestern in 2019; plus Notre Dame h/h)
III. Possibly Available
Florida and Florida State (home & home assumed; nothing else scheduled)
Miami (only thing scheduled is Rutgers home & home)
Georgia (only thing scheduled is recurring home & home vs. Ga. Tech)
Syracuse (only thing scheduled is Northwestern in 2019)
IV. No Known Conflicts
The open question is whether Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke want to play a September game in an outdoor stadium in the south, where the weather conditions would be in the opponents' favor. If you take the southern teams out of the picture, you're left with teams like Pitt and Syracuse, which many fans would view as being less interesting opponents than Notre Dame.
It is a myth that the SEC schools never play tough out-of-conference opponents. Besides Alabama and LSU (already mentioned above), Tennessee has future home & homes vs. Oklahoma and Nebraska; and Arkansas has both TCU and Texas scheduled.
On the other hand, Georgia never seems to schedule a tough out-of-conference opponent, other than their annual tilt with Georgia Tech. Likewise, Florida seems only to schedule Florida State and occasionally Miami. Auburn is rather timid: a trip to Kansas State is the toughest future game they've scheduled.
Bear in mind that many of these schools could have conflicts due to ongoing negotiations that have not yet become public. And some of them just might not want to play Michigan. So there might be only one or two real options that would strike the average fan as an upgrade over just playing Notre Dame those two years.
[ed-S: this is totally a diary. Bump]
Looking at the 2012 preseason frontrunners for the Heisman trophy I've been trying to see who would reasonably be the best candidate for the award at seasons end, and have come up with a reasonable argument as to why Denard Robinson can win in 2012. The best case I made for this scenario is looking at recent winners for similar criteria that stand out, and then looking at this seasons favorites to see who might have the biggest year. I started breaking down those finalists performances from last season, looked at how this season projects, and have come up with the solution that: Of all the best candidates, Denard is most likely to have Heisman success in 2012.
Firstly: Past winners haven't necessarily been the best prospects for the NFL draft, or always played on the #1 overall team, or put up the gaudiest numbers, but had dynamic highlights, and the gaudiest numbers against top level opponents. For 2011, Andrew Luck would have been my personal pick as the "best" player to have future success in the NFL, but he didn't win the Heisman. Trent Richardson was the best offensive player on the #1 overall team but didn't win, and kids like Kellen Moore and Case Keenum put up by far the gaudiest numbers but were one dimensional players winning against mostly smaller programs, and neither was even drafted.
4 of the last 6 winners had multiple dimensions to their games, creating offense by throwing and running, played in AQ conferences, and scored an average of around 50 touchdowns (roughly 32 passing, and 18 rushing.) 10 of the last 12 winners were quarterbacks.
Note: Sam Bradford had numbers similar to Keenum and Moore (4721 yards, 50 TDs) but did so at Oklahoma. Troy Smith won scoring only 31 TDs (30 passing, 1 rushing) but had previously scored 11 short yardage rushing TDs in a season, and his only competition was RB Darren McFadden (21 TDs) and Brady Quinn (lol.)
Next: I broke down the preseason watchlist players 2011 season performance, and tried to chart whether they would improve or regress in 2012.
QB Matt Barkley. Last season Barkley was phenominal for USC, and the teams unusual losses and close wins were mostly due to a suspect defense and a lack of a running game, and certainly couldn't be put on Matts shoulders. He essentially had a Matt Stafford year: No running game? No problem. With Matt Kalil protecting his blindside he attempted almost 100 extra passes than the previous 2 seasons more balanced attacks, and put up around 1000 extra yards. His completion% went up a few ticks, his YPA went up slightly, but his TD/INT numbers drastically improved and he put 39 in the end zone through the air, 2 on the ground.
2012 production? Regress. He will improve and mature as a passer and a qb, and will likely be the #1 overall pick and be most likely to succeed in the NFL a-la Andrew Luck, but every analyst since his decision to return for his senior year has stated that without the stellar blindside protection of Kalil, and a new feature running back (in 1200 yard rusher/PSU transfer Silas Redd) added to the roster will reduce Barkleys attempts back to a previous average of around 360, as opposed to the 446 attempts in 2011. Thus the USC running game production will go up, and Barkleys production will go down, as will his TDs.
RB Montee Ball. In 2011 Ball rushed a staggering 307 times for 1,923 yards and 39 TDs (33 rushing.) He had the definition of a "breakout" year, catching many defenses by surprise as part of the new 2 headed monster of power rusher-meets-mobile quarterback Russel Wilson, almost doubling his attempts, more than doubling his total yards, and almost doubling his rushing TDs from 2010. He even tied Barry Sanders record for TDs in a single season by a running back, and set the B1G record for total TDs in one season by any player (Denard accounted for 36 in 2010.)
2012 production? Regress. He will be a better player in 2012 all around, but again, circumstances will limit his overall numerical production over his 2011 breakout year. He will be the major focus of every B1G defense he faces this season, he won't have the added push of recent 1st and 2nd round draft picks OG Kevin Zeitler, and C Peter Konz blocking for him. A new pro-style qb starting for the Badgers will also allow opposing Linebackers to focus on the one man rush attack, so while I can imagine his workload staying the same, or even increasing, I have to believe his numbers will be reduced from last years incredible output.
