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Rant Sports Weekly Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

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Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

Heisman Trophy

Another week has come and gone and the race for the Heisman Trophy continues to heat up. It’s time now to look at the race as it stands after Week 7.

The poll has been turned on its head after a wild weekend in college football. The frontrunner fell, a new candidate emerges, and a pair of contenders staved off upset bids. In short, nothing is as it was a week ago.

Four of the top five from last week are still in the running this week, but the order is very different. The top five is composed of two seniors, two sophomores, and a freshman phenomenon. The candidates come from four conferences, one from the Pac 12, one from the SEC, one from the Big Ten, and a pair from the high flying Big 12.

The road will get tougher for these candidates before they make it to the end in New York City to try and join the most exclusive club in college football. Conference races are heating up and every week opposing defenses will be putting their best effort towards de-railing the Heisman candidacy of each of these players.

Who can rise above all of that and strike the pose at season’s end? Which of these college football leaders will take their team over the top and stake their claim for the Heisman? How will the pressure of being named college football’s best player affect their play?

Only time will ultimately tell, but for today the race is tighter than ever. So without further ado, we count down the top five Heisman Trophy candidates this week.

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

De'Anthony Thomas
Scott Olmos - US PRESSWIRE

De’Anthony Thomas was off this week as the Oregon Ducks used their bye week to prepare for an upstart Arizona State Sun Devils club. Thomas will hope to come out of the break with an extra spring in his step so that he can regain some of the Heisman hype he generated during the preseason.

Hurting Thomas is the seemingly countless weapons at Chip Kelly’s disposal and opposing teams’ focus on stopping DAT from breaking the big play. Teams are protecting themselves from the home run play from Thomas, limiting him to solid gains without that spectacular highlight. With the attention on Thomas, Kelly has had no qualms about going elsewhere, getting players like Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner, and Colt Lyerla into the end zone.

Why he won’t win: Thomas is quickly becoming one of many options in Eugene rather than the featured option for big plays. Not getting the reps will limit the amount of damage DAT can do as his touches are spread out among the other weapons on the Ducks’ offense. Falling victim to the success of the offense isn’t a bad problem to have, but it could be a problem that keeps Thomas out of the Heisman race.

Why he might win: He’s a touchdown waiting to happen. If teams start to shift their focus to the other playmakers of the Ducks, then Thomas will break off the big plays to get his name back onto the Heisman ballot. He needs to turn things around quickly, but he’s got the ability to get it done.

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4. Geno Smith, QB West Virginia Mountaineers

Geno Smith
Michael Johnson - US PRESSWIRE

There was suspicion that the defense would cost the West Virginia Mountaineers in at least one game this season. At some point, the high flying offense was going to hit a speed bump and having a porous defense would hurt the team and Geno Smith’s Heisman chances. That point happened on Saturday as the Mountaineers fell in Lubbock 49-14 to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

It isn’t like Smith played that poorly. He threw for more than 270 yards and still is clean as far as throwing interceptions go. But it was a far cry from the performances we have seen this season that made Smith such an overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman. After averaging nearly five touchdown passes a game through his first five games, he only found the end zone once on Saturday. He will bounce back, so he hasn’t fallen completely off the list, but he can’t afford another setback like this one if he hopes to get invited to New York City.

Why he won’t win: This was a bad loss. While Texas Tech has had a surprisingly good defense this season, the national perception of the Red Raiders hurts Smith’s chances. This was a game that was seen as “dangerous” but one that Smith should have been able to pull his team through. Getting blown out by a team many feel a top-five program should roll? That’s going to do some serious damage.

Why he might win: This team is now on a mission to prove to themselves and the rest of the country that they’re as explosive as they seemed through their first five games. That’s bad news for the defenses of the Big 12 as they have to try and contain Smith as he now plays with something to prove.

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3. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M Aggies

Johnny Manziel
Kevin Jairaj - US PRESSWIRE

The Texas A&M Aggies' freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel, has been putting on a show in College Station this season putting the Aggies in good standing for their inaugural SEC season. He saved his biggest performance of the season, however, for Saturday night with the whole country watching as he broke open the record books in the Aggies’ wild 59-57 win over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Manziel did it all in turning away the upstart La Tech squad, throwing for 395 yards, rushing for 181, and scoring six total touchdowns (three throwing, three rushing). His 576 yards of total offense set records for the most yards gained in Texas A&M history as well as the most yards gained in SEC history. Welcome to the Southeastern Conference, Johnny, and welcome to the Heisman race.

Why he won’t win: As a freshman, there’s bound to be a bit of a dip as the season continues. With the LSU Tigers next week and road trips to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide in the next month, Manziel is going to learn just how much he doesn’t know very soon.

Why he might win: If he gets through the rest of the Aggies schedule without another loss, it would arguably be the most difficult run for any freshman in history. It’s going to be a murderer’s row of defenses to overcome, but if he does it and dazzles Heisman voters in the process, there’s no reason to think he won’t win the Heisman come December.

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2. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes

Braxton Miller

The Ohio State Buckeyes got all they could have asked for from the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday, escaping Bloomington with a 52-49 win. Quarterback Braxton Miller is the biggest reason they were able to get the W and keep the Buckeyes perfect on the season.

Miller finished the night going 13-for-24 for 211 yards with a pair of touchdowns while rushing 23 times for 149 yards and a score. The 360 yards of total offense paced the Buckeyes as they needed every single one of those yards to avoid the massive upset.

Why he won’t win: If the defense can’t keep Indiana off the scoreboard, then the rest of the Buckeyes’ season may not be as easy as previously thought. If Miller can’t get the Buckeyes over some of the lower-tier teams of the Big Ten because of the shortcomings of the defense, he’s going to find it difficult to stay on top of the Heisman ballot.

Why he might win: With a scare put into them, the Buckeyes are going to double down on their focus heading forward and bring their best effort every Saturday the rest of the way. The schedule sets up to give Miller an opportunity to rack up some ridiculous stats the rest of the way that could make it difficult for voters to ignore him.

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1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Peter Aiken - US PRESSWIRE

Collin Klein led his team into a hostile Ames, Iowa, where upsets tend to happen. Last season, the Iowa State Cyclones ended the perfect season for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and were looking to act as the spoiler again this season for the Kansas State Wildcats.

Optimus Klein had other plans, however. The Wildcat quarterback put the team on his back, as he has done all season, and willed K-State to a tough 27-21 win over the very game Cyclones. Klein was brilliant on Saturday, with 292 yards of total offense and three rushing touchdowns to keep Kansas State as the last unbeaten team in the Big 12.

Why he won’t win: The offense is pretty limited to Klein and the formula for winning is to keep the game close on defense until their quarterback can take over. That could be problematic if the Cats find themselves in a shootout (which they might next week in Morgantown). Klein is a plodder and this team just isn’t built to win a sprint.

Why he might win: He’s a throwback football player who has answered every call when his team has needed him. He’s tough, he’s smart, and he does whatever it takes to get the win. Heisman voters love that. If he keeps finding ways to win, Klein is going to will himself to a Heisman Trophy.