Heisman Watch 2012: Darkhorse Candidates Sneaking into Contention

Ryan DavenportContributor INovember 16, 2012

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks scrambles with the ball against the California Golden Bears in the second quarter of an NCAA College football game at California Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With just a few weeks left in the 2012 college football season, the time for the nation's top players to build their cases for why they should win the 2012 Heisman Trophy is running out.

At this point, one has to think most of the 928 voters have a favorite candidate in mind, but that doesn't mean the door has shut on a handful of players who have quietly sneaked into the race.

Heading into Week 12 of the season, the front-runners appear to be, in no particular order, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Kenjon Barner of the Oregon Ducks and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, and rightfully so, as each of the three have put together very impressive seasons.

Though they've emerged as favorites, there are still a handful of others who are quietly building strong cases of their own to be seriously considered for college football's most coveted trophy.

Here's a look at some of the players who will be sleepers in the race for this year's Heisman Trophy.


Marcus Mariota

While it's been Marcus Mariota's teammate, Kenjon Barner, that has been receiving most of the Heisman hype, the Oregon Ducks' quarterback has steadily put together a convincing case of his own.

Mariota's stat line of his 28 touchdowns with only five interceptions are indicative of how effective the freshman has been for the Ducks, and he's only gotten better as the season's worn on.

In the last two weeks, Mariota's thrown for 10 touchdowns, and boasts the best quarterback rating in the country. 

If he can continue to put up huge numbers, while keeping the Ducks unbeaten, he has a shot at overtaking Barner in the Heisman race.


Marqise Lee

Despite USC's overwhelmingly disappointing season, Marqise Lee has put up eye-popping numbers as part of the Trojans' high-powered air attack.

Alongside Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, Lee has quickly built a strong Heisman case, bolstered by his 345-yard receiving performance against Arizona, followed by another 157 yards against No. 2 Oregon the next week.

As the nation's leader in receiving yards, Lee is certainly in the conversation for the Heisman, but if he impresses on Saturday against No. 17 UCLA and beyond, he'll be among the front-runners by season's end.

Giovani Bernard

The University of North Carolina may have already turned its collective attention towards the Tar Heels on the hard court, but running back Giovani Bernard has given UNC fans a reason to keep watching the school's football team.

As a sophomore, Bernard has rushed for over 1000 yards, and picked up another 450 receiving, notching 16 touchdowns along the way, despite missing two games early in the year.

With just one game remaining though, it may be difficult for Bernard to do enough to vault himself into the top-5, but if he can come anywhere close to matching the season-high 262-yard performance he registered against Virginia Tech, anything's possible.