Other 2012 standouts:
QB Landry Jones. Pro: Threw for 4463 yards in 2011 and scored 29 TDs, threw for 4718 yards in 2010 and an incredible 38 TDs! Threw for 3198 yards in 2009 as a freshman, and 26 TDs.
Con: Threw 14 INTs in 2009, 12 INTs in 2010, and 15 INTs in 2011, and has been sacked 41 times in 3 years.
2012 production? Not good enough to win the Heisman. He will likely throw for another 4,000 yards this season, but probably fewer than 20 TDs, and has thrown more total INTs (including more on average) than Denard. This will mostly be due to the Sooners losing the most prolific WR in NCAA history in Ryan Broyles to the 2012 draft, so his INTs will likely increase. 2012 = QB OH NOOESSSS!!!!
QB Geno Smith. Against Big East competition in 2011 Smith put up ridiculous numbers, 4385 yards on an equally ridiculous 526! attempts. Against a suspect Clemson defense he did similarly well, accounting for an incredible 407 passing yards and 6 TDs (assisted by 4 Clemson turnovers.)
Pros: Smith finshed the season with 31 TDs, 7 INTs.
Con: He did so against mostly Big East competition, only managed 31 TDs on (again) 526! attempts, and has been sacked 54 (!) times in the last 2 seasons.
2012 production? Regress. Moving to the Big 12 he could be the best qb in the conference, but facing solid defensive teams such as Texas, and TCU he'll be sacked far more often than he already has, should pass for fewer yards, and even fewer touchdowns than last years 31.
CB? Tyrann Mattieu: Not playing football this year.
Lastly: QB Denard Robinson.
2011 was a transitional year for Denard, learning to play in a new offense that (for the first few games of the season) didn't really suit his strengths. He threw, and ran, for fewer yards than in his record breaking 2010 season, regularly ran out of bounds to avoid contact instead of cutting back for bigger gains, left many fans (and several analysts) wondering why he didn't tuck and run as his check down instead of throwing into double and triple coverage, and his INTs increased over his already high 2010 numbers. Yet, despite all of this, he made drastic strides as a QB as the season went on, the offensive scheme was adjusted to suit his strengths, his confidence as a passer grew, and he actually scored more passing and rushing TDs than in his (again) record breaking 2010 season, all despite substatially fewer attempts in both categories.
2012 production? Increase. The addition of a potent power running game in 2011, the #6 scoring defense in the nation, and plucky special teams play assisting in field position and turnovers helped Denard a lot in 2010. A 1000 yard rusher in Fitz Toussaint also gave opposing defenses a true double threat to account for (a la Montee Ball, Russell Wilson.) Last years transitional offense, and in-game RB tryout is now an established offense tailored to Denards strengths, and an established, and deep, power-rush attack. In 2012 many of the top defenses we will face also lost their top tacklers and pass rushers as well (Lavonte David, Whitney Merciless, Aaron Lynch, Jared Crick, Jerel Worthy, Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Wiscys entire DLine, ect) so despite losing Rimington Award winning Center David Molk, the pressure Robinson will face in 2012 should diminish slightly. Additionally, Fall and Spring reports from coaches have been universally positive about his decision making, mechanics, accuracy, and confidence improving.
His 2011 numbers were 2173 yards passing on 258 attempts, 1176 yards rushing on 221 attempts with 36 TDs (20 passing TDs to 15 INTs, and 16 TDs rushing.) If reports from camp translate onto the football field then his INTs should drop this year, giving him more chances for TDs through the air. Depth in the run game from returning feature back Toussaint, senior Smith, and sophomores Rawls and Hayes should set up shorter 3rd downs, and higher % passes. Plus new found WR depth from (more atttempts to) senior Roundtree, 6'4"+ Devin Gardener, 6'2"+ Amara Darboh, 6'5" Ricardo Miller a deep SR group, and a viable TE group should make the loss of jump ball specialist Hemmingway an easier transition. Lastly: New found confidence from Denard, and better decision making, should enable him to tuck-and-run successfully in 2012 when his receivers are covered, and unleash his dynamic playmaking ability. He and the coaches should be less worried about injury by now, and Denard should be ready to eat on Saturdays.
I can easily imagine him improving his rushing and passing yards in 2012 now, and pushing his TD total to over 40, setting a new record for B1G touchdowns in a season, possibly breaking the total-yards record for qbs, winning the B1G, and playing in a BCS bowl at seasons end. If so, the 3 year Heisman hype around Denard could finally come true this year.
Note: players like RB Marcus Lattimore and RB/WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas got a look, but as good an RB as Lattimore has been, he's put up only modest numbers to date, and against SEC defenses he's unlikely to eclipse Ball as the top RB in the nation this year. Thomas also has "electric" game, and can take it to the house regularly, but he also benefits from GREAT blocking, and while fast, isn't really as fast or as dynamic and elusive a runner as Denard is. Him also being a sophomore, and not playing qb will limit his total production in 2012 compared to others in consideration.
My guess for Heisman finalists by seasons end is Barkley, Ball, Smith, and Robinson. Strength of schedule, total production, versatile and "dynamic" production, possibly breaking multiple records, and final season record, I believe, give the edge to Denard.