As the college football season nears its end, there are just three players left standing who have put themselves in a position to win the most heralded award in the sport—the Heisman Trophy.
Their names? Collin Klein, Johnny Manziel and Kenjon Barner. Everybody else is simply fighting for a spot at the final event in New York.
The slight favorite at the moment is Klein. The senior quarterback from Kansas State has shredded the stat sheet along with the Big 12, the most offensively proficient conference in college football. His season stats—2,020 passing yards, 748 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns—show his dual-threat capability.
The only knock on Klein's resume thus far could be his performance in a 23-10 victory over TCU last weekend. The gunslinger fought through a head injury and played, but certainly wasn't at his best with no passing touchdowns and one interception to go along with two rushing scores. But he did play through the injury and played well enough for his team to get a tough win on the road.
Right on Klein's toes is a man by the name of 'Johnny Football.' Well, at 19-years-old, Manziel is barely a man in technical terms, but any questions about his maturity were ousted with a game for the ages last Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Coming into the game as a distant Heisman afterthought, the Texas A&M quarterback tore up the nation's premier defense in Alabama and came out with the win of the year. He put his Aggies up three scores early on in the game and survived a late Bama rally while putting the game away late in a way that only an upperclassman should.
While Klein certainly has a more complete start-to-finish resume, Manziel has the "moment" that Heisman Trophy voters crave. After being hands-down the best team in the country for the last half-decade, there's no bigger feat than defeating the Crimson Tide in their house. Klein may be able to boast a road win against Oklahoma, but it's on a completely different level.
Manziel's season stats are 2,780 passing yards, 1,014 rushing yards and 33 total touchdowns to go along with twice as many interceptions as Klein (6). Three of those came in a loss to LSU, which many Heisman followers saw as the end of Johnny Football's run at the heralded trophy. I think it's safe to say the performance he had last weekend cancels it out—and then some.
Now, we turn our attention to the darkhorse in the race. "Darkhorse" is a fitting term for Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who has been on the outside looking in during the entire season.
It was only fair early on as the Ducks struggled to face worthy competition, but their schedule has toughened up and Barner is starting to show that he can run wild against any team.
The senior from Riverside, Calif. has 1,360 rushing yards on the season to go along with 20 scores and 219 yards receiving, but his numbers would be significantly higher if it weren't for being taken out of more than a couple games at halftime due to his team's big lead.
Barner's "moment" came a few weekends ago against USC, when the stud ran wild for 321 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Yes, you read that right—321 yards, five touchdowns. I know we're talking about a suspect Trojans defense, but that scoreline is jaw-dropping against any opponent.
But regardless, it'll take similar heroics from Barner to muscle his way toward the top of this race. Klein and Manziel seem to be at the head of the pack, but should one or both stumble, expect Barner to be right in the thick of things.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has been listed among these names all season and hasn't slipped up, but he simply hasn't dominated enough to be a legitimate contender as a defensive player must to have any shot at the trophy. There's no doubt Te'o is the best defensive player in college football and a top five player all-around, but he hasn't captivated enough to be a contender anymore.
No matter what, Klein, Manziel and Barner are the only names that still have a chance to be etched onto the 2012 Heisman Trophy come December.
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