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Rant Sports Weekly Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

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Rant Sports Weekly Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy race is in full swing as the college football season marches on. We have seen front-runners fall by the wayside while new favorites have emerged in the race for college football’s highest individual prize.

It takes a lot to win the Heisman Trophy. A combination of leadership, gaudy stats, signature moments, and plenty of highlight reel material. It takes the perfect blend to elevate a great college football player into one of the immortal members of the most exclusive club in college football.

So who is seeing their stock rising? Can Geno Smith be caught? Which preseason favorites have fallen out of favor? Who will be the surprise Heisman contender to come on strong the rest of the season? Who will join the ranks of recent winners like Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, or Trent Richardson?

As is normally the case, the candidates are dominated by quarterbacks. Three of the top five contenders play under center, but all of them possess the dual-threat playmaking abilities to find pay dirt with their arm or their legs. The top five is rounded out by an explosive receiver on one of the most prolific offenses in the country and preseason do-everything star who sees his stock slipping week by week.

There are plenty of questions still yet to be answered in the race for the Heisman and plenty of football left to be played to answer them. Only time will tell how the whole thing will shake out, but for now we count down the top five Heisman Trophy contenders heading into week 7.

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5. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR Oregon Ducks

De'Anthony Thomas
Scott Olmos - US PRESSWIRE

De'Anthony Thomas has seen his Heisman stock falling over the last few weeks as he hasn’t quite had the “wow” moments that we’ve come to expect from DAT. He’s still averaging over nine yards per carry, leads the Oregon Ducks with 20 receptions, and has nine total touchdowns. He’s been a key contributor in the backfield rotation in Chip Kelly’s blur offense, but hasn’t quite made the impact that would get him a Heisman Trophy.

Why he won’t win: DAT hasn’t been putting up the breathtaking numbers that he would need to in order to gain the attention of the Heisman voters. For a slash-player like Thomas who plays multiple positions to gain traction in this race, he really needs to be dominant at his main position. Thomas hasn’t been. He’s been good, but not great and good doesn’t get you a Heisman.

Why he might win: Every time Thomas touches the ball, he has the chance to make a huge play. His Heisman candidacy could get turned around just as quickly. With marquee games remaining against the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans, DAT will have the eyes of the voters on him. What he does with the opportunity will determine his final standing in the Heisman race.

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4. Stedman Bailey, WR West Virginia Mountaineers

Stedman Bailey
Tim Heitman - US PRESSWIRE

Geno Smith has been spectacular this season, but he’s needed someone to throw to and that someone has largely been Stedman Bailey. Bailey is averaging 142 yards receiving per game, ranked second in the nation, with 49 catches, 710 yards, and 13 touchdowns this season. Against the Texas Longhorns, he caught eight passes for 75 yards with three touchdowns in the West Virginia Mountaineers 48-45 win in Austin.

Why he won’t win: Heisman voters love quarterbacks, and Bailey’s Heisman run will only fuel his stiffest competition. Things could be worse than to have a Heisman candidate throwing you the ball on Saturdays, but a wide receiver has to do something to differentiate his stats from his quarterback (and that would go double for Bailey). So unless someone new starts throwing the ball for WVU or Bailey starts returning kicks for scores, Bailey will likely finish second on his own team on the Heisman ballot.

Why he might win: Quarterbacks can falter, and Geno Smith likely can't avoid throwing interceptions forever. A few rough games for Smith with big plays from Bailey to secure a few wins for the Mountaineers, and things could turn his way. He could also help his own cause by getting involved in the return game and adding a few highlight reel touchdowns that way.

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3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes

Braxton Miller
Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE

The Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t eligible for a bowl game this year, but that hasn’t stopped Braxton Miller from having a spectacular season. Miller has gained 1,823 yards of total offense this season with 17 total touchdowns. He’s been the spark and the fire for the Buckeyes offense as they’ve stormed out to a perfect 6-0 record. In last week’s blowout win of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Miller completed 7-of-14 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 186 yards on 16 carries, including a 72 yard scamper for his one rushing touchdown.

Why he won’t win: The Big Ten is down this year in the national landscape of college football. They’ve been unimpressive in their non-conference showings and don’t have a single team in the Coach’s Poll with Ohio State not being eligible. That doesn’t really impress voters when you’re beating up on sub-par competition. On top of that, with Ohio State in the midst of NCAA sanctions, there will be voters who hesitate to vote for Miller no matter how spectacular his stats may be.

Why he might win: Some numbers are just too good to ignore, especially when they’re put up in highlight reel fashion. Miller has specialized in the big play this season, and with the Buckeyes’ two toughest tests of the first half of their schedule behind him (wins over the Michigan State Spartans and Nebraska), there is little in the way of Ohio State rolling to 11-0 heading into their rivalry showdown with the Michigan Wolverines. It’ll be tough to ignore an undefeated Broxton Miller if he continues to put up the impressive numbers we’ve seen from him so far.

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2. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Scott Sewell - US PRESSWIRE

Collin Klein and the Kansas State Wildcats offense isn’t pretty and it isn’t putting up yardage or points in highlight reel fashion…but darn it they are effective. Klein isn’t going to scare many people with just his arm, but he uses his legs to make the plays to win games on a regular basis. He’s accounted for 1,292 yards of total offense this season with 14 total touchdowns. Against the Kansas Jayhawks, Klein went full Optimus Klein, completing 7-of-14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 116 yards on 10 carries with another two touchdowns in the blowout win.

Why he won’t win: In an era of flashy quarterback stats, the plodder gets forgotten. Klein isn’t going to throw for 400 yards in a game and he isn’t going juke half a defense before sprinting for a 70-yard touchdown. He’s all about the tough yardage, getting the dirty work done. Kansas State will reap the benefits of that in wins, but it won’t help Klein get a Heisman.

Why he might win: Winners find a way to win, and Collin Klein exemplifies a winner’s mentality. Plus, he has what every Heisman voter is looking for: the signature win. By gritting the Wildcats past the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, Klein gave his Heisman candidacy that signature moment that can propel a Heisman hopeful into a Heisman winner. So don’t count Klein out, cause he’ll find his way to New York City even if it’s just three yards at a time.

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1. Geno Smith, QB West Virginia Mountaineers

Geno Smith
Tim Heitman - US PRESSWIRE

Could it have been anybody else?

Smith has been electrifying for the West Virginia Mountaineers in guiding them to a perfect 5-0 record so far this season. He has been the driving force for the Mountaineers starting off 2-0 in their inaugural run through the Big 12 with exciting wins over the Baylor Bears and Texas Longhorns.

There is the criticism that Smith’s numbers are a product of the system he plays in and the athletes that are around him. But aren’t everybody’s? And those numbers that people are quick to ignore are staggering. He has completed 166-of-204 passes this season (81 percent) for 1,996 yards, 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s also made a few plays with his legs, as well, rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown, but it’s been his arm that’s driven this Mountaineers attack.

Why he won’t win: The Heisman Trophy goes to winners, and West Virginia’s defense is going to cost them a game at some point this season. Through five games, Smith has bailed out a porous defense twice, and with upcoming trips to Lubbock and Stillwater and home dates against the Kansas State Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners, the competition isn’t going to get any easier.

Why he will win: Those video game numbers. This system is built for the quarterback to put up big numbers and Smith is delivering. As long as he keeps putting points on the board in bunches and playing efficient, electrifying, mistake-free football, the Heisman is Smith’s (or WVU’s defense’s) to lose.