Heisman Watch 2012: Sorting out Contenders from Pretenders
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As the final quarter of the season approaches, contenders and pretenders are being narrowed down in the Heisman Trophy race.
Which player is the favorite? Many players have had great seasons thus far, but my vote would go to Collin Klein of the Kansas State Wildcats.
Unless he pulls a Geno Smith and collapses, the award is almost certainly his.
There are, though, a few players that have a chance to change that prediction.
Here are the contenders and pretenders for the Heisman Trophy after Week 9.
Contender: Collin Klein
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Not only is Collin Klein a contender, he is the unanimous favorite on ESPN's latest Heisman watch.
While the majority of his competition for the Heisman experienced an off game or two, Klein has been flat-out dominant every week.
The senior from Loveland, Colorado isn't showing any love to his opponents this year. Klein has led the Wildcats to an 8-0 record by throwing 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions and rushed for 16 more scores this season.
He hasn't thrown a pick in the last five games while compiling 19 touchdowns combined through the air and on the ground.
Klein defeated a then sixth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners team and absolutely demolished the West Virginia Mountaineers by accounting for seven touchdowns in that game.
Just as ESPN projects, Klein is the clear favorite to win the Heisman.
Pretender: Geno Smith
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Heading into Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Geno Smith was the favorite in many opinions.
And there was no reason he shouldn't be with 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions. But after the Mountaineers took two huge tumbles against Texas Tech and Kansas State, Smith has dropped to one of the top 5 at best.
While no one can compare to his better-than-video-games performance against the Baylor Bears, the senior from Miramar High School has done little since then.
Smith must return to his dominance for the last five games of the season—two of which are against ranked teams—if he wants a shot at taking home the hardware.
Contender: Manti Te'o
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Oh Manti Te'o, where do I begin?
He is a freak of nature, an unstoppable force and straight-up unfair.
Te'o has 78 tackles on the season—33 of the solo variety—with five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
He has anchored the Notre Dame defense in every game thus far, and his fourth-ranked Irish boast an 8-0 record.
There is no doubt in my mind that the senior linebacker will be invited to the Heisman ceremonies in New York.
Pretender: Matt Barkley
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Matt Barkley will be one of the top picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.
He just won't win the Heisman.
The senior gunslinger's numbers are slightly down this season, and his USC Trojans have already lost games to the Stanford Cardinal and Arizona Wildcats.
Barkley has a chance to redeem himself this weekend against the Oregon Ducks, but with Klein and Te'o playing in a different world, it may be too late.
His 2012 campaign won't result in a Heisman Trophy nor a BCS title he looked to win after forgoing last year's draft, but Sunday games are calling Barkley's name.
Contender: Kenjon Barner
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Kenjon Barner has already matched his 2011 season numbers through eight games.
The senior has nearly 1,000 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in the up-tempo, high-powered Oregon Ducks' offense.
Can you imagine where his stats would be if the Ducks didn't beat every opponent by so darn much?
Barner hasn't played in the fourth quarter since Oregon defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs—in the second game of the season.
Technicality alert! He played one down against the Washington State Cougars in the final stanza. Oh yeah, Barner scored an 80-yard touchdown.
I vote contender.
Pretender: Johnny Manziel
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This is by no means a knock on "Johnny Football."
Texas A&M's true freshman quarterback has been nothing short of spectacular this season.
Just not Heisman spectacular.
If history is any indication, it will be difficult for a player on a three-plus loss team to win the prestigious award.
The Aggies have lost two games—albeit to the Florida Gators and LSU Tigers—and have yet to face the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Manziel will not win the Heisman, but 16 passing touchdowns with 800 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground makes him one of the best freshmen in all of college football.
Contender: Braxton Miller
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It's too bad for the Ohio State Buckeyes that there is no postseason play, because this Braxton Miller guy is pretty good.
Miller has led his Buckeyes to a 9-0 overall record with a 5-0 mark in the Big Ten this season.
The sophomore from Huber Heights, Ohio has blossomed under new coach Urban Meyer's tutelage and has a bright future ahead of him.
But he might have something special this season, too.
Miller has thrown for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns and run for a sensational 1,100 yards and 12 more scores.
Though his numbers aren't quite similar to Tim Tebow's 2007 Heisman winning campaign, Miller has put together an above-average season and should be in the front row in December.
Pretender: Marqise Lee
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Marqise Lee may have had the best performance by a receiver this season in the NCAA on Saturday.
Lee caught 16 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns plus 123 kick return yards in a loss against Arizona.
But while the sophomore has also matched his season totals from a season ago, Lee's team might end the year with three losses—the similar fate of Manziel.
On the bright side, he is Barkley's favorite weapon and one of the most dynamic players in college football.
Though I believe Lee should be in contention, Heisman voters will likely disagree due to USC's record.
Contender: AJ McCarron
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Quick! Name the two FBS quarterbacks yet to throw an interception this season.
I'm sure everyone knew the answers were Colby Cameron of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and AJ McCarron.
He led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a national championship last year, averages nearly 10 yards per attempt and has thrown 18 touchdowns this season.
Yet the QB of the top-ranked team in the nation is still flying under the radar.
The junior's invitation to New York will be determined by the next two games on the Crimson Tide's schedule.
Alabama heads to Baton Rouge to take on LSU this Saturday and will be at home against Texas A&M the following weekend.
As of now, McCarron is a contender.