Heisman Watch 2012: 4 Dark Horses Shining Bright

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

Heisman Watch 2012: 4 Dark Horses Shining Bright

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    College football has reached its final week of the regular season, and the 2012 watch for the Heisman Trophy is in full effect.

    While Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the favorite to win the prestigious honor, a few lesser-discussed players have had solid seasons.

    These talented athletes are looking for an invitation to sit in the front row on December 8 in New York.

    Here are four dark horse candidates that are shining bright as the regular season comes to a close.

Jordan Lynch, QB Northern Illinois

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    Disclaimer: Jordan Lynch will not win the Heisman Trophy.

    He simply does not have enough in his favor.

    Lynch plays for a MAC school and his team isn't undefeated, though his Huskies are an impressive 11-1. Northern Illinois' lone loss was to the Iowa Hawkeyes by one point.

    But, man, has he had an impressive season.

    The junior has thrown for 2,750 yards and 23 touchdowns to only four interceptions.

    But here is the staggering fact: Lynch has run for 1,611 yards and 16 more scores. He has upped the standard for dual-threat quarterbacks in mid-majors, and maybe even the NCAA.

    Lynch deserves heavy consideration for an invite to New York.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

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    Manti Te'o has been a part of the Heisman discussion, but he plays defense, guys. Defense.

    Even if it isn't fair—and I don't believe it is—voters tend to vote for offensive players.

    Since 1962, only one non-offensive player won the award. The recipient, Charles Woodson, also returned kicks. Additionally, just two defensive players have finished in the top five of Heisman voting since 2000.

    B/R's Mike Hoag believes that Te'o not winning the Heisman Trophy would be the ultimate insult of the senior.

    Te'o's stats are undeniable. He has accumulated 103 tackles and an astonishing seven interceptions as a linebacker, which ranks second overall in the nation.

    Notre Dame is on their way to a National Championship appearance, but Te'o definitely has another trip to make first.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

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    Kenjon Barner's candidacy for the Heisman Trophy has been largely affected because Oregon was too darn good early in the season.

    The senior from Riverside, Calif., has 1,624 yards and 19 touchdowns despite missing five quarters of action to be rested in blowout games.

    Barner torched rival Oregon State for 198 yards and two scores last weekend, but that wasn't his best game of the year.

    USC allowed 321 yards and five touchdowns to Barner, one of the most impressive performances in college football this season.

    He most definitely deserves consideration in the Heisman race.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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    Marqise Lee had a breakout freshman season.

    But if that is true, what should his sophomore campaign be considered?

    Lee broke teammate Robert Woods' Pac-12 record with his 112th catch of the season against Notre Dame, according to SB Nation's Ronald Clark. He finished the regular season with 1,680 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

    Unfortunately, the Trojans have five losses on the season. Lee, therefore, likely won't be a front-runner, but the final dark horse had one fantastic season.