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Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates Week 13

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Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

Heisman Trophy
Kirby Lee - US PRESSWIRE

The race for the Heisman Trophy has hit the home stretch with just one weekend left in the college football season. Most of the candidates have put in their final performances before the Heisman Trophy presentation, so they’ve done all they can to win on the field.

The race is an interesting one with plenty of fresh faces that nobody expected to be in contention when the season started. Each of them with a story to tell and all of them with a compelling case to be the nation’s best college football player. There are plenty to choose from.

There’s the freshman phenomenon who has broken records and all preconceptions about what freshman are supposed to do in the Heisman race. Or a defensive leader, pushing his team to the top with intensity and fire. Then there’s the sophomore superstar who has played in the shadows all season as his team gets forgotten for past transgressions. There’s the senior signal caller, playing with an old-school toughness that has willed his team to the verge of greatness. Finally, there’s the face of the highest flying offense in college football.

One of them will be chosen as the newest member of college football’s most exclusive club. One of them will make history and be written into the record books as one of the very best to play at college football’s highest level. Which one, though?

Without further ado, let’s count down the favorites in the Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates for Week 13.

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5. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon Ducks

Kenjon Barner
Scott Olmos - US PRESSWIRE

The Blost out on their chance at a Btitle, but still handled their business in the Civil War against the Bas they pulled away late 48-24. Oregon finishes in a tie for the Pac 12 North title with the Stanford Cardinal, who go on to the Pac 12 Championship by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Kenjon Barner continued to impress, though, out of the Ducks’ backfield, bouncing back from a pair of disappointing performances to make an impact on Rivalry Week. The senior running back overcame an injury in the second quarter to finish the game rushing 28 times for 198 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Barner was a major contributor to the Ducks’ big day on the ground, where they totaled 430 yards rushing against one of the toughest run defenses in the Pac 12.

Why he won’t win: Barner is coming off a pair of disappointing efforts which severely undercut much of his Heisman momentum. And while his performance to close out the season was impressive, it arguably wasn’t even the best showing of his team. De’Anthony Thomas finished with 122 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Marcus Mariota finished the day with 225 total yards and two touchdowns. If Barner isn’t the most outstanding player in his own backfield, how can he be the most outstanding player in college football?

Why he might win: Things look pretty bleak for his chances to win, but he should at least garner enough attention to get an invite to New York City. The Ducks have been one of the most prolific offenses in the country this season, so they should have a representative at the Heisman ceremony. While there are plenty of playmakers to choose from on this Oregon team, none are as deserving as Barner.

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4. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Matthew Emmons - US PRESSWIRE

Collin Klein and the Kansas State Wildcats had the week off to lick their wounds after getting throttled by the Baylor Bears. They have one more game to play against the Texas Longhorns with a Big 12 title on the line. With a win, K-State wins the conference and takes the Big 12’s automatic bid to the BCS.

Klein had been unstoppable in willing his team to victory up until the loss to Baylor. He will need to recapture some of that early season magic to help the Cats finish the season strong and represent the Big 12 in the BCS. He’ll also need a special performance to make up ground in the Heisman race.

Why he won’t win: Klein’s biggest asset in the Heisman race was his perfect record. Without that, you have to stack him up against the other dual-threat quarterbacks in the running on stats alone, and Klein comes out at the back of the pack. Losing the Baylor game shattered Klein’s “can’t-lose” façade and exposed him as a pretty good quarterback, but not a Heisman winner.

Why he might win: He’s been in the mix all season long and has another opportunity to do something special against Texas. The Longhorns have had some issues tackling this season, so Klein could explode for a huge game to close out the season as none of the other Heisman contenders will be on the field on college football’s final weekend. The last impression is his to make, now he just has to make it count.

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3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes

Braxton Miller
Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE

The Ohio State Buckeyes finished off their perfect season against the Michigan Wolverines in The Game on Saturday thanks to the efforts of their quarterback Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes can’t do anything with the 12-0 record due to their NCAA-imposed postseason ban, but the team will still have a perfect record, Ohio State’s first since 2002, to propel them into 2013.

Miller turned in one of his most efficient outings of the season in the win, completing 14-of-18 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown while rushing 20 times for 57 yards. It wasn’t a flashy performance, with just one score, but it was the efficient, even-handed performance that we’ve come to expect from Miller, which has resulted in Urban Meyer’s successful first season as the Buckeyes’ head coach.

Why he won’t win: The sanctions against Ohio State have made the exploits of the Buckeyes this season a bit of an afterthought. Throw in the fact that the Big Ten has been down this season, and it becomes easier to shrug off Miller’s accomplishments. Miller needed to be head and shoulders above the competition to overcome the stigma his team has been under all season, and he just hasn’t been impressive enough.

Why he might win: An undefeated season, even without the pressure of bowl implications, is an undefeated season and winning carries weight in the Heisman vote. He hasn’t always put up the best numbers in the country, but he’s found ways to elevate his team in every game they’ll be allowed to play this season, and could steal some votes if voters think twice about giving a freshman the nod.

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

Manti Te'o
Gary A. Vasquez - US PRESSWIRE

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish punched their ticket to their first BCS National Championship appearance with a 22-13 win over the USC Trojans. At the middle of the Irish push for the title has been linebacker extraordinaire Manti Te’o as he has been all season long.

On the night, Te’o finished with five tackles and an interception, his seventh of the season. The Irish defense was stifling all night long as they turned the Trojans back time and again as they tried to rally in the Coliseum. Te’o eclipsed the 100-tackle mark for the third straight time in his career and locked up his spot in New York City for the Heisman presentation.

Why he won’t win: As a defensive player with no return game and no appearances on offense, he doesn’t have those eye-catching stats that Heisman voters love. Plus, in terms of his defensive stats, he isn’t jumping off the page. He’s outside the top 50 in tackles this season and has made his biggest contribution with his “intangibles” which are a difficult stat to quantify.

Why he might win: Nostalgia is a huge driving force for many Heisman voters, and those who don’t want to hand the trophy over to a freshman will be lining up to give it to the player responsible for returning college football’s most storied program back to the national title conversation. Add in the inspirational narrative of Te’o’s season, losing his grandmother and girlfriend in the same week and still playing at a high level, and the sentimental favorite for the Heisman has to be Manti Te’o.

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1. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M Aggies

Johnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell - US PRESSWIRE

Johnny Manziel gave another Johnny Football style of performance to finish out his season in a 59-29 blowout of the Missouri Tigers. The final score made this game seem much closer than it really was as the Texas A&M Aggies raced out to a 42-7 lead at halftime before coasting to the finish.

Manziel was his usual dynamic self, throwing for 372 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 67 yards and another pair of touchdowns on the ground. His 439-yard, five-touchdown performance helped Manziel set the SEC single-season total-yardage record, eclipsing the mark previously held by Cam Newton.

Why he won’t win: There’s still significant resistance to giving college football’s highest individual honor to a freshman and some voters will be looking for any reason to give their number one vote to someone else. It’s a small contingent of out-of-touch voters thinking that way, but it could open the possibility for someone else to steal the Heisman.

Why he will win: He’s no ordinary freshman and is breaking just about every record he can in just his first season under center. His stats cannot be ignored as he’s set the single-game and single-season records for the SEC this year in the Aggies’ inaugural run through college football’s toughest conference. Now, Manziel has just one more milestone to hit, winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.