Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates
Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Contenders
This is why you don’t hand out the Heisman Trophy in September.
Geno Smith of the West Virginia Mountaineers looked like a lock to hoist the highest individual honor in college football after five games. He was averaging five touchdown passes per game, hadn’t thrown an interception, and was leading one of the highest flying offenses in the country.
After his eight-touchdown, 865-yard passing performance against the Baylor Bears, many people were ready to crown Smith on September 29. But after back-to-back disappointing performances, he’ll need to turn in some big performances just to get an invite to New York City. But with the “unstoppable” offense of Smith and Dana Holgerson seemingly solved by the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Kansas State Wildcats, Smith may see his star fall off in a hurry.
Joining in him in falling off the Heisman list is a preseason favorite in De’Anthony Thomas and freshman phenom Johnny Manziel. Thomas has seen his touches drop as the Oregon Ducks find different weapons in their back field. Defenses are bottling up DAT, which leaves the door open for other playmakers to burst onto the scene.
Manziel had been defying expectations as a freshman quarterback for the Texas A&M Aggies during their first season through the SEC. He had been dynamic, explosive, and smart with the football for the first half of the season. He ran into trouble, however, against the stout defense of the LSU Tigers, throwing three interceptions that led to most of the Bayou Bengals’ points on Saturday.
There’s a reason they play the second half of the season. Apparent stars fade and new ones emerge. So without further ado, we count down the top five Heisman Trophy contenders this week.
5. A.J. McCarron, QB Alabama Crimson Tide
If the Alabama Crimson Tide go undefeated this season, someone has to get some credit for it, right? Who better than their signal caller, A.J. McCarron? He doesn’t put up the video-game numbers that Geno Smith did in the first month of the season, but he’s been deadly efficient when he’s been called on. He’s completing 68.8-percent of his passes, throwing 16 touchdowns and no interceptions for a college football leading 183.63 efficiency rating.
Against the Tennessee Volunteers, McCarron was at his best. He went 17-of-22 passing (77.3%) for 306 yards, both season highs, and four touchdowns, which ties his season high, in the Tide’s 44-13 rout in Knoxville. He shredded the Vols defense as Nick Saban let the junior quarterback loose like we haven’t seen yet this season.
Why he won’t win: Alabama wins with defense and the running game. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for a quarterback to put up the numbers needed to win the Heisman. Saban is on record as not a big fan of the high-octane offenses that allow some of McCarron’s Heisman rivals to put up big numbers, so expect to see McCarron continue to act as a compliment to Alabama’s rushing attack.
Why he might win: The Tide is rolling and there is plenty of offense to go around. The constant threat of the punishing Alabama running game will get safeties to creep up and corners to peek in the backfield enough for McCarron to go over the top a couple times a game and rack up some stats. Just don’t get too flashy, A.J., or Saban might pull you.
4. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes
Braxton Miller has helped the Ohio State Buckeyes to a perfect record this season by being the entirety of the offense. He has put himself into position to take some big shots, and those cumulative hits finally took their toll on him on Saturday against the Purdue Boilermakers as Miller was taken down hard after a long run and had to be carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for an apparent head injury.
Luckily, Miller’s tests came back negative and he was able to leave the hospital on Sunday. Ohio State was able to rally without their star, who had been struggling up to the point of his injury. He was just 9-of-20 on the day for 113 yards through the air with no touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, Purdue bottled Miller up who gained just 47 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown.
Why he won’t win: The punishment is taking its toll on Miller and defenses are going to continue to take their shots as long as he leaves himself open to them. It’s hard to win the Heisman if you can’t stay on the field, especially when you struggle to make plays when you’re out there. He’s been exposed to injury because of his playing style, and Big Ten defenses are going to be targeting him with blood in the water.
Why he might win: He’s an incredible talent who is still the primary playmaker for the Buckeyes’ offense. If he can protect himself down the stretch while continuing to break big plays and lead Ohio State to more wins, he’ll be able to climb back into this race.
3. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon Ducks
All season, it’s been De’Anthony Thomas who has gotten the Heisman hype, but Kenjon Barner has been the real star of the Oregon Ducks’ backfield. He’s led the team in attempts and yards in almost every game and has averaged 124 yards per game, good for 10th in the country. His 12 rushing touchdowns are the fifth best in the country and he’s had the highlight reel explosiveness that a running back needs to gain traction in the Heisman race.
He showed just how good he’s been in the Oregon offense on Thursday against the Arizona State Sun Devils as he gashed the Devils defense for 143 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns in just over a quarter of work. He broke open the scoring for Oregon with a 71-yard rush straight down the throat of the defense as he ran away from everyone on the field.
Why he won’t win: It’s tough for a running back to come into the Heisman race late. It’s even tougher when the backfield is as crowded with talent as it is in Eugene. Barner has gotten more than 20 touches just three times this season so he isn’t getting the number of opportunities needed to make a Heisman-like impact late in the race.
Why he might win: He’s making the most of his touches, no matter how limited they might be. He’s averaged six yards or better per rush in four games this season (and 5.9 in another). The Oregon offense is built to bust big runs and Barner is the beneficiary of that offensive scheme this season. Score enough points, and you can attract some Heisman attention.
2. Seth Doege, QB Texas Tech Red Raiders
Seth Doege is giving fans of the Texas Tech Red Raiders flashbacks to the Air Raid days of Mike Leach. He’s thrown for 314 yards per game this season, eighth most in the country, and surpassed 300 yards passing in all but two games this season. He made some noise last week with his 499-yard, six touchdown performance in an upset of the West Virginia Mountaineers. He had an even better performance in store for his encore.
Against the TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Doege went 30-for-42 for 318 with seven touchdowns and no interceptions as Tech won in triple overtime. Doege led the offense in the overtime, throwing three touchdown passes to get the win. Doege spread his seven touchdowns out to four different receivers and shredded a TCU defense that has looked pretty good against high-scoring offenses this season, holding the Baylor Bears to just 30 points the week before.
Why he won’t win: Texas Tech is not the premier program for college football in the state of Texas and doesn’t always get the attention they might deserve. Coming late to the party may not help his cause either as he might not have enough time to really get his Heisman campaign rolling.
Why he might win: He’s thrown 13 touchdown passes in the last two weeks. Production like that can’t be ignored. With a Tommy Tuberville led defense which ranked fourth in the country coming into Saturday (after facing both the Oklahoma Sooners and West Virginia), Doege isn’t going to get let down because of his defense. If he keeps slinging it like he is now (with showdowns with K-State and the Texas Longhorns in the next two games), it will be impossible to ignore Doege.
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats
Collin Klein took the Kansas State Wildcats into Morgantown to take on Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers and staked his claim as the Heisman frontrunner with authority. While he’s been getting it done with his legs all season, he took to the air to show he’s a complete quarterback, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns while adding four more touchdowns on the ground. His seven total touchdowns led the way for K-State as they rolled over WVU 55-14.
The Wildcats already had one signature win when they went on the road and beat the Oklahoma Sooners, but their road trip to Morgantown may be the icing on the cake for Klein’s Heisman candidacy. He’s been getting it done all season with tough yardage, but this game he was explosive in the passing game, giving him a whole new aspect to impress voters.
Why he won’t win: The Wildcats still have some tough games on their schedule that could turn into shootouts if the K-State defense isn’t able to shut some high-powered offenses down. Losing in a shootout is never a good addition to a Heisman resume and a loss in the season could leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters.
Why he might win: K-State is for real on defense and the offense refuses to be stopped. Klein is going to find the end zone, even if he has to carry everyone else there on his back. With a pair of signature wins already under his belt and opportunities to get a couple more before the season is done, which gives him the inside track to the Heisman Trophy.