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Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

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Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

Heisman Trophy

It is so difficult to win a Heisman Trophy. It takes a special college football player to get it done, and even the special ones sometimes suffer the slightest hiccup and lose their chance at college football’s highest individual honor.

It’s even more difficult for a defensive player. Manti Te’o was putting together a special season, leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to their best season since the glory days of the early ‘90s. His dominant performance with some big moments that propelled him into the rare conversation of a defensive player as a Heisman candidate.

But then the Irish played the Pitt Panthers, and that all went up in smoke. The Irish were pushed to the limit by a less-than-impressive opponent, finally winning in triple-overtime after rallying from 14-points down. However, Te’o was not the reason why. He finished the day with just one tackle, as the rest of the Irish had to step up their game to pull off the win.

By disappearing, Te’o has lost his momentum towards becoming the first linebacker to get invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation since 1993. He joins the ranks of hopefuls who have fallen off, like Matt Barkley, DeAnthony Thomas, Landry Jones, and Geno Smith. Not a bad group of guys to be associated with, by any means, but disappointing all the same.

But five players have continued to separate themselves as some of the best talents in college football. We have a new face on the list who has quietly played great football all season long. We also have a new number one as some players stepped up and produced career games on the biggest stage while other simply showed up.

So without further ado, we could down the top five Heisman Trophy candidates for this week.

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5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville Cardinals

Teddy Bridgewater
Joshua Lindsey - US PRESSWIRE

The Louisville Cardinals remain the lone undefeated team in the Big East after their 45-17 blowout win over the Temple Owls. Their success has come on the smooth-operating arm of their quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore quarterback has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country all season long and continued his strong play on Saturday. Against the Owls, Bridgewater completed 19-of-28 passes for 324 yards with a season high five touchdown passes.

Why he won’t win: Bridgewater is having a great season, but isn’t getting a lot of attention for it. Part of that is the national reputation of their conference, as not many voters are overly impressed with stats compiled against the Big East. Bridgewater’s youth and lack of preseason momentum to his candidacy also puts Bridgewater behind the curve in the Heisman race.

Why he might win: He’s becoming a popular quarterback to throw support to in the media and could turn that into a dark horse candidacy for the Heisman Trophy. Plus, he gets the opportunity to play some pretty average defenses down the stretch that he could put up some big numbers against. A huge finish and leading a BCS team to an undefeated season (even out of the Big East) could catch the attention of enough voters to give Bridgewater a shot.

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4. A.J. McCarron, QB Alabama Crimson Tide

AJ McCarron
Derick Hingle - US PRESSWIRE

The Alabama Crimson Tide faced off with the LSU Tigers for the third time in the last two seasons. A.J. McCarron led the Tide into Death Valley and came away with the rubber match 21-17. It wasn’t McCarron’s best statistical game, completing just 14-of-27 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. McCarron didn’t have great stats, but he had great “moments,” rushing for a score before throwing for the winning score in the fourth quarter.

Why he won’t win: Completing just over half your passes for less than 200 yards isn’t exactly a resume building performance. Nick Saban isn’t a coach committed to padding stats, so McCarron will likely be hard-pressed to put up the kind of numbers he would need to really wow the voters. Game managers aren’t usually the types to win many awards, even when managing a dominant team like Alabama.

Why he might win: Those “moments” he had against LSU can be the rallying cry for his Heisman campaign. Voters love to cast their ballot for candidates that had heroic performances that they can point to say “Remember when?” McCarron’s performance in Baton Rouge, where people don’t normally go to win, had those kinds of moments that can fuel a Heisman run.

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3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State University

Braxton Miller
Rich Barnes - US PRESSWIRE

The Ohio State Buckeyes dispatched the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday 52-22 behind the playmaking of their star quarterback Braxton Miller once again. Miller completed 12-of-20 passes on the day for 226 yards with a pair of touchdowns through the air. He added 73 yards rushing on 18 carries with another touchdown on the ground.

Why he won’t win: Miller isn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheet with his passing with just a dozen completions on the day. He also saw his contributions to the offense cut into by some other members of the backfield, as running back Carlos Hyde led the team in rushing (which has been Miller’s thing all season) with 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Miller isn’t doing everything, he might not be doing enough to win the Heisman.

Why he might win: Miller has been the biggest reason for the Buckeyes’ success this season and has a pair of marquee games left on the schedule against the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines. If Miller can put together some memorable performances and lead Ohio State to a perfect record, he won’t be able to be left out of the Heisman ceremony.

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2. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Scott Sewell - US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas State Wildcats hosted a Big 12 showdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys and made it look easy in a 44-30 walk. Unfortunately for Collin Klein, it wasn’t really because of anything he did. Klein completed 16-of-22 passes for 245 yards but didn’t throw a touchdown pass. He was able to find the endzone on the ground on a one-yard sneak, but he finished with just 64 yards rushing on 17 carries. This win was thanks to the Wildcats’ defense, who turned the Cowboys over five times and returned one interception for a touchdown, and the special teams, which returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score.

Why he won’t win: Being an afterthought in a big win isn’t the way to curry much favor with voters. With the season hitting its home stretch, the best players are turning in their biggest performances (see No. 1 on this list). Klein faded in this one which causes him to slip in this race when another candidate gives a signature performance.

Why he might win: Klein has been a winner all season long and is the biggest reason Kansas State is 9-0 for the first time since 1999. He’s had big moments with his arm and his leg and has been drawing favorable comparisons to Tim Tebow while he was leading the Florida Gators, which can’t hurt when trying to present yourself as a Heisman Trophy worthy player.

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1. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon Ducks

Kenjon Barner

The Oregon Ducks went head to head with the USC Trojans and rode Kenjon Barner to a 62-51 Pac 12 victory. Barner rushed for a school-record 328 yards and five touchdowns, which was also the most ever surrendered by USC in the program’s history. Barner took the national stage and demonstrated why he is the feature back for Chip Kelly and the 9-0 Oregon blur offense.

Why he won’t win: Running backs need to be exceptional to win the Heisman, and Barner’s late start to his campaign could put him behind some of more heavily publicized quarterback candidates in the running. Oregon’s plethora of weapons could also cause his touches to decrease down the stretch as new playmakers step up to take the big plays away from Barner.

Why he might win: Breaking school records on a national broadcast against the preseason No. 1 team in the country can win you a lot of votes. Making the guy on your team who was a preseason Heisman favorite an afterthought in that same game? That certainly helps as well. Barner is a bad bad man for opposing defenses and a few more dominant performances like this against the toughest stretch of the Ducks’ schedule will end with Barner hoisting some hardware in December.