A one-horse race is still a one-horse race, but it's no longer the same horse.
Up until Saturday, Geno Smith was your Heisman front-runner, and the gap between him and the rest of the field was significant. That gap closed with West Virginia's blowout loss against Texas Tech two weeks ago, but he still remained the name referenced first when talking about the award.
But after traveling to Morgantown on Saturday and absolutely dismantling the Mountaineer defense in a 55-14 rout, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is the new Heisman leader, and the Wildcats' incredible 2012 season just got even more interesting.
There’s nothing sexy about this team, and perhaps that’s why it's been overlooked for the second straight season. It won’t dazzle you with tempo. It isn't the fastest team on the field, and its best player is the exact same way.
When Klein throws the football, you cringe at the mechanics and wonder how it works. Then he hits the target, over and over again. When he takes off, he doesn’t typically run past defenders. He’ll gladly run them over instead. He’s college football’s most productive player and he’s en route to giving the Big 12 its second consecutive Heisman winner.
On Saturday night, Klein didn’t match Geno Smith’s eight-touchdown performance in a 70-63 win over Baylor on September 29, but he came close against the Mountaineers, scoring seven TDs.
Yes, those scores came against a team that isn’t exactly stout on defense (and you may have other words), but it doesn’t matter. Couches burned in his honor.
Klein finished 19-of-21 for 323 yards and three touchdowns passing and rushed for 41 yards and four touchdowns. Those are numbers meant for a video game, and they have no place in real life. While Klein hasn’t had this kind of production in any other game this year, his overall 2012 resume is nearly as impressive.
Twenty-four touchdowns, two interceptions. Even bigger than the numbers, however, is the number zero. That's the number of losses suffered by the Wildcats.
Kansas State has won games at Oklahoma, at Iowa State and at West Virginia, and it is very much in the BCS-title picture. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Bill Snyder’s road football wizardry pretty much speaks for itself, according to this tweet from CBSSports.com's Bryan Fischer:
Bill Snyder is 30-13 on the road vs. ranked teams, per Fox. Wow.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 20, 2012
The Wildcats' remaining schedule still has plenty of roadblocks, starting with a home game against a fantastic Texas Tech team next week. But they are a force.
They're not just a cute team with “heart” that features a bulldozer quarterback with a strange arm angle. Not anymore.
They still have their work cut out for them if they’re going to finish the season unbeaten—which should still be viewed as a long shot—but this disclaimer applies to everyone not named Alabama. Even Oregon has plenty of meat left on the bone.
Snyder has his quarterback. He has a defense that held Oklahoma and West Virginia—two of the best offenses in the country—to 33 points combined.
This team is tested. It is confident, and while it won’t dazzle you with numbers, it should be favored in every game it plays for the remainder of the season.
I’m not sure we know exactly where the ceiling is for this team or when the floor will drop out from under it. The Wildcats probably won’t get the respect they deserve until they lose it, if they lose it. But the ride will only get better as the stakes get higher.