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    The 2023 Heisman will be the 87th in the award’s history, and it could serve as only the second time ever that the same player claims the accolade in back-to-back seasons. USC’s Caleb Williams already joined the elite list of Heisman Trophy recipients last December, but he could enter even more hallowed territory with the likes of Archie Griffin as a two-time winner if he does it again this fall.

    But he won’t be the only one vying for the most sought-after individual award in college football. There will be a number of others in contention, from players who made big splashes last season and are back for more to fresher faces who are only now getting their best opportunities to make their marks.

    Right now, the only guarantee is that someone will win this thing. Let’s check out the early favorites for the 2023 Heisman Trophy.

    Top 7 Early 2023 Heisman Trophy Candidates

    Caleb Williams | QB | USC | Junior

    If you won the Heisman in the previous season, you will automatically be a favorite for the forthcoming edition. It just makes sense.

    Especially when you’re as good as Caleb Williams. In his first season at USC after transferring from Oklahoma, the quarterback threw an FBS-high 42 touchdowns, plus amassed more than 4,500 passing yards while tossing just five interceptions. He made tons of throws that had NFL scouts salivating and USC fans celebrating.

    Williams did it in big moments, too. Against UCLA, he threw for 470 yards and two touchdowns, and versus Notre Dame, Williams connected on 81.8 percent of his passes as he led the Trojans to victories over both of their biggest rivals in season-defining contests. He will have the eyeballs, he has the talent, and he’s already done it before. Los Angeles could be the home of the second-ever repeat Heisman winner.

    Drake Maye | QB | North Carolina | Sophomore (RS)

    Drake Maye finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2022, and he’s back in Chapel Hill for his redshirt sophomore season. After passing for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns last year, Maye has some lofty expectations for what he can accomplish personally and how it could impact the Tar Heels shot at an ACC crown.

    In 2022, Maye did not have a game where he threw for fewer than 200 yards. In contests in which he passed for 301 yards or fewer, North Carolina went 3-5. He carried quite the burden for UNC, and much of the load will remain on his shoulders in 2023. Rightly or wrongly, the 2022 ACC Player of the Year will probably need his team to do better than 9-5 for him to win the Heisman, which will only be possible if Maye puts together a season worthy of winning the award. We know he has the skills to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and that’s enough to put you in Heisman contention.

    Michael Penix Jr. | QB | Washington | Senior (RS)

    After racking up the second-most passing yards in FBS in 2022, Michael Penix Jr. decided to return to Seattle for his final season of eligibility, much to the joy of the Washington faithful. If all goes according to plan, Penix might even surpass the 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns he achieved through the air a year ago.

    Those numbers were good enough for him to finish eighth in the Heisman voting last December, but with another year of name recognition and a receiving core that is mostly unchanged, a run at the Pac-12 title and perhaps a bid to the College Football Playoff are within reach. If those could be accomplished, alongside stellar stats we know Penix can produce, then there is no reason why the Huskies headman can’t hoist the Heisman.

    Blake Corum | RB | Michigan | Senior

    A knee injury kept Blake Corum from closing out the 2022 season – even without appearing in the Big Ten Championship or College Football Playoff and getting in just two carries against Ohio State, he still collected 1,463 yards on the ground on 5.9 yards per rush attempt and 19 all-purpose touchdowns. If not for getting hurt, it’s probable that Corum would have finished better than seventh in the 2022 Heisman voting.

    The running back will still be in Ann Arbor in 2023, and he figures to be a force for opposing defenses to handle on a team that is perfectly equipped for him to flourish. Before going down with his injury, Corum rushed for at least 108 yards in eight games in a row, and being the star name at one of the nation’s premier programs while the team is competing for conference and national titles is a good recipe for a Heisman winner.

    If Michigan has the season it is expected to, then it’s hard to imagine zero Wolverines in the Heisman conversation, and Corum is most likely to be the beneficiary.

    Jordan Travis | QB | Florida State | Senior (RS)

    Jordan Travis became Florida State’s first-ever player to record 20-plus passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores in 2022, and he’s hoping to become the program’s fourth-ever Heisman winner in 2023.

    It was five years ago that Travis began his college career at Louisville. He had to wait a long time before experiencing something like last season. In 2022, Travis broke out to the tune of 3,214 passing yards, 417 rushing yards, and 32 all-purpose touchdowns and was critical to the Seminoles winning 10 games for the first time since 2016.

    To win the Heisman, Travis will have to beef up his passing stats, and Florida State must remain in the national conversation. But there will be plenty of marquee matchups in which the quarterback could stake his claim – LSU, at Clemson, at Pittsburgh, Miami, at Florida, a possible ACC Championship Game, and beyond. There will be every opportunity for FSU’s QB to get on the podium in New York.

    Cade Klubnik | QB | Clemson | Sophomore

    With DJ Uiagalelei out of the picture, this is Cade Klubnik’s team. He wasn’t granted starting duties until the very end of last season, being thrown into the fire for the ACC Championship against North Carolina. The then-true freshman showed up in a major way, gashing the Tar Heels for 279 yards on 20-of-24 passing (83.3 percent) and a touchdown as the Tigers routed UNC, 39-10.

    Klubnik had his moments in Clemson’s loss to Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, too, and is expected to take a step forward now as a sophomore secure in the starting role. He’ll have plenty of weapons at his disposal on the field with the pedigree and sway that comes with Clemson off the field.

    We don’t yet have the same body of work to reflect on with Klubnik compared to other more experienced college players on this list, but if he can live up to the hype that had him ranked as the No. 2 QB in the class of 2022, then the Heisman isn’t out of the question.

    Marvin Harrison Jr. | WR | Ohio State | Junior

    Only one wide receiver has won the Heisman dating back to 1992, and the inequalities caused by the pandemic played a role in that single instance, but Marvin Harrison Jr. might be special enough to pull it off anyway. As a sophomore in 2022, he tallied the fourth-most receiving touchdowns in FBS (14) and the sixth-most receiving yards (1,263), and there’s little reason to expect a dip from one of the most dynamic receivers in the sport in his junior campaign.

    Harrison really came on late in the season, achieving 100-plus yards receiving in five of Ohio State’s final eight games, including massive performances on the biggest stages against Penn State, Michigan, and Georgia. If he can build on that momentum, particularly if Ohio State is as good as advertised this season, then he could be in the mix for the Heisman come December time.

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