Heisman Watch 2012: Previewing the Top Contenders' Matchups
My, how the Heisman race has shifted in the past six weeks.
Optimus Klein is coming on strong, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith have fallen a little behind, and it's not quite time to count out Montee Ball just yet.
Here is a rundown of the top current Heisman contenders and their matchups for the upcoming weekend.
(The "Denard Robinson for Heisman" campaign has officially ended, Michigan fans, he's not here.)
11. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Next Opponent: vs. Michigan State
Wisconsin has not quite been as good this season as it was in 2011.
The team has already matched its regular-season loss total from last season, and it has yet to face it's toughest competition.
Even so, Montee Ball still has a shot at the Heisman with a huge season.
He's fourth in the nation in rushing yards, has scored 13 rushing touchdowns and is coming on strong in Big Ten play.
Unfortunately for him, the Badgers' next opponent, MSU, is 12th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just over 100 yards per game.
Ball's chances at the Heisman could very well be completely derailed against the Spartans this Saturday.
10. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Next Opponent: at Wake Forest
For all the preseason talk about Sammy Watkins, USC's Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and West Virginia's Tavon Austin, none of them has impacted his team's season as much as Hopkins.
He's scored nine times on the season, and five times already in conference play.
This doesn't bode well for Wake Forest, which has been allowing over 220 yards receiving per game.
The Demon Deacons have yet to face a wide receiver with the talent of Hopkins, and they are going to have a significant challenge on their hands trying to slow the best receiver in the nation.
9. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Next Opponent: at Auburn
Auburn is winless in conference play and must next deal with the explosive Johnny Manziel.
Manziel's numbers were down against LSU last week, and he was limited to only 27 yards rushing, and he threw three interceptions.
Auburn will be the cure for whatever ills he suffered against LSU last week.
The Tigers are yielding over 411 yards of offense per game, and they have yet to face an offense as loaded with weapons as the Aggies'.
Expect Manziel to have another huge day at Jordan-Hare.
8. Seth Doege, QB, TTU
Next Opponent: at Kansas State
It's time to start taking notice of what Doege is accomplishing.
He's thrown more touchdowns than Geno Smith, and he is completing over 70 percent of his passing attempts.
He deserves at least a mention on this list before he faces a Kansas State defense that has allowed only 327 yards per game this season.
This game may be the game of the weekend, featuring two quarterbacks with very different styles but who can each put up points in a hurry.
The advantage lies with K-State, given it is the host, but Doege has already proven this season that he can get it done with his arm.
7. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Next Opponent: at Arizona
Barkley's season has not quite turned out to be the dream season many people anticipated.
Even so, he has put up huge numbers recently, including six touchdowns in the Trojans' last game against Colorado.
Arizona is near the bottom of the nation in passing defense, giving up over 291 yards through the air per game.
You better believe Barkley is salivating at the prospect of another game against a defense that cannot stop anybody.
6. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Next Opponent: vs. Colorado
You must watch Barner to appreciate him fully.
The man is quick, can cut like nobody's business and finds a way to produce on limited carries.
In his last game, at ASU, he gouged the Sun Devils for three touchdowns...by the 11:43 mark of the second quarter.
Colorado is 116th out of 124 teams in total defense, so you can expect Oregon to score a ton.
The question seems to be whether Barner will be in the game long enough to add to his already gaudy stats.
5. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Next Opponent: TCU, November 3
Smith has a couple of weeks to regroup after two consecutive losses and his first interceptions of the season.
Even with those interceptions, if he rights the ship and continues to put up big numbers, he will jump right back to the front of this race.
Twenty-seven total touchdowns will do that for you.
4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Next Opponent: at Penn State
Yes, the Big Ten is "down," and yes, Ohio State is playing with no hope of a postseason.
But if you haven't watched this guy play ball, you are really missing out.
He's like a Denard Robinson that can actually throw the ball with consistency.
This week, Miller and the Buckeyes take on another team bereft of postseason hopes, the Nittany Lions, in what one might label "The Futility Bowl."
Even so, Miller has a chance to make another statement, which he will, and add to his already large rushing and passing totals.
Penn State has yet to face a quarterback that can make plays the way this young man can—there are few teams that have—and even with a defense that has been extremely stingy this season, it will find Miller a challenge to contain.
3. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Next Opponent: vs. Mississippi State
That's what most of you probably thought upon spotting his name on this list.
The Tide have scored more than 33 points in seven consecutive games with him at the helm, and they continue to roll up points on solid SEC teams.
His streak of 154 passes without an interception will be tested in the Tide's next contest against the Bulldogs, but there is no reason to believe McCarron will not again emerge unscathed and with a victory.
He is simply too efficient.
2. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Next Opponent: at Oklahoma
The casual observer, when asked to pick the best defensive player in college football in 2012, would be hard-pressed to answer with anyone other than Manti Te'o.
The man is a beast, racking up double-digit tackles in five of his last six games and leading a defense that continues to rattle opposing offenses with regularity.
Oklahoma, however, presents a challenge that will be unique to the Irish this season.
The Sooners average nearly 500 yards of offense on the season, and it will be the toughest test Te'o and his teammates face in 2012.
Expect Te'o to get plenty of action from his linebacker position, but the team will have a difficult time taking out Oklahoma in Norman.
1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Next Opponent: vs. Texas Tech
Optimus Klein is the new leader in the Heisman race.
The man scored seven touchdowns in his last game against West Virginia, and he has scored 24 times this season, while leading the Wildcats to a perfect record.
Texas Tech has already derailed the Heisman hopes of Geno Smith, and it will be looking to do the same to Klein.
The Wildcats' rushing attack is underrated, but will face its stiffest test so far against a TTU defense that only gives up 11 yards on the ground per game.
Klein will restate his case for the Heisman with a big win against the Red Raiders, another ranked conference opponent.