Heisman Watch 2012: Dark Horse Contenders Who Will Shake Things Up

Thomas BonifaceCorrespondent INovember 2, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10:  A detailed view of the Heisman Memorial Trophy after a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 10, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The 2012 edition of the Heisman Trophy race is shaping up to be a great one.

With each passing week, fans have seen players climb up to the top of the rankings after a great performance and others fall down and out of the rankings after a poor performance.

Most would argue that Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is the front-runner in the race for the Heisman right now.  His Wildcats are undefeated and he has been the primary reason for that success.

After Mr. Klein, there are a few players who would likely get invited if the ceremony were this weekend.  These players include Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.  Both players are arguably the driving force behind their respective team's undefeated records at this point in the season.

After them, there are a few dark horse candidates who will jump to the top of the watch list and shake things up after a good performance this weekend against ranked opponents. Let's take a look at a few of those players.

Alabama's quarterback AJ McCarron will likely have the toughest test of any potential Heisman contender this weekend when he faces LSU's top-ranked defense.

McCarron has been steadily guiding the Crimson Tide through their schedule and has yet to face any adversity from opposing defenses yet.  He has passed for 1684 yards, 18 touchdowns and no interceptions through eight games this season.

Because of his lack of flash as a passer and a player, McCarron has not gotten much love from Heisman voters this year.

However, he does have a chance to make a big impression on voters this week when the Crimson Tide face off against No. 5 LSU. If McCarron can put together a great game against the Tigers like he did in the BCS National Championship game where he went 23-of-34 for 234 yards and no interceptions, then he will definitely start to shake up the Heisman race this season.

The second dark horse player who will flash on everyone's Heisman watch radar after a good performance this weekend is Oregon's Kenjon Barner.

Barner has had the tough task of replacing LaMichael James as the premier running back in Oregon's offense this season.  So far he has been up to the task, rushing for almost 1000 yards and scouring 14 touchdowns through eight games.

More impressively, Barner has had four straight 100-plus yard rushing games and he achieved the 100 yard rushing plateau in his last game with only nine carries.

However, those stats have mostly come against inferior opponents in blowout games, which is likely why he hasn't been on many Heisman watch radars yet.

This week Barner and Oregon get a shot at gaining some serious national exposure when they face off against No. 17 ranked USC in The Coliseum.

If Barner can continue to have great games on the ground rushing and help lead Oregon to a big win over USC this weekend, he will definitely start climbing up the Heisman leaderboard and shake things up.