By TPR Staff

Going into the 2012 NCAA Football season, many players were expected to lead the race as favorites to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy. I can tell you right now that they did not include Manti Te’o of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, A.J. McCarron of the Alabama Crimson Tide, or even Collin Klein of the Kansas State Wildcats or Kenjon Barner of the Oregon Ducks. All were viewed as solid players and perhaps even longshot candidates, but no one truly believed that any of them would wind up going to New York as the favorite to win the top individual honor in college football.

Even the voters in the Discover Fan Loyalty Poll may have not been able to predict the players who would be leading the Heisman race at this point, and they have been on the mark more than many of the other polls an voters across the country throughout this season. This is a difficult year to predict.

In the preseason, almost everyone was all ready to hand the Heisman to Matt Barkley of the USC Trojans. He was coming back to try to lead his school to a BCS Championship, but this season has hardly gone as he had hoped or how anyone would have predicted. Barkley and USC have struggled and are no threat to win a national championship.

The same can be said of Geno Smith of the West Virginia Mountaineers. After getting off to a blazing start and a high ranking in every poll, Smith and the Mountaineers have fallen all the way out of the Top 25, and the talented quarterback has basically no chance to win the Heisman this season.

Montee Ball of the Wisconsin Badgers is also not going to New York this season. It is not as if he is having a bad season. Not by any means. But after setting records last season, many felt as if Ball may have been better off entering the 2012 NFL Draft as his stock was at an all-time high, much like Barkley. he has still rushed for over 1,000 yards already, but his touchdowns are nearly half of what his total was in 2011.

Before we get to two other players who may have seen their stock tumble a bit, let us first take a look at the latest results from the Discover Fan Loyalty Poll. When it comes to most fans, they would not call in sick to go to watch their favorite team play in their home stadium. That may even include giving up the chance to watch any of these players take the field for the final season of their college football careers.

Then again, that could be a different situation.

As for another player who may have seen a dip in production this season after being viewed as a possible Heisman candidate, you have to look at Aaron Murray of the Georgia Bulldogs. Murray have one thing going in his favor that the other four players on this list do not, as that is that the Bulldogs quarterback is just a junior this season. He has not had a bad season, but he has not been nearly as sharp as people thought he would have been either. Murray would now best be suited coming back for his senior season, although there is no guarantee that will happen.

Finally, another player who will not have the opportunity to come back for one more year is Logan Thomas of the Virginia Tech Hokies. It finally appeared as if it was all coming together for Thomas as last season progresses, but he has regressed in 2012 in what has been an extremely disappointing season for the Hokies. They are battling just to become bowl eligible with a few games remaining this season, where they entered 2012 with BCS Bowl aspirations.

While I am not saying that these five players will fall out of the first or second round, depending on the needs of many NFL teams, they may drop a bit in the 2013 NFL Draft. With that being said, they could become NFL Draft bargains if they fall further than projected. All five may have had a down season in terms of expectations, but that does not mean that they will not be great players at the next level.

Just like it does not mean that any of the top four Heisman Trophy favorites will be guaranteed success in the NFL.

Make sure to stay tuned to The Pigskin Report throughout the college football season for the latest results from the Discover Fan Loyalty Poll as well as all of the most in depth and entertaining coverage of the 2012 college football season. Also make sure to Like Discover on Facebook and follow Discover on Twitter!

* The 15-week Discover Fan Loyalty Poll is conducted by Rasmussen Reports, a nationally recognized leader in polling, who gathers sentiment by phone from 800 college football fans who follow games at least once per week on television, radio, in person or online.

Discover launched the Fan Loyalty Poll to give die-hard fans a platform to showcase their dedication and love for their favorite college football team leading up to the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game and 2013 Discover Orange Bowl. Each week the poll will offer new questions about what college football fans are thinking this season.

Beyond title sponsorship of the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game and 2013 Discover Orange Bowl, Discover’s commitment to college football includes relationships with ESPN and Notre Dame Football on NBC.

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