This year's race for the Heisman Trophy is shaping up to be one of the closest in recent memory. One of the favorites is Braxton Miller of Ohio State. After accounting for 299 total yards and three touchdowns against Illinois last week, Miller took a major step forward in the eyes of many experts. His play in the Buckeyes' final two games can potentially be a determining factor in who wins the trophy.
Of course, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes squad is off this weekend. However, have no fear: There will still be plenty of Heisman contenders in action. Some of them face tough opponents, while others should be able to pad their résumés.
Here is a look at what some of the key candidates face this weekend.
I know that defensive players face a severe uphill battle when it comes to garnering Heisman attention. Still, Notre Dame's magical run this season may be the perfect recipe for a successful Manti Te'o Heisman campaign.
You can expect the magic to continue this weekend, as the Irish will square off against a terrible opponent in Boston College.
After narrowly escaping the clutches of Pittsburgh last weekend, you can bet Te'o and his teammates will be ready to rock in Massachusetts. The Eagles love to throw the football, so it is not unreasonable to predict an interception for Te'o. He will likely get his fair share of tackles, and Notre Dame should win big.
Unlike the other contenders, Te'o needs to play exceptional football every single weekend to hold any Heisman relevance. Right now, his best argument is his team's undefeated record. That will need to change if he wants a Heisman invite.
Let us now shift from solid defense to explosive offense. "Explosive" is one word that describes Kenjon Barner's performance from last weekend. His five touchdowns and 321 rushing yards against the Trojans were the talk of college football.
This weekend, Barner faces the California Golden Bears. This is another excellent opportunity for him to light up the stat sheet.
California is a middle-of-the-road team in terms of points allowed per game, but that doesn't mean a thing when it's Oregon on the other side of the football. Barner will likely have multiple touchdowns and at least 150 yards in this game. As for the entire team, the Ducks should cruise to a 10-0 record.
Quarterbacks are often favored in the minds of Heisman voters. Therefore, Barner needs to put up huge numbers every week to have a legitimate chance.
Marqise Lee's appearance in the Heisman conversation began after he exploded for 345 yards against Arizona. After following that with 157 yards and two scores against the Ducks, Lee is building a solid résumé.
On Saturday, he faces an Arizona State team that has given up more than 40 points per game during the past three weeks. He will likely find the score sheet at least once, and yardage numbers similar to those of last week's game are not unreasonable.
The USC offense looked unstoppable at times during last week's game, and this led to a close game against Oregon. Lee should continue to be a viable option in the Trojan passing attack.
Lee's Heisman chances are hindered by USC's disappointing season. Still, if he continues to put up ridiculous numbers, he will be a popular candidate.
AJ McCarron has the stats necessary to win the Heisman trophy. After last week's gutsy performance against LSU, he also has a clutch comeback to further support his numbers.
This weekend McCarron and the Crimson Tide face the Texas A&M Aggies. This will be a tough matchup for him. The Aggie defense ranks a solid 27th in the nation in points allowed. Furthermore, the Aggies have freshman star Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
What does this have to do with McCarron?
Well, if Manziel can command the A&M offense and lead solid drives, he can keep McCarron on the sidelines and force him to play from poor field position. This could force McCarron into making risky decisions that could lead to mistakes, making this the weekend we may see him throw an interception.
Of course, the Tide should win this game no matter what McCarron does. This means that he will have the SEC title game down the road as his "Heisman statement" game. Still, he could help himself a great deal with a solid performance against the Aggies.
Speaking of Manziel, "Johnny Football" is making his own case for Heisman consideration. The freshman has put up numbers this year that are eye-popping.
He has accounted for 31 total touchdowns this season and already made Texas A&M a feared opponent in the SEC.
If the Aggies somehow find a way to beat Alabama this weekend, Manziel's Heisman consideration would exponentially grow. The thought of a freshman going to Bryant-Denny Stadium and defeating the Crimson Tide would be deemed insane by most. If anyone has the reckless abandon and moxie to pull it off, however, Manziel is the one.
Manziel is already one of the most popular players in college football. Should he beat the Tide, his reputation could quickly ascend to that of a legend.
Entering last weekend, Collin Klein was the Heisman favorite in the eyes of many. Now, his chances hinge on the severity of his head injury.
Assuming he suffers no setbacks and plays this weekend, he will face a tough TCU squad. Although they have a decent 6-3 record, the Horned Frogs are still searching for a signature win. A victory against the Wildcats would be exactly that.
Klein's numbers thus far are those of a Heisman favorite. He has 29 total touchdowns, and he has made the Wildcats one of college football's best surprises. Should he re-aggravate his injury during the game, however, his Heisman hopes could potentially be dashed.
While TCU's defense is decent, it is not one that teams dread facing. If Klein is fully healthy and plays like he has all season, he could start to pull away from the other contenders.