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1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Last Week: 268 passing yards & 4 TDs in win at No. 11 Texas
Outlook: It wasn’t as spectacular as last week, but Smith’s performance against Texas was enough to lead West Virginia to a 48-45 road victory. In the big picture, the win won’t do much for Smith as an individual, but it enhances West Virginia’s credentials as Big 12 contenders, which Smith needs if he’s going to seal the deal.
Looking ahead, West Virginia has a favorable schedule. Their two toughest remaining games (Oklahoma and Kansas State) are on home turf. The one against Kamas State is especially noticeable, as QB Collin Klein is beginning to draw a buzz in the Heisman race.
2. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Last Week: 122 all-purpose yards & 1 TD in win vs. No. 23 Washington
Outlook: Following a pair of underwhelming performances, Thomas needed a big showing Saturday night to hold onto the No. 2 spot. His 122-yard effort, while not spectacular, was good enough to hold his stock steady.
Oregon does a good job of involving all their skill players, especially their running backs, but Thomas needs a larger piece of the pie. He remains arguably the country’s most exciting player to watch on television, but his long-term Heisman aspirations need a boost or he’ll soon find his stock falling.
3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 245 total yards (116 rushing) & 4 TDs (2 rushing) in win vs. Kansas
Outlook: After an underwhelming start, KSU exploded in the second half scoring 35 points in the half to rout rival Kansas. The win follows an upset victory over Oklahoma two weeks ago, which is probably the most impressive win of any Big 12 contender to date.
In two weeks, Klein will have an opportunity to deliver his moment of the season. KSU travels to West Virginia in a Big 12 showdown that will have national consequences, as both teams rise in the polls. Klein may not have the fan following that Smith has, but he’s every bit as important to his team, and beating Smith in Morgantown is a potential game-changer.
4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 313 total yards (186 rushing) & 2 TDs in win vs. No. 21 Nebraska
Outlook: Any Heisman report should proceed with caution when evaluating Miller’s odds of taking home the prestigious trophy. Ohio State has a bowl ban, and as a result, they aren’t that relevant to any national stories.
Nevertheless, statistically Miller’s case is strong. He has 1,823 total yards and 763 came via running the ball. In addition, he’s totaled 17 touchdowns -- eight of which were on the ground. He’s emerging as the candidate that many of us (me included) envisioned for Michigan QB Denard Robinson. That must sting if you’re a Michigan fan.
5. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Last Week: 133 total yards (24 receiving) & 1 TD in win vs. No. 5 Georgia
Outlook: Perhaps no score separated contenders from pretenders more than South Carolina’s 35-7 victory over Georgia. The Gamecocks manhandled Georgia for what was the most impressive win of the Steve Spurrier era. It doesn’t get easier going forward, however, as South Carolina plays LSU and Florida in back-to-back road games.
Despite the coming challenges, you can’t undersell this game's Heisman ramifications as Lattimore and Georgia QB Aaron Murray were both apart of the discussion. Given the outcome, Murray’s now eliminated from Heisman consideration, while Lattimore lives for another day.
On the Bubble
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon