Who's Who in Big Ten Heisman Race

Taylor Martinez put up Heisman like numbers early in the 2010 season, but couldn't maintain it through the end of the season. Can he this year? Is he one of the conferences best chances for the prestigious honor? Come inside to find out.

Since 1991, the Big Ten has collected a total of five Heisman trophies: Troy Smith (06), Ron Dayne (99), Charles Woodson (97), Eddie George (95) and Desmond Howard (91).

Recently, however, the SEC has claimed three of the past four Heisman winners, while the Big 12 has amassed six Heisman winners since 1994.

But the Big Ten is in the midst of a new and exciting year. With Nebraska joining the conference and a conference championship implemented this season, the Big Ten season is bound to be entertaining.

There are many great teams in the conference, and there is a wide array of talented players found on all 12 teams.

But, just as every conference has, there's a few notable players that stand out when it comes to the Heisman discussion.

Here is a quick rundown on the Big Ten Heisman contenders (Odds via Bodog.com):

QB.) Denard Robinson, Michigan (15/2 odds) - Robinson's career has been well-documented. After breaking out onto the college scene last year, Robinson established himself as one of the best dual-threat players in the nation. He compiled over 2,500 yards through the air and just over 1,700 yards via his legs. Robinson finds himself atop the Heisman discussion along with Stanford's Andrew Luck and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

QB.) Kirk Cousins, Michigan State (35/1 odds) - Cousins is the heart and soul of the Spartans. The senior leader threw for 2,825 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, and with the return of his favorite weapon B.J. Cunningham and leading rusher Edwin Baker, Cousins is bound to make some noise in the national scene.

Can Martinez stay healthy?
QB.) Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (55/1 odds) - The sophomore quarterback plays similar to the aforementioned Robinson, throwing for 1,631 yards and running for 965 yards; however, his season was dampened after injuring his ankle. With a season under his belt, Martinez has a unique opportunity in 2011; opposing Big Ten defenses will be unfamiliar with him and the Nebraska offense, which could lead to a lot of success for Martinez.

RB.) Montee Ball, Wisconsin (80/1 odds) - If it's not Ball, it's going to be James White representing Wisconsin in the Heisman race. There are two talented halfbacks in the Wisconsin backfield, which handcuffs them in terms of the Heisman running. White compiled 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns while Ball ran for 996 yards and 18 touchdowns.

?Big Ten Sleepers

QB Dan Persa, Northwestern (95/1 odds) - The Wildcats have already begun the Heisman campaign for their senior leader with billboards placed on the side of the road. He's a great player, but he's no where near the likes of a Luck or a Jones in terms of quarterback play. Persa, who threw for over 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, will be a great feel-good story to follow in 2011 as he attempts to lead Northwestern to another consecutive bowl game.

RB Marcus Coker, Iowa (90/1 odds) - Coker is, perhaps, the best running back that many people don't know about. The reason is because he broke out late in the season. In seven games (four starts), Coker compiled 622 yards and three touchdowns, but broke out in the Insight Bowl with 219 yards and two scores on 33 carries. He is bound to break out in 2011 for the Hawkeyes.

- Josh Harvey -

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