When Kansas State trainers took Collin Klein's helmet away from him after sustaining a concussion against Oklahoma State, Wildcat fans around the country took a deep breath as the season hung in the balance.
Klein will likely return to face TCU this Saturday, but even if he doesn't, his Heisman hopes are still alive.
Granted, nine of the last 12 Heisman Trophy winners have played in the BCS National Championship Game. The three other winners played in a BCS bowl.
Regardless of how Kansas State's season plays out—unless he suffers a major meltdown these next few weeks—Klein has already established himself as the nation's most outstanding player (even if he misses the next game due to injury).
Kenjon Barner had a game for the Oregon record books last Saturday and has catapulted himself into the Heisman conversation. He should have already been in the conversation earlier because he has played well all season and currently ranks third in the nation in rushing yards and second in rushing TDs.
His performance against USC may have been a 60-minute highlight reel, but he has three other games in which he scored at least three touchdowns.
But you have to wonder if Oregon could have done this without him. Barner did not hit the 100-yard mark against Arkansas State, Tennessee Tech and Arizona. It wasn't because he wasn't effective; it was because Chip Kelly called off the dogs.
Kelly benched Barner two minutes into the second quarter against Arkansas State and Oregon still went on to score 21 more points. Against Tennessee Tech, he was benched three minutes into the third and Oregon again scored 21 points in his absence. He did not play against Arizona in the fourth quarter and the team again dropped another 21.
This is not to say Kenjon Barner is not an outstanding player, because he is. It's just that this year, he is not the most outstanding player.
The next candidate for the Heisman is Manti Te'o of Notre Dame. He leads the nation's second-best scoring defense and is tied for second in interceptions. His play in the red zone has kept the Irish in games as Notre Dame's defense has time and again forced opponents to settle for field goals.
The reason Notre Dame went from unranked in the AP Poll to No. 4 is because of the defense and his leadership.
Unfortunately, he may not get the votes he deserves because of his position. Only one defensive player has ever won the Heisman—Charles Woodson in 1997—but as a punt returner and spot player on offense, Woodson played more than just defensive back in winning the award.
Braxton Miller has the Ohio State Buckeyes sitting pretty at 10-0, good for No. 5 in the AP. His injury against Purdue didn't deter his Heisman hopes one bit. He posts big rushing numbers. His 13 rushing TDs are tied for 10th in the nation, and he has the second-most rushing yards for a QB (1,166).
But his ability as a passer is questionable, to say the least. He is 90th in passing yards per game and has completed only 56.9 percent of his passes, which ranks him 87th. There's nothing outstanding about those numbers.
Finally, there's Collin Klein. Kansas State entered the season ranked No. 22 in the AP, but after a big win against No. 6 Oklahoma, the Wildcats found themselves in the Top 10 and haven't looked back.
Klein's passing yards and TDs may not jump off the charts, but he is third nationally in rushing TDs. He also has the fourth-best completion percentage (71.1), the best passer rating and is tops in yards per attempt. And he has thrown only two picks. Like Te'o, he has taken a team not expected to do much and has them in title contention.
Robert Griffin III last year took an unranked Baylor team and rattled off wins against No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 14 TCU and No. 24 Texas. Even in losing efforts to No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Texas, he still put up big numbers.
Baylor was never a real threat to win it all. They didn't even win the Big 12 and instead had to play Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Although, if we're pointing fingers, Baylor also had one of the worst defenses in the country—113th in scoring defense, 102nd in rush defense, 118th in pass defense and 116th in total defense.
Regardless of Baylor's team record, what stood out was Griffin's ability to perform week in and week out against every opponent. When he won the Heisman, he had 3,998 passing yards and 45 total touchdowns with only six picks.
Manti Te'o is really the only one who could spoil Klein's Heisman hopes, but he would need to get the Irish to the title game. If Barner can perform half as well against Stanford and Oregon State as he did against USC, then he may be able to change things up.
Their hopes, however, all depend on Klein's performance. This is his Heisman to lose.
His play this year (along with a strong defense) has Kansas State on the brink of a title bid. He could miss a game due to injury and still be the front-runner for the trophy. If the Wildcats lose in his absence, then that only validates his value and how outstanding he really is.
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