Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Finalists
Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates
The Heisman Trophy can be won or lost by big moments that define your season.
For A.J. McCarron, he was defining his season with efficient, mistake-free success for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He was on a course to lead his team to another national championship and had earned some Heisman hype for himself in the process.
Heading into this weekend, McCarron hadn’t turned the ball over the entire year and was leading an Alabama offensive attack that was steamrolling opponents. Only once had the Tide been tested, when they travelled to Death Valley to face the LSU Tigers. McCarron answered the bell, scoring twice and leading the game winning drive to close out the game.
But perfection never lasts and McCarron ran into his first rough outing, throwing a pair of interceptions, including one on the goal line in the fourth quarter that sealed Alabama’s fate in their first loss of the year.
With the loss, Alabama’s hopes for a repeat national title take a major hit and McCarron’s Heisman campaign is ended before it really got started. The Alabama quarterback wasn’t lighting up the box score, so he needed to remain perfect to stay in consideration. No perfection, no Heisman Trophy.
But there are still plenty of players putting their best foot forward making a push for college football’s highest individual honor. In the final weeks, these players will have the opportunity to step up on a national stage and show just how exceptional they are. One of them will prove it above the others and write his name into the history books of college football.
So without further ado, we count down the top five Heisman Trophy candidates for this week.
5. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon Ducks
Kenjon Barner was the leader for the Heisman Trophy after his career day against the USC Trojans. But when the Oregon Ducks traveled to Berkeley to take on the Cal Bears, Barner undercut all of his momentum from the USC game by leaving the game in the second quarter with a wrist injury in one of his most disappointing games of the season.
The Ducks featured back rushed 20 times for just 65 yards and failed to find the end zone for just the third game this season. His 3.3 yards per rush average was his lowest of the season and Barner was outshined by the other weapons of the Oregon offense in the 59-17 blowout win.
Why he won’t win: The margin for error for running backs is razor thin in the Heisman race and it so important for them to maintain momentum once they get it rolling. Barner fell into the pitfall (that many saw coming) of the talented Oregon offense taking away opportunities as other weapons step up. On Saturday, that was quarterback Marcus Mariota. Less than 100 yards, no touchdowns, and no impact on a blowout win is how you destroy any momentum in the Heisman race.
Why he might win: The Ducks have two, probably three, games left against marquee, top 25 opponents. That sets the stage for eyes to be on Barner, and he has shown the ability to break out when people are watching. He’ll need to have more USC-type performances (maybe better) to overcome this dud, but there’s a chance he could still rush his way to New York City.
4. Marqise Lee, WR USC Trojans
The Heisman campaign has ramped up in southern California for the USC Trojans’ wide receiver Marqise Lee in recent weeks and he hasn’t done anything to hurt his chances. On the season, Lee has been unstoppable in the passing game, catching 98 passes for 1,447 yards with 13 touchdowns. He’s recorded at least 100 yards receiving in seven of 10 games, including a record-breaking 16 catch, 345 yard, two touchdown performance against the Arizona Wildcats.
On Saturday, Lee continued his dominant season against the Arizona State Sun Devils, catching 10 passes for 161 yards with a touchdown. Lee is as unguardable as ever and was key in the Trojans’ 38-17 win which kept USC in the hunt for the Pac 12 North division.
Why he won’t win: He’s very late to the Heisman party, so he’s behind the campaigns of the guys who have been here all season long. Wide receivers are a disadvantage to being with because their stats are so dependent on the quarterback throwing the ball to them. Throw in that Lee hasn’t made much of an impact in the return game with just one touchdown on a kickoff return and a return average under 30 yards, and Lee just hasn’t been impactful enough to win.
Why he might win: Lane Kiffin loves accolades and is going to make sure Lee gets every opportunity to impress Heisman voters. He’s going to call plays to go Lee’s way on offense, he’s going to keep his out there to return kicks, and Kiffin’s even put his best wide receiver out there on defense. If anyone is going to get the opportunity to prove himself to Heisman voters, it’s going to be Lee.
3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes had the week off as they prepare for their stretch run. They’re in a position to go undefeated, though they won’t be able to play in the Big Ten Championship or bowl game, because of the exceptional play this season of Braxton Miller. He is the Buckeyes offense, and as Miller goes, the Ohio State Buckeyes go.
Why he won’t win: It’s tough to catch the attention of voters when you’re left out of postseason conversations. As the attention gets turned to conference title races and bowl bids, Miller and the Buckeyes will get forgotten about. Buzz is the key to winning a Heisman Trophy, and Miller will get hurt by Ohio State’s NCAA sanctions undercutting that buzz.
Why he might win: He’s an electric talent with the ability to turn a game around on every single play. He’ll have a pair of big games with the chance to blow up with the whole country watching as the Buckeyes try and play spoiler for the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines. Being THE reason for an undefeated season in a BCS conference is impossible to ignore.
2. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M Aggies
The Texas A&M Aggies have enjoyed a very successful inaugural season in the SEC this year thanks to their remarkable freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football has appeared on this countdown earlier this season, but fell off after looking like a freshman against the LSU Tigers. He got another shot against an elite defense on Saturday when the Aggies went to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide and Manziel delivered a signature win.
On the day, Manziel accounted for 348 total yards (253 passing, 95 rushing), throwing a pair of touchdown passes. Most importantly, the freshman made good decisions with the football with zero turnovers on the day, which proved to be the difference in the game. There are few environments more hostile than Tuscaloosa when facing the No. 1 team in the country, but Manziel rose up and delivered a memorable performance.
Why he won’t win: Freshmen don’t usually have the clout to carry enough votes for the Heisman Trophy. The start-and-stop of his Heisman campaign could short-circuit his momentum. Coming on strong like he did before falling off after the LSU game, only to revive his push with this performance could create some disjointedness that won’t help him.
Why he might win: Freshmen just don’t go to Alabama and outplay the Tide defense. Until now, that is. Heisman Trophies can be won by moments and it will be difficult for anyone to top this moment. Manziel’s ability to run and throw are unmatched and the future in College Station might be brighter than anywhere in the country.
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats
Collin Klein has been doing the tough things needed for the Kansas State Wildcats to win all season long and he kept it going on Saturday against the TCU Horned Frogs. It was pretty or glamorous, but Klein bounced back from getting injured last week and continued his march to New York City as the field general for the Wildcats.
On Saturday, Klein finished with just 195 total yards, but scored both of K-State’s touchdowns on the day (both on the ground). He’s the engine that makes this team go and is the reason that Kansas State is now in a prime position to play for a national title.
Why he won’t win: The numbers aren’t flashy, though he’s been incredibly effective. Effectiveness is nice, but flashy is better during a Heisman campaign. Putting up sub-200 yard games isn’t going to distance Klein from the other contenders and opens him up to getting passed over by another candidate who finishes the season with some flash.
Why he will win: He’s a natural leader who is leading his team to the highest levels of college football. He’s doing everything for K-State, finding ways to win with his arm and his legs. His dual-threat ability along with his unyielding ability to find ways to win will make it impossible for Klein to be denied in December.