These 5 Big Ten players have a legitimate chance to win the Heisman Trophy

When considering contenders for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, many of the obvious names reside outside of the Big Ten. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford all-everything talent Christian McCaffrey stand out atop most preseason lists as the top players in the country, and players like Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield are not far behind.

However, the Big Ten still boasts considerable talent, and in this space, we will highlight five players with a legitimate path to Heisman glory. It should be noted that it could take a bit of extra belief in these guys to see the scenario in which the Heisman returns to the conference, but these five athletes bring talent, explosiveness and pedigree to the table, and that should not be taken lightly.

Let's get to the candidates.

Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State - Christian Hackenberg dominated the coverage for Penn State football over the past handful of seasons, but the now-NFL quarterback wasn't even the best player on his own offense in 2015. Barkley, who was just a freshman, exploded on to the scene with 1,076 rushing yards in only 11 contests last season, and he is back as the unquestioned focal point of the offense for the Nittany Lions. That rushing total was good for third in the Big Ten a year ago, and Barkley could reasonably eclipse 1,500 yards behind what should be an improved Penn State offensive line. The trouble, as with many of these candidates, will be with his team racking up enough wins, but Barkley might be the top breakout candidate in the country at the running back position.

JT Barrett, QB Ohio State - Say hello to the "favorite" when it comes to Heisman contenders from the Big Ten. At least one off-shore book lists Barrett among the top five candidates in the land, and the stage is set for a return to the form that made him a top-five finisher in 2014. Barrett famously lost his job to Cardale Jones a season ago, but prior to that, the talented quarterback amassed 45 touchdowns (34 passing, 11 rushing) as a redshirt freshman, and the Buckeyes should be in the mix when it comes to the Big Ten title race. Barrett will need some help from a (very) unproven set of skill position talent, but if Ohio State performs at a high level, it will likely be due to lights-out play and, being that he is a quarterback, that means a ton of shine for Barrett.

Corey Clement, RB Wisconsin - Remember Corey Clement? 2015 was supposed to be the year for Clement, as Melvin Gordon made his way to the NFL and paved the way for Clement as the full-time workhorse behind a typical Wisconsin offensive line. After all, the 5-foot-11, 219-pound running back compiled 949 yards in part-time duty behind Gordon in 2014 (averaging 6.5 yards per carry) and the Badgers are famous for generating quality play from the position. Then, disaster struck, as Clement was sidelined for the great majority of the season with injury as Wisconsin fans saw the wheels fly off the wagon when it came to the rushing attack. In 2016, Clement is fully healthy and he displayed flashes of greatness (i.e. 115 yards against Rutgers in 11 carries) last season when he was able to play. It will take a historically dominant statistical campaign to make it happen, but Clement is capable of massive production in Madison this season.

Jabrill Peppers, LB/DB/RB/PR Michigan - The Charles Woodson comparisons are already underway for Peppers, and the precedent set in 1997 represents Peppers' best chance at winning the award. Woodson remains the only defensive player to claim the Heisman Trophy, but it is safe to assume that the future Hall of Famer would not have been able to win the hardware without making contributions on offense and special teams, and Peppers will do just that. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound super-athlete is making the transition to linebacker in 2016, but Peppers will line up all over the field on defense while making a contribution offensively as a ball-carrier and, potentially, in the return game as a specialist. He will need to make a couple of "wow" plays with the ball in his hands to have a chance, but if Michigan wins 10+ games, the pieces could fall into place.

L.J. Scott, RB Michigan State - This spot could easily go to Northwestern RB Justin Jackson (who rushed for more than 1,400 yards last season), but given the implied requirement of team success, we'll roll with Scott. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound bruiser failed to gain traction as the starter during his freshman campaign, but Scott exploded down the stretch and the talent is undeniable. His performance at the conclusion of the Big Ten title game against Iowa is the stuff of legend, and Scott has the tools to well exceed his 11-touchdown showing in 2015. Michigan State will need to have more success than I anticipate, but if Mark Dantonio and company give the ball to Scott 20-25 times per game, the numbers will follow.