Heisman Watch 2012: Previewing the Top Contenders' Matchups

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2012

Heisman Watch 2012: Previewing the Top Contenders' Matchups

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    Top contenders in the race for the Heisman Trophy face intriguing matchups this weekend on the college football scene.

    After last week's games came to a close, two players made significant improvements to their chances of taking home the hardware.

    Only one player gets a chance to play in front of his home crowd this weekend while the others hit the road.

    Ohio State Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller would be on this list, but OSU has a bye this weekend. Miller has led the Buckeyes to an impressive 10-0 record thus far.

    Here is a preview of each top Heisman contender's matchup this weekend.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State vs. TCU

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    Collin Klein has been the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy since Geno Smith's debacle against Klein's Kansas State Wildcats.

    The senior quarterback leads coach Bill Snyder's team to Fort Worth to take on the TCU Horned Frogs.

    In its first season in the Big 12, TCU is 6-3 and has beaten the likes of West Virginia and Baylor in conference play.

    According to Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle, Klein is expected to play Saturday night after suffering a possible concussion against the Oklahoma State Cowboys last week.

    The Wildcats offense is ranked 18th in the nation in rushing offense but squares off against the eighth best team at stopping the run. TCU does, however, allow 13 yards per completion and Klein gains 14.1 yards per completed pass.

    Between Klein's dual-threat ability accompanied by running back John Hubert, the Wildcats should be able to slowly pound away at the Horned Frogs defense.

    The game may be similar to Kansas State's contest against Iowa State ending in close fashion, but the Wildcats should be victorious behind the senior.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon vs. California

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    Any doubts Heisman voters had about Kenjon Barner were answered last weekend.

    The senior running back torched the USC Trojans for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-51 victory.

    In the six games prior to USC, the speedster from Riverside, California, played just one down in the fourth quarter. Granted he did score an 80-yard touchdown.

    Barner has rushed for 885 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last five games, and his Oregon Ducks face the California Golden Bears in Berkeley on Saturday.

    To put it lightly, he is on a hot streak and could make this game ugly early.

    And fast.

    Cal's defense gives up nearly 28 points per game and allows 4.4 yards per rushing attempt—79th in the nation.

    Look for a big day early in the game from the senior in yet another Oregon rout.

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama vs. Texas A&M

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    AJ McCarron led the Alabama Crimson Tide on a game-winning drive against a then fifth ranked LSU Tigers team last week.

    Though he is the only player that has the privilege of playing at home, McCarron faces the toughest challenge of any top Heisman contender.

    The Texas A&M Aggies, led by quarterback and freshman sensation Johnny Manziel, travel to Bryant-Denny stadium with a massive upset on their minds.

    LSU's top two runners, however, had no trouble running against the 7-2 Aggies gaining 7.1 yards per carry, so the Tide's two-header monster of T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy should have an equal amount of success on Saturday.

    McCarron likely will not have a phenomenal stat line, but he will lead the Crimson Tide to an ever-important "W" aided by Alabama's power running game.

    As a bonus, McCarron's season interception-less streak should continue.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame vs. Boston College

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    Two weeks ago, Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o was second in many experts' Heisman rankings.

    If it wasn't for Barner's career day and McCarron's big win versus LSU, Teo would still be there. It's not that Te'o hasn't produced, but he has dropped out of the top three.

    Nevertheless, Te'o remains a top contender.

    The Fighting Irish head to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles, a team averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game.

    Eagles running back Andre Williams averages 4.5 yards per carry, but that number is skewed by a 99-yard touchdown run earlier in the season. Without that phenomenal run, his average drops a full yard.

    As a team, Boston College gains just 2.7 yards on each running play including that huge run. In comparison, Notre Dame's defense allows 3.3 yards per carry.

    Don't expect a phenomenal statistical game from Teo due to the Eagles' likely passing all game long, but Notre Dame should come away with an easy victory.