Heisman Watch 2012: Separating the Contenders from the Pretenders

Jake Martin@JakeMartinSECCorrespondent IIISeptember 30, 2012

Heisman Watch 2012: Separating the Contenders from the Pretenders

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    The separation between contenders and pretenders in the Heisman race expanded enormously following Week 5's action.

    You can thank Geno Smith for that.

    After Smith's 656 passing yards and eight touchdowns against Baylor on Saturday, Heisman hopefuls are going to have to do something remarkable to pry the trophy from Smith's fingertips.

    He's the unquestionable favorite to win the most prestigious award in college football, but which contenders can seriously challenge him for the hardware?

    Here's the contenders and pretenders for the Heisman in 2012.

Contender: Geno Smith

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    Smith should adopt the nickname "cyborg" because the numbers he put up against Baylor are unreal.

    Having 656 passing yards and eight touchdowns? Are you kidding me? Bad defensive play or not, you have to take a second and just marvel at those numbers.

    I'll admit that, being a defensive-minded fan, it's a lot easier said than done. But it's hard not to be in awe of his season statistics.

    Smith has completed 83.4 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,728 yards and has 20 passing touchdowns.

    Is this Smith's numbers this year or is this Drew Brees' numbers last year with the New Orleans Saints? He's clearly the favorite to win the Heisman.

Pretender: Collin Klein

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    To win the Heisman as a quarterback, you're going to have to add dimensions to your game that separate you from Smith.

    Collin Klein has that with his legs and powerful runs, but his stats simply aren't good enough right now.

    To go along with wins and leadership, the statistics are an important aspect to winning the Heisman. Go figure, right?

    Well, Klein's 758 passing yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions are underwhelming after viewing Smith's mind-blowing stats.

    Klein does have 289 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns as well, but even that isn't enough to compete with Smith.

Contender: EJ Manuel

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    Signature win? Check.

    Impressive stats? Check.

    So Heisman contender? Go on and add another check.

    EJ Manuel has 1,147 passing yards, nine touchdowns and one interception to go along with 197 yards rushing and a touchdown. More importantly, Manuel threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a huge showdown against Clemson. There's your signature win/performance.

    The fact that Manuel's team is more likely to win a national championship than West Virginia could give Manuel an advantage over Smith.

    As the Seminoles begin to bring in more wins and Manuel continues to perform well, he will be a true candidate for the Heisman.

Pretender: De'Anthony Thomas

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    Did his subpar outing against Washington State cost him the Heisman?

    Look, De'Anthony Thomas is arguably the most exciting player in college football, and the fact that a player coming off of the bench is considered a Heisman hopeful is absolutely incredible.

    But in order for him to contend for a Heisman, he has to light up the stat sheets each and every outing, especially since he's a "specialty player."

    He didn't do that against Washington State. Thomas recorded just 26 yards rushing and 28 yards receiving in the Ducks' win.

    He did have a touchdown in the victory, but after Smith's eight-touchdown performance, that seems miniscule these days.

Contender: Braxton Miller

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    Braxton Miller's gutty performance against Michigan State was more impressive than any juke or pass he's made all season long.

    Everyone who follows college football knows that Miller has the moves to break defenders' ankles, but we all learned something special about Miller in the Buckeyes' win against the Spartans.

    This guy has a ton of heart. The way Ohio State rides Miller to victory, you had to know eventually he would sustain an injury after taking one hit after another. That came against Michigan State, when he was banged repeatedly and twisted his knee.

    Miller kept getting knocked down, but he kept battling. He finished the game with 179 yards passing, 136 rushing and a passing touchdown with an interception.

    More importantly, Miller got his signature win against a ranked opponent on the road.