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1. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: 6 tackles in win vs. Wake Forest
Outlook: Notre Dame plays one more regular-season game and it’s a primetime showdown with USC. The Trojans might be struggling, but for once, they aren’t the narrative. The story here is Notre Dame controlling its destiny for a BCS championship appearance. It’s definitely going to be the talk of the week and may even overshadow the NFL to some extent.
All this media hype gives Te’o an excellent opportunity. His standing in this Heisman race is far from bulletproof, especially given his position, but he’s in a better spot than the other candidates are. He has the ball with two minutes remaining. A signature performance Saturday night would be hard to top.
2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 325 total yards (39 rushing), 3 TDs (1 rushing), & 3 INTs in loss at Baylor
Outlook: There will be no national championship in Kansas State. The odds also don’t look good for a Heisman trophy. It was a great run for K-State. They started the year flying under the radar before emerging on the national scene with a blowout victory over West Virginia. Baylor’s explosive offense finally put a dent (52 points) in Bill Snyder’s defense, which had played well all year, but couldn’t finish the job.
At this point, K-State is playing for a Big 12 championship and Klein will settle for an invite to New York for the prestigious Heisman ceremony. A week ago, those were disappointments, but they still represent a nice constellation prize.
3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Last Week: 367 total yards (100 rushing), 5 TDs (2 rushing), & 1 INT in win vs. Sam Houston State
Outlook: One game shouldn’t make a season, but we live in such a reactionary society that it’s enough to make a star over night. Manziel has had an outstanding year, but he was far from being a national player in the Heisman race. However, his circumstances look strong heading into the regular-season finale against Missouri, as other contenders begin to stumble and A&M’s upset over Alabama remains fresh in voter’s minds.
Manziel’s run is also a historical one. No freshman has ever won the Heisman trophy, so Te’o’s advantage of being the first linebacker to take home the trophy doesn’t hold as much weight against the Texas A&M quarterback. Last week, most Heisman voters were prepared to give the award to Klein, but Manziel’s been statistically better. In fact, he’s the first freshman in FBS history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards. Momentum is on his side.
4. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Last Week: 79 total yards in loss vs. No. 13 Stanford
Outlook: Just a few weeks ago, Barner ran for 325 yards against USC. The win elevated him up many Heisman boards, including this one. After losing to Stanford on Saturday night, Barner’s momentum has come to a screeching halt.
Losing this game in many ways is more significant than K-State falling to Baylor. The Ducks were at home and winning would clinch the Pac-12 north division. Losing took their destiny out of their control. Stanford can now clinch the Pac-12 north next week. That knocks Oregon out of the Pac-12 championship and prevents Barner from having an extra game of enhancing his Heisman credentials.
5. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 145 total yards (48 rushing) in win at Wisconsin
Outlook: Miller had an opportunity to put himself within striking distance of the Heisman, but his play against Wisconsin was underwhelming. He didn’t record a touchdown or manage 100 yards passing.
Regardless, Ohio State is now one of two unbeaten teams in FBS. If they were eligible for postseason play, it’s safe to assume they would be in position to play for the BCS championship. That’s just a hypothetical, though. Heisman voters deal in reality. The Buckeyes have one more game remaining against Michigan and then their season is done. That’s reality and it doesn’t bode well for Miller’s Heisman aspirations.
On the Bubble
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama