Heisman 2012: Why Kenjon Barner Is Now the Front-Runner

Jonathan IrwinContributor IINovember 5, 2012

Kenjon Barner (No. 24) was unstopable against USC.
Kenjon Barner (No. 24) was unstopable against USC.Robert Laberge/Getty Images

With one player's offensive explosion, and another's mysterious injury, the 2012 Heisman Award landscape has been reshaped.

Before Week 10, many had crowned Kansas State star quarterback Collin Klein the favorite. With 1,875 passing yards, 698 rushing and 29 total touchdowns, the award was Klein's to lose.

But then Week 10 came.

In the third quarter of KSU's game against Oklahoma State, Klein left the game with an apparent injury. The nature of the injury has been undisclosed, and coach Bill Snyder was vague when asked of Klein's possible return for Week 11.

And now we get the man of the hour, Mr. Kenjon Barner.

Oregon's star running back has been in the conversation all season long. But when a team destroys opponents like the Ducks do, starters get pulled from games after about the fifth or sixth touchdown.

Unfortunately for Barner, getting pulled early has cost him a lot of playing time. As such, his stats aren't quite as padded as you'd want from a Heisman winner.

Also, he hasn't shown the kind of impact on his team that you'd like from a nominee. That KSU offense would sure struggle without Klein. Can you say the same of Barner and UO?

Like I said: But then Week 10 came.

As many a college football fan knows, Week 10 brought us the fabled showdown between Oregon and USC.

The game was an offensive bloodbath, with the Ducks edging the Trojans 62-51.

And just like that, Barner finally got to play all four quarters of a football game. Needless to say, it was an electric four quarters.

The senior tailback finished with 321 yards rushing—a school record—and five touchdowns. Just for good measure, he also made two catches for 26 yards.

Barner was explosive, proving just how good he is. With the final score as tight as it was, he also proved how vital he is to that Ducks offense. No doubt, Oregon couldn't have won that game without his contributions.

So with Week 10 come and gone, Klein's and Barner's positions are flip flopped.

Klein still has a great shot at winning, but it really depends on how long this injury keeps him out. Even if he can return early, what kind of shape will he be in?

Then there's still AJ McCarron. The quarterback from Alabama is quietly putting together a solid campaign of his own (1,849 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, zero interceptions).

But neither Klein nor McCarron caught the eye in Week 10 quiet like Barner. Especially McCarron, who didn't seem that vital in Alabama's win over LSU, passing for just 165 yards.

With No. 14 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State still on tap, Barner will have plenty more chances to prove just how good he really is. If he can do that, the Heisman should be all but won.