By: Al Burke
I’ve finally whittled away at the list and got it down to 10 potentials, or more like, 3 potentials and the rest. The list doesn’t look too different to my Top 10 of the past few weeks, although I’ve given up the ghost on Geno Smith. Just to thumb my nose at “old school” Heisman voters, I’ve included a defensive player (guess who?) and one from the ranks outside the BCS, but to be honest, it’s a 3-horse race at this stage and the other 7 don’t really have a snowball’s of lifting the statuette at the end of the season. Unless they’re performing an illegal act. The picks are in a degree of order, with the top 3 based on my current favorites. Read on, and feel free to lambast me at your leisure. You can reach me at @alburke47 on Twitter.
The Top 10
Collin Klein, Kansas State
Klein has been a model of consistency all season, showing greatly improved passing to go with his tough running style. He’s been the face of a program that may lack the talent of many of its opponents, but make up for it with impressive fundamentals that some NFL teams could aspire to. The schedule is the biggest concern – Texas Tech; Oklahoma State; @ TCU; @ Baylor; Texas – not one team on there the Wildcats can’t beat, but no sure victories either. I’m not as in love with K-State as many are, but if they can run that table, give Klein the Heisman and pit them against Alabama for the big cheese.
Next Week: Texas Tech
Stats to Date: Passing 139-98-1397-10-2, Rushing 110-551-14.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State
I’ve said on a number of occasions that the Buckeyes were in danger of running Miller into the ground and, lo and behold, he was carted off to hospital in the close win over Purdue. By all accounts he’s ready to go for the trip to Penn State, and the brief blip won’t hurt his Heisman chances much, but his own team may be his worst enemy.
Next Week: @ Penn State
Stats to Date: Passing 179-105-1384-11-5, Rushing 141-959-10.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
Like Klein, McCarron’s been the face of the offense for a Tide team that looks to be unbeatable, with no team (yet) coming within closer than 19 points of them, even when they play “sloppy” football. McCarron has thrown 16 TDs while being very smart with the football, and still has to throw an interception. He’s come up with the plays needed to keep drives alive, even when the running attack has been subpar, and looks to be the best QB on campus in some time. Two BCS championships and a Heisman would cement that claim. Of course, there is still work to be done…
Next Week: Mississippi State
Stats to Date: Passing 154-106-1476-16-0, Rushing 26-(-45)-0.
Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray may have stunk up the joint in the loss to South Carolina, but he was his usual clutch self (427 yards, 4 TDs) against a Kentucky squad that put up quite a fight in a game the rest of the Bulldogs didn’t always look like they wanted to win. Murray may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Heisman, but he’s not completely out of the running should the top 3 falter. In fact, if it comes down to it, Murray has the best resume, having been a productive 3-year starter in the toughest conference in the FBS. Winning in Gainesville would be a nice start.
Next Week: @ Florida
Stats to Date: Passing 199-130-1914-16-4, Rushing 31-(-30)-3.
EJ Manuel, Florida State
Manuel probably spoiled any shot he had at the Heisman by losing to NC State, and at this stage he’s just making up the numbers. That’s a shame, as he was great against BC and looked very effective against Miami, continually completing long 3rd downs despite the efforts of his offense to break penalty records. He didn’t get the all-important stats against the Hurricanes to catch the voters’ collective eye, despite playing one of his best games of the season. He’s still theoretically in the race, but he’s got to be amazing over the last few games.
Next Week: Duke
Stats to Date: Passing 214-153-2033-14-4, Rushing 57-220-1.
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
The Ducks have been so good this season they’ve only needed to play a half of football in nearly every game, sitting their starters and giving some much needed work to the reserves. While it only hurt the starters’ stats initially, the Ducks actually dropped from #2 to #4 in the BCS standings despite trouncing a decent Arizona State team in just 30 minutes (up 43-7) of football. With the BCS showing them the error of their ways – that there is no place for sportsmanship in the BCS – expect to see a lot more of Barner in games and expect him to rack up some serious yardage along the way. He had just 2 carries for 7 yards in the second half against ASU, but gained 136 yards and 3 scores on just 14 carries in the first, including a 71-yard burst to open the scoring.
Next Week: Colorado
Stats to Date: Rushing 132-870-12, Receiving 11-111-1.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Another guy on the list with a loss he could have done without (Florida State), it stands in Boyd’s favor that he actually played well in the game and it’s hard to land the blame at his feet. Despite firing 4 picks in the 3 games since, he’s been excellent, throwing 6 TDs and running for another 4 prior to tonight’s game at Wake Forest. If he’s to have any chance, the Tigers have to keep winning big and pull out an ACC championship along the way. 428 yards and 5 TDs over the Demon Deacons sure won’t hurt.
Next Week: @ Duke (Week 10)
Stats to Date: Passing 260-176-2336-20-6, Rushing 107-278-4.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Also known as Geno Smith’s (remember him?) favorite receiver, Austin is a multi-talented player who is a threat on special teams as well as offense. While his receiving stats have dipped with Smith’s (and the rest of the team’s) play, he’s still managed to do some damage on special teams, scoring on a KR against K-State. Playing in his better-known QB’s shadow, and the all-round team slump, probably ruins his chances, but a return to form (starting with TCU) could see him rise up the rankings and get some much-deserved recognition.
Next Week: Texas Christian
Stats to Date: Receiving 73-795-9, Rushing 8-90-0, Kick Returns 15-492-1, Punt Returns 9-43-0.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
With that offense, the Fighting Irish have no business being unbeaten, let alone ranked #5 in the BCS standings. But sure enough, they’ve beaten all comers, despite a relatively tough schedule. This all boils down to the D, which has been outstanding, allowing a mere 66 points in 7 games despite the lack of a consistent offense. The catalyst is Te’o, who has been playing at a high level despite going through some personal tragedies mid-season. The big test is Saturday, with a much-improved Oklahoma team looking to improve their own BCS standing.
Next Week: @ Oklahoma
Stats to Date: 69 Tackles, 2.5 for loss, 4 Interceptions, 1 Fumble Recovery, 3 PBUs, 4 QB Hurries.
Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada
Jefferson really burst onto the scene this season after seeing some work as a backup the last couple of seasons. He’s been almost unstoppable this season, racking up 1341 yards and 16 TDs. He ran for 247 yards against Northwestern State and scored 6 TDs against Hawaii, and picked up 282 yards and 3 scores against the 2 BCS teams he’s faced (California and USF), with a 1-1 record. In all fairness, he’d probably need to be looking at double that production to get a shot, but he should be good for a few votes along the way.
Next Week: Colorado
Stats to Date: Rushing 251-1248-15, Receiving 18-155-1.