Heisman Trophy Watch: Can Oregon's Kenjon Barner Win It This Late?

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Heisman Trophy Watch: Can Oregon's Kenjon Barner Win It This Late?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Oregon running back Kenjon Barner has amassed 1,295 yards and 19 touchdowns so far this season, and amazingly, most of that yardage came in the first 30 minutes of play in each Ducks game. 

Who is Kenjon Barner, you ask? You're probably not the only one asking.

The Oregon Ducks have played five games after 6 p.m. local time—four of them after 7:30 p.m. local time—and unfortunately, that has limited Oregon's exposure to the rest of the country. 

Fans read the scores of the Ducks games and probably assume they're just a team with a gimmicky offense that plays against porous defenses. Until last Saturday.

The Oregon offense racked up 730 total yards—including 426 rushing yards—against USC in its 62-51 victory at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. And while the rest of the country's experts are now whispering how running back Kenjon Barner should be in the Heisman conversation, I've been including him in my Heisman watch list for over a month. 

The question is, is it too late for Barner to win the Heisman? 

It would certainly help if the Ducks would play some earlier games—this week the Ducks take on Cal and you guessed it, it's another late night game. While the rest of the country is going to bed at 10:30 ET, the Ducks will be in Berkeley just getting their game underway. This doesn't help Barner one bit.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has had plenty of exposure due to high-profile games during the networks prime time. So has Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Kenjon Barner has not.

Kenjon Barner highlights vs Washington State

Oregon has had three games on the Pac-12 Networks and five games on ESPN or ESPN2, but all of those ESPN games had starts no earlier than 9 pm ET. FOX carried last Saturday's USC-Oregon game at 4 pm local time and that helped Barner's exposure, since the broadcasting team of Gus Johnson and Charles Davis have a huge fan following—the earlier time slot was also beneficial. But beside that one game on FOX, Barner just hasn't had a lot of exposure to Heisman voters. 

The speedy back rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries against the Trojans' defense. If that isn't a Heisman moment, what is?

It's not too late for Barner to get an invite to New York in December, but the school has to do more to help him out. If Louisville can send out Heisman campaign literature for its quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, why can't Oregon do a little campaigning for Barner?

The Ducks' last two games of the regular season—against Stanford and Oregon State—should be compelling enough to be shown to a national audience during prime time. Unfortunately, the world wide leader is more interested in prime time games east of the Mississippi.

Of the 10 College Gameday Games of the Week so far, six have been SEC games. The only game involving a Pac-12 team that ESPN has sent its College Gameday crew to was in South Bend, Indiana, when Stanford took on Notre Dame. In fact, the farthest west the Gameday crew has traveled is Norman, Oklahoma. 

An East coast bias, coupled with some pathetic scheduling, has made Barner's Heisman campaign almost futile. If Klein's injury proves to be serious enough to keep him out of a game, Barner could climb higher on some ballots.

Kenjon Barner is just now getting in the Heisman conversation and that's a shame, but his late entry status could have been prevented with better programming deals and less East coast bias. Things can change and anything is possible in college football, but right now, the odds are against him winning the Heisman. 

If he were playing on an SEC team, Kenjon Barner would probably be striking the pose right now. 

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