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1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Last Week: 439 total yards (67 rushing), 5 TDs (2 rushing), & 1 INT in win vs. Missouri
Outlook: Saturday’s blue-chip performance against Missouri ensures that Manziel will walk into New York the favorite to win the Heisman. He finishes the season with 43 total touchdowns (19 rushing) and 4,600 total yards (1,181 rushing). Both stats are comparable to Tim Tebow’s (2007) and Cam Newton‘s (2010) Heisman seasons.
Aside from Notre Dame fever, the biggest roadblock in Manziel’s way is the bias Heisman voters have against freshman. No freshman has ever won the Heisman trophy, though Adrian Peterson came close in 2004 finishing second to Matt Leinart. Nonetheless, there isn’t an attractive alternative to Manziel on the offensive side of the ball, so the status quo probably doesn’t influence this race as much as it has during previous seasons.
2. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: 5 tackles & 1 INT in win at USC
Outlook: For the first time in the BCS era, Notre Dame is playing for the national title. The win guarantees them a place in the BCS championship game, but from a Heisman standpoint, it also makes Te’o the most legitimate alternative to Manziel.
Like the Yankees in baseball, many hate the Fighting Irish, but that’s what makes them such a significant power in college football. The surprising nature of their rise (nobody but Lou Holtz saw it coming) only adds fuel to the story. The year isn’t over yet, but you’ll be hard press to find any sports fan that doesn’t consider Notre Dame’s undefeated regular-season as the story of the year.
Are the coattails enough to carry Te’o to a Heisman victory? With 100-plus tackles and seven interceptions, his statistics are definitely Heisman-worthy. In fact, he represents a defensive player’s best shot at the Heisman since Charles Woodson won the award in ‘97. Nevertheless, I thought he needed a signature moment against USC for him to overcome the bias held against defensive players. He did not have that type of a performance Saturday night in Los Angeles.
3. Colin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Last Week: Idle
Outlook: Klein’s done enough over the course of the year to earn a coveted invite to the Heisman ceremony. He needed a ton of help, however, to enter the final weekend with a shot at clinching the award. He didn’t get that help on Saturday, so the best he can do is pad his stats enough to finish third.
4. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Last Week: 198 rushing yards & 2 TDs in win at No. 15 Oregon State
Outlook: Facing their archrival Saturday afternoon, Barner played his second best game of the season, rushing for 198 yards and running in two touchdowns as the Ducks blew out Oregon State. The win places Oregon in the BCS, but they’ll settle for an at-large bid to possibly the Fiesta Bowl rather than a Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl birth.
Consider this their bronze metal considering their standing just a week ago. They were looking poised for a shot to play for the national title, and even if they were to misstep, the Rose Bowl is still a heck of a constellation prize. Neither will happen and Barner loses much-needed media coverage, as a result.
5. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 246 total yards (57 rushing) & 1 TD in win vs. No. 19 Michigan
Outlook: A few weeks ago, I would’ve thought Miller’s chances would’ve been pretty good if Ohio State ran the table finishing 12-0 in the regular-season. Manziel, Notre Dame, and late-season losses proved to be bigger stories than Ohio State’s run at an unbeaten season.
Still, there is talk that Ohio State could push for a split national title. Their best bet is if Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC championship and barely squeaks by Notre Dame in the BCS championship. That plus a strong showing from the Big Ten in Bowl season could give Ohio State a chance at a split national title -- albeit a slim one.
6. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Last Week: 5 receptions & 75 yards in loss vs. No. 1 Notre Dame
Outlook: Despite Southern Cal’s failures to live up to lofty preseason expectations, Lee merits Heisman recognition. It’s rare for six players to receive invites to New York, but Lee is every bit as deserving as Barner, Klein, and Miller.
He ends the season with 112 receptions, 1,680 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns. A remarkable season such as this deservers more acknowledgement and I hope that the Heisman committee recognizes his achievements. He deserves some spotlight.