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1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 309 total yards (64 rushing) & 1 TD (rushing) in win vs. No. 24 Oklahoma State
Outlook: It was a workman like performance for Klein on Saturday. The K-State quarterback wasn’t spectacular, but he was solid enough to put Kansas State comfortably ahead before leaving the game in the third quarter.
The attention now turns to Klein’s firewall at the top of most Heisman reports. During a normal season, a player quarterbacking an undefeated BCS championship contender is strong odds to win the prestigious award. This is an unusual season, however, with several strong contenders. Most notably, Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o is having an outstanding year and his historic run at the Heisman may be enough to propel him over Klein if all things are equal in December.
2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 299 total yards (73 rushing) & 3 TDs (1 rushing) in win vs. Illinois
Outlook: Another win puts Ohio State one-step closer to an unbeaten season. Nobody is paying attention, unfortunately. The actions of a few are affecting the entire landscape of the 2012 college football season.
Miller is having an outstanding season (2,919 total yards & 27 touchdowns) and Ohio State is clearly the class of the Big Ten, but their postseason ban keeps them from the Big Ten championship (or BCS championship) and also out of headlines. This situation really brings to question how the NCAA deals with violations. The brunt of their punishments is negatively influencing Miller’s season, which under normal circumstances, is Heisman-worthy.
3. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Last Week: 321 rushing yards & 5 TDs in 62-51 win at No. 17 USC
Outlook: Weeks ago it became apparent that Barner was ascending, while teammate De’Anthony Thomas descends. It took a bit for the turnover to become complete, but it finally came to fruition Saturday night.
Barner not only separated himself from Thomas, but his legendary performance solidifies him as a threat to win the award -- opposed to being only an invitee. His 321 rushing yards were the most USC ever allowed on the ground. The Ducks usually rest Barner if the game is out of contention, so this basically marked the first time all season Oregon leaned on Barner for all four quarters. His response was masterful and one that’ll be hard to top all year.
4. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Last Week: 288 total yards (28 rushing), 3 TDs, & 1 INT in loss vs. TCU
Outlook: After storming out to a 5-0 start, West Virginia looked like Big 12 title contenders or maybe BCS contenders. Smith was also on his way to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Three losses later and WVU fans can only reminisce about their dreams of five weeks ago.
Smith wasn’t bad against TCU. He threw three touchdowns and had over 250 yards passing. It still wasn’t enough to overcome a defense that has really let the offense down time and again this season. There’s still a slim chance Smith manages to make it to New York, but the clock is ticking, and his arrow is pointing down.
5. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: 7 tackles & 0.5 sacks in win vs. Pittsburgh
Outlook: Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame reminded us all as to why we’re so skeptical of the Fighting Irish. They barely beat Pittsburgh (4-5) in South Bend. In fact, three of their last four wins haven’t been very impressive. They beat Stanford because of a controversial call in overtime, squeaked by BYU, and looked lackluster against Pittsburgh.
With the exception of Stanford, BCS contenders should dominate these teams. Perhaps Notre Dame just plays down to their opponent, but either way, they need to play better or this special season may quickly turn into a 10-2 campaign. That’s good enough to play in the Sugar Bowl, but not enough to put Te’o over the Heisman hump.
On the Bubble
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Matt Barkley, QB, USC