Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates
Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates
To be a Heisman Trophy candidate, you need to be a winner.
All the candidates this week are representing undefeated teams. Their contribution to their team’s successes has fueled their campaign, and the success of their teams has set them apart from the rest of the pack. They’ve helped set their programs up for an undefeated season and they’ve been rewarded with attention for college football’s highest individual honor.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t worthy candidates that missed the cut. Seth Doege of the Texas Tech Red Raiders exploded into the rankings last week following his 13-touchdown performance over two weeks against the West Virginia Mountaineers and TCU Horned Frogs. This week, however, Doege falls out of the top-five after he failed to carry his team to victory in their trip to Manhattan, Kansas.
Former runaway Heisman favorite Geno Smith remains out of the top five this week. The Mountaineers were off this week and Smith needs to regroup after back-to-back disappointing performances in a pair of losses. The time away could be just what Smith and the Mountaineers need to make a strong push down the stretch and get right back into the Big 12 picture, which would likely get Smith right back into the mix of the Heisman race.
But let’s focus on the players who made the top five. We have one new candidate this week, and he’s representing a position we have yet to nominate this season. The rest of the list will look very familiar, but as always there is a bit of shuffling.
So without further ado, we count down the Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Finalists.
5. Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame Fighting Irish
A linebacker hasn’t been invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony since 1992. Manti Te’o may be just the guy to end that drought. Te’o has been the leader of one of the best defenses in the country and has almost single-handedly returned the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to national prominence this season.
On the season, Te’o has made 78 tackles, with one sack, and five interceptions. He’s made 10 or more tackles in all but two games this season and has seemingly been everywhere on the field in ND’s biggest games.
On Saturday, Te’o led the Irish into Norman against the Oklahoma Sooners where he made 11 tackles on the day. When Oklahoma was trying to make a rally, it was Te’o who came up with a big sack of Landry Jones. When the Sooners were making a final push, it was Te’o who came up with an interception that led to the Irish pulling away late.
Why he won’t win: Defensive players have a very difficult time winning the Heisman Trophy. While the bust is technically given to the “best” college football player every year, it is actually given to the best college football player who touches the ball. Te’o doesn’t have a touchdown scored and his impact is more often felt off of the box score. That’s great for the Irish, but bad for Te’o’s chances at the Heisman.
Why he might win: Voters love traditional powers and there isn’t a power more traditional than Notre Dame. Te’o bringing them back to the national spotlight is going to earn him a lot of favor with voters and he is just that good.
4. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes
Braxton Miller returned from a scary injury against the Purdue Boilermakers to lead the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Urban Meyer didn’t change his philosophy with his playmaking quarterback in the slightest even after getting Miller carted off the field the week prior, leaning on his QB heavily to get the win.
If anything, Miller ran the ball even more than usual. He threw the ball just 19 times, completing just seven of them, for 143 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Miller did most of his damage with his legs, leading the Buckeyes in rushes and yard, running 25 times for 134 yards with two touchdowns.
Why he won’t win: Completing just 37-percent of your passes isn’t going to impress anybody. Miller looks more and more like a quarterback who isn’t going to win games with his arm and needs to make big plays with his legs to get the Buckeyes a win. At some point, he’ll need to prove he can throw his team to a win.
Why he might win: Outside of Miller, the Buckeyes really don’t have any other offensive weapons. It’s rare that you can point to a single player for all of the offensive output of an undefeated team, but this Buckeyes team is pretty close. As Ohio State goes, Braxton Miller goes. If the team goes undefeated, Miller will be the reason why.
3. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks continue to run the ball as well as anyone in college football and Kenjon Barner is the biggest reason why. Barner has been the key to the Ducks’ running game all season as he has exploded for huge runs all season long.
Against the Colorado Buffaloes, Barner had a short evening as the Ducks blew the game open early. He carried just nine times, but gained 104 yards, averaging 11.6 yards per carry, with a pair of touchdowns. He also added a pair of receptions for 47 yards. It was the sixth time this season that Barner has gained more than 100-yards on offense in a game.
Why he won’t win: He’s just one of many weapons in the Oregon backfield, and hasn’t gotten many chances to play a full game. His final stats will suffer for it and he has to deal with publicity getting taken away by fellow running back De’Anthony Thomas, who averaged nearly 20 yards per carry on Saturday and added an electrifying punt return reminding people just how explosive he is.
Why he might win: The Oregon running game is good enough to let everyone get their numbers. Barner is the featured back, so he will get first crack and will have some marquee games to showcase his ability.
2. A.J. McCarron, QB Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide continue to roll thanks to the great play of their quarterback A.J. McCarron. In the Tide’s biggest matchup of the season to date, McCarron efficient and deadly leading Alabama to a blowout win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs 38-7.
McCarron completed 16-of-23 passes (69.5%) for 208 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions. The senior quarterback continues his streak of not throwing an interception and making the most of his limited opportunities in the Nick Saban ball-control offense.
Why he won’t win: Nick Saban’s ball-control offense. The Tide win their games with a pounding running game and stifling defense. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for a quarterback to throw for 300 to 400-yards per game. McCarron isn’t going to get enough opportunities to make an impact on Heisman voters.
Why he might win: If Alabama continues to roll teams like they have been, someone is going to get the credit for it at the Heisman Trophy presentation in December. McCarron has been incredibly efficient with his opportunities and continues to be as productive as he can be with an old-school offensive minded coach.
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats
The Kansas State Wildcats welcomed a red hot Red Raiders team to Manhattan and looked to be in a defensive slugfest through two quarters. At halftime, K-State held a slim 13-10 lead and Collin Klein had been bottled up effectively. That all changed in the second half as Klein broke loose and led the Wildcats with four second half touchdowns en route to a 55-24 blowout win.
On the day, Klein got it done with his arm and his legs. He completed 19-of-26 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Klein then rushed for 83 yards on 12 carries with another pair of touchdowns as Klein led the Cats to a huge second half.
Why he won’t win: It’s harder to find reasons why Klein won’t take home the Heisman at season’s end, but if pressed, the first half stats weren’t impressive. Tech was really able to disrupt Klein and minimize his impact on the game. Other teams will take a look at the Tech gameplan and try and mimic it to take the K-State QB out of the game.
Why he might win: The second half performance. Even when he’s kept out of the end zone and bottled up for half the game, he finds a way to get uncorked in the second half. That ability to overcome a great defensive gameplan is Heisman material that he can ride the rest of the season to a Heisman Trophy acceptance speech in New York City.