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Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates: Week 12

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Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

Heisman Trophy

College football saw its favorites take surprising losses on Saturday which has turned the BCS race on its head and caused massive upheaval. The Heisman Trophy race was just as affected.

Three of the candidates from last week’s rankings suffered losses this weekend with performances that hurt their chances of taking home the Heisman. Two of them fell off the list entirely, while the other slips for the first time this season.

That opens up two spots for newcomers to step up and fill out the top five. One of them makes his second appearance on the list as he continues to fuel the No. 1 team in the country towards their first BCS national championship appearance.

The other is another freshman phenom that has been turning heads all season long. He didn’t have his best performance of the season this weekend, but moves up into the rankings regardless thanks to his entire body of work.

Overall, it was a disappointing weekend for the Heisman Trophy frontrunners. On top of the teams that lost on Saturday, another candidate turned in his worst performance of the season while the other played a “tune-up” game, which doesn’t really impress anybody.

But there are still a clear-cut group of college football players who have separated themselves in the chase for the hardware. They’ve positioned themselves to make a strong case for themselves as the best player in the country with a season’s worth of high-quality play and special “moments” to set themselves above the average player.

The final stretch of the season will be a wild race to the finish for college football’s highest individual prize. Without further ado, we count down the top five Heisman Trophy finalists after Week 12.

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5. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon Ducks

Marcus Mariota
Scott Olmos - US PRESSWIRE

The Oregon Ducks lost to the Stanford Cardinal 17-14, effectively dashing any hopes they had for a run at a BCS national championship. Even in the loss, however, Marcus Mariota showed enough to back up the talk about the freshman QB being a special player, even if he wasn’t special enough on this night.

For the game, Mariota completed 21-of-37 passes for 207 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also added 89 yards rushing on the night to lead the Ducks against a stifling Stanford run defense. It wasn’t a signature performance like his six touchdown game last week against the Cal Bears, but Mariota is proving himself to be the most dangerous weapon on a potent Oregon offense.

Why he won’t win: He’s a freshman that’s coming late to the party, so he’s got the deck stacked against him. Coming off of a loss also doesn’t help his Heisman campaign. In addition, the Oregon offense spreads the wealth on offense, which is why they’ve had two other players, De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, have Heisman campaigns gain momentum and then fizzle out.

Why he might win: Oregon can put up points in bunches, and Mariota has the ability to be at the middle of all that scoring. With a test in the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers next week and a possible spot in the Pac 12 Championship game, Mariota potentially has a pair of high-profile games to show what he can do.

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4. Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Manti Te'o
Matt Cashore - US PRESSWIRE

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the last unbeaten team in the BCS hunt thanks to a dominant defensive performance against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. On senior day in South Bend, it was Manti Te’o once again leading the way for the Irish as they staked their claim for No. 1 in the BCS.

Te’o finished the day with six tackles and was greeted with a standing ovation late in the game when Notre Dame called a timeout to sub out their seniors on defense. Te’o is the heart and soul of this Irish defense and continues to provide the spark and leadership that has carried them to 11-0.

Why he won’t win: Pure defensive players just aren’t appealing to Heisman voters. Without the “shiny” stats that offensive players get to put up, a defensive player would have to be out-of-this-world dominant. Te’o has been incredible, but not quite incredible enough to steal votes from the offensive stars also in the running.

Why he might win: Te’o is single-handedly bringing one of the most historical teams in college football back to national prominence. The nostalgia vote is strong and that vote is squarely in Te’o’s corner. If he has a signature moment in one of the classic rivalries in football next week against the USC Trojans and secures a spot in the national title game for Notre Dame, it will be hard to deny Te’o.

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3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes

Braxton Miller
Jeff Hanisch - US PRESSWIRE

Braxton Miller had an opportunity to move up in the Heisman rankings with the struggles of some of the other candidates this week, but instead had his worst game of the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Wisconsin Badgers. Luckily for him, nobody else stepped up to take advantage, so Miller stays pat at third.

Miller finished the day with less than 150 total yards of offense in the 21-14 overtime win. He finished with just 97 yards passing and 48 yards rushing and failed to find the end zone. He avoided making any mistakes, though, and led the team to 11-0.

Why he won’t win: To overcome the stigma of the NCAA sanctions on the program, Miller really couldn’t stand to have a game where he was less than special. On Saturday, he was way less than special. When your Heisman campaign is predicated on being the key to a high-powered offense, gaining less than 150 yards in a game undercuts much of your momentum.

Why he might win: Ohio State is still undefeated and Miller is a big reason why. That still counts for something, and Miller has been special for long stretches of this season. He’s got one more opportunity to impress voters with Ohio State’s rivalry game with the Michigan Wolverines. He’ll need to do something spectacular then since he won’t get a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game, but has an opportunity to make up some ground.

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2. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Matthew Emmons - US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas State Wildcats got run off the field in Waco by the Baylor Bears, ending their chances for a national title and doing serious harm to the Heisman campaign of Collin Klein. One of the biggest things going for Klein in his quest for a Heisman was the perfect season that K-State had going for it. Without that, Klein’s chances take a major it.

On the day, Klein accounted for three touchdowns, two passing and one rushing, but was picked off three times. He was able to rush for just 39 yards on the day while passing for 286. It was far from the usual performance we have come to expect from Klein, as he has been so impressive all season long.

Why he won’t win: Klein’s biggest asset in the Heisman race was the spotless record of K-State. Losing hurts his chances immensely, and struggling against a Baylor defense that is among the worst in college football hurts things even more. If anyone else had stepped up this weekend and played a special game, Klein likely would have fallen even further.

Why he might win: He still has a high-profile game against the Texas Longhorns on the schedule. If he turns in a special performance in the season finale, he can still make some noise in the Heisman race. It will need to be a great performance with some help from the other candidates by struggling down the stretch.

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1. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M Aggies

Johnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell - US PRESSWIRE

The Texas A&M Aggies had an “off week” when they took on the Sam Houston State Bearkats of the FCS and Johnny Manziel did just about what was expected out of him against a lesser opponent. He continues to impress as a freshman, doing things that have never been done in college football before.

On the day, Johnny Football threw for 261 yards and rushed for another 100 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing). With his performance on Saturday, Manziel became the first freshman in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season…and he’s still got two games left to play.

Why he won’t win: He’s just a freshman that did have a few dips this season. Heisman voters will be hard-pressed to give the highest individual honor in college football to a freshman and will look to give other candidates, who have been doing it a bit longer, their votes.

Why he might win: While he’s just a freshman, he’s been sensationally special. He’s already done something that no other freshman has ever done, so why wouldn’t he follow that up with another feat that’s unheard of for a freshman? While the status quo is to overlook younger players in the Heisman race, Johnny Football is not one to conform to the status quo. He’s here to break it into pieces.