Heisman Candidates 2012: Statement Games for Top Contenders

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 10:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates after the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The Aggies beat the Crimson Tide 29-24.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

This 2012 Heisman race will be coming down to the wire. For the candidates who have marquee matchups remaining, they’ll have a chance to break away from the pack.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel had his statement game last weekend when he and his Aggies defeated Alabama. The freshman quarterback played a Heisman-like game against a daunting ‘Bama defense and vaulted himself into the Heisman conversation.

Looking at the schedule the rest of the way, however, he won’t be able to give Heisman voters a final sendoff. The Aggies finish out with Sam Houston State and Missouri—not an impressive slate for a last impression. Voters will have to remember Manziel’s gem at Bryant-Denney for him to have a shot at the award.

These candidates, on the other hand, will get to have a final say for a trip to New York.

Collin Klein: Kansas State vs. Texas

The entire world has circled this game as the Wildcats’ gut-check matchup, as Texas hasn’t stepped up for any of their Top 25 contests this season.

“Optimus Klein,” though, will certainly put his team in position to finish undefeated in the Big 12 against the 74th-ranked defense.

He hasn’t done himself many favors recently, with around 500 yards and no touchdowns through the air in games versus weak defenses at TCU and Oklahoma State. But Kansas State doesn’t win pretty, they win efficiently—just like Klein.

An efficient win versus the Longhorns and an undefeated season would have him in the top three for the award.

Manti Te’o and Marqise Lee: Notre Dame vs. USC

There aren’t many times when Heisman candidates face off against each other on opposite sides of the field.

Sure, top quarterbacks will play against each other once in a while, but like how Te’o will try to knock out Lee when he comes across the middle of the Irish defense.

If the Notre Dame secondary can shut down Lee and Co. like they have to many passing attacks this season, Te’o can bank on a trip to New York.

Lee, though has been the late surge in the Heisman standings. If he can keep up his blistering pace statistically and get a win over the Irish to boot, that could put the USC receiver over the top.

In an odd Heisman year like this one, it would be apropos that a receiver or linebacker took home the trophy.

Kenjon Barner: Oregon at Oregon State

The Stanford matchup this Saturday gets a ton of publicity, but Barner may have the last laugh in this Heisman race when Oregon heads to Corvallis.

The Civil War will certainly be the marquee late-night matchup in college football’s final weekend before conference championships.

If Barner can have another explosive performance on national TV like he performed at USC, that may prove to be the Heisman difference. Oregon’s offense has been too quick and too explosive for Barner not to fill up the stat sheet every week.

With two national television appearances on the docket, the Duck can make a huge statement for New York.