Heisman Candidates 2012: Ranking Top 5 Contenders Following Week 11 Action

Ethan GrantAnalyst INovember 11, 2012

Nov 10, 2012; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein (7) is sacked by Texas Christian Horned Frogs defensive tackle Chucky Hunter (96) in the second quarter at Amon G Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE

The Heisman Trophy race just got a new competitor. Johnny "Football" Manziel enters the race as a legitimate contender to Collin Klein and the rest of the field, and could very well hoist the trophy in New York City at the ceremony. 

With Alabama falling to Manziel's Texas A&M Aggies, it effectively knocked AJ McCarron out of the mix. Enter Johnny Football, the new savior to the program in College Station and the one of the only freshmen to ever beat a No. 1 team on the road (how's that for a Heisman stat).

Johnny Manziel became the second freshman quarterback since 1972 to win a game against the AP top-ranked team on the road.

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 11, 2012

Elsewhere, Braxton Miller's Ohio State Buckeyes were off, while Kenjon Barner and the Oregon Ducks took care of business without impressing anyone.

Here's a look at the Top 5 Heisman Trophy contenders if the season ended right now. There's plenty of football left, but right now it's shaping up to be a three-man race.


5. WR Marqise Lee, USC

I like Lee over Braxton Miller, simply because Miller was idle this weekend. If the Buckeyes go undefeated, he will be at the ceremony. However, they still have two tough games to play, so I'm going to give the nod to Lee.

He has over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns from Matt Barkley, and can turn a slant route into a touchdown as fast as any player in the country. A 345-yard game and a three-touchdown game are also on his resume, as he's easily the security blanket for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Best thing about both Lee and Miller is that they're sophomores. It's rare to see a receiver be as dominant as Lee has been at times this year. That deserves a pat on the back, and a spot in the rankings.


4. RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

Barner had a hand injury that kept him from being effective against California, and it's going to cost him some votes in this week's poll.

He's still been a quality running back for the nation's best offense. He's on pace for over 1,500 yards rushing, a great feat considering all the other weapons on offense.

His partner in crime, RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas, will help keep him from getting all the key votes from the national panel. One poor game can often ruin the Heisman bids of some very successful college athletes, and it looks like that's going to be Week 11 for Barner.


3. LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Notre Dame director of broadcast media John Heisler helped give us the stat of the night on the school's All-American linebacker:

Manti Te'o's interception is his sixth of the season -- giving him the Notre Dame single-season record for INTs by a LB

— John Heisler (@NDHeisler) November 11, 2012

Te'o is still very much alive in the Heisman race. He's the best player on one of the best defenses in the country. He's also got a compelling personal story, and he plays the game as hard and as smart as any defender we've seen on the defensive side of the ball in a long time.

He's still a longshot candidate, no doubt. But if either of the two men in front of him falters, he's the first choice to move up the ladder. Defensive players rarely make it this far, so that should tell you how good this guy has been for the Irish during their 10-0 start.


2. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

What more can we say about Johnny Football that hasn't been said? He's got 33 total touchdowns. He's the best player on a team that just went into Alabama and knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation.

He's also one of the most dynamic players in the country. Using quickness and poise to evade rushers and make positive things happen when it seems nothing is there, he's been college football's most exciting player this year.

Is it too little, too late for Manziel? The Aggies have two losses to Florida and LSU. They held on to beat 'Bama, but is that enough to give this guy the trophy? Right now, the answer is no, and it's because of college football's most Tebow-like player.


1. QB Collin Klein, Kansas State

Sorry, A&M fans. Klein is still the unquestioned leader of the Heisman race, as he team keeps on winning and pushing towards the national championship.

He's no slouch statistically, either. Adding two rushing touchdowns to his total, he has 29 total touchdowns to just two interceptions. Those numbers are certainly Heisman worthy, as is his improvement from last year to this year.

Heralded as a running quarterback, Klein worked on pocket presence and accuracy during the offseason. It's paid off in the form of 12 passing touchdowns, even though this offense is built off the running game.

It's somewhat cliche to give the award to the best player on the nation's best team. But Klein truly has been the most Heisman-esque player of the bunch, and it's still his award to lose.


Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.