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Rant Sports Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates: Week 14

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Top Five Heisman Trophy Candidates

Heisman Hype
Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE

With conference championships decided, we officially enter the bowl season. But before the bowls get started, we have the postseason award to hand out, including the highest individual award in college football: The Heisman Trophy.

Most of the leading candidates were off this weekend without conference championship games to play in or failing to qualify. With their seasons already over, the Heisman hype machines ramp up off the field, with schools pumping out the propaganda to sway Heisman voters one way or the other.

This season has been an exciting roller coaster to watch. Everyone had ideas on who would make the Heisman finalist list when the season started, but most of those hopefuls fell off with disappointing performances early. Their struggles opened to door for unexpected stars to emerge and electrify Heisman voters with incredible performances.

The Heisman Trophy this year will likely make history. Never before in the storied legacy of the Heisman has a player who exclusively played defense won the award. Neither has a freshman taken home college football’s highest honor. One of those firsts could be made this season.

But they aren’t the only ones up for the award. An unstoppable wide receiver out west could storm the stage. A prolific quarterback who has broken major records in relative obscurity may steal some votes. There’s also the quarterback who took his team to the very top this season who could ride his season-long momentum to glory. Or perhaps the leader of an undefeated football team stuck in probationary purgatory will walk away with the win.

It is a wide open race with plenty of worthy candidates who could arguably walk away with the Heisman Trophy. Without further ado, we count down the top five Heisman Trophy candidates after Week 14.

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5. Jordan Lynch, QB Northern Illinois Huskies

Jordan Lynch
Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE

The Northern Illinois Huskies won their second straight MAC Championship behind the phenomenal season of their quarterback Jordan Lynch. On the day, Lynch threw for 212 yards while rushing for 160 with four total touchdowns in the 44-37 double overtime win.

Lynch’s performance on the ground put him past Denard Robinson for the NCAA record for rushing yards in a season. He’s been so good that his coach personally sent letters to Heisman voters to state the case for his quarterback. Lynch backed up his coach’s confidence with a signature performance to possibly send his team to a BCS bowl and himself to New York City.

Why he won’t win: He’s a small-conference quarterback who is late to the party. He just doesn’t have the momentum built up or the big game performances that Heisman voters flock to. Anything better than a fifth place finish would be a huge surprise and victory for the MAC QB.

Why he might win: Broken records are impressive, no matter what competition they’re done against. His 364 total yards of offense per game rank third in the country and his 1,771 yards rushing are the most in college football, running backs included.

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4. Collin Klein, QB Kansas State Wildcats

Collin Klein
Denny Medley - US PRESSWIRE

Collin Klein has been on the radar for Heisman voters most of this season and he got the last chance to state his case when the Kansas State Wildcats took on the Texas Longhorns on Senior Day in Manhattan. Klein led the team, as he has all season long, to the 42-24 win and Big 12 title.

Klein provided a signature performance that we’ve come to expect from his this season. He threw for 184 yards on just eight completions while rushing for 103 yards on 23 carries with three total touchdowns. The Wildcats have ridden Klein all season long and he has delivered, taking K-State to a BCS bowl and a conference championship.

Why he won’t win: His best attribute for most of the year was the undefeated season that K-State put together to make a run to No. 1 in the BCS. The loss to the Baylor Bears took that away and Klein is left to be evaluated on his production against the other dual-threat QBs in the running, and he comes up in the back of that race.

Why he might win: He’s been near the top of this race all season long. Outside of one bad game, he’s been the same steady presence under center all season long. If that production was good enough to make him a front-runner before the Baylor loss, some voters may think he’s still good enough to be at the top afterwards.

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3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State Buckeyes

Braxton Miller
Andrew Weber - US PRESSWIRE

The Ohio State Buckeyes finished their season last week in the Big Game against the Michigan Wolverines and finished off their perfect 12-0 season thanks to the efforts of their quarterback Braxton Miller. The sophomore finished the season with 2,039 yards passing with 1,271 yards rushing with 28 total touchdowns. He was the main (and sometimes only) offensive weapon for the Buckeyes this season.

Why he won’t win: The NCAA postseason ban has taken a lot of attention from the Ohio State program this season. Without anything to play for, the exploits of Miller hasn’t been getting the attention that they normally would at a BCS school putting together an undefeated season. Many voters think if your team can’t participate in the post-season, then their players shouldn’t get included in the post-season awards.

Why he might win: Being the go-to guy for an undefeated season carries some serious weight. Miller carried the Buckeyes almost single-handedly to 12-0, overcoming physical injury and defensive focus to put together one of the more impressive seasons in recent memory for Urban Meyer and Ohio State.

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

Manti Te'o

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished their season last week against the USC Trojans and waited to see who they would take on in the BCS Championship game after their defense, led by middle linebacker Manti Te’o, closed out the perfect season for the Irish. Te’o will lead his team into Miami against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and could have some extra hardware to take with him.

Why he won’t win: A player that plays exclusively on defense has never won the Heisman Trophy. The only defensive player to win the award remains Charles Woodson, who cultivated a playmaker reputation with strong special teams play and the occasional offensive touchdown. Te’o just makes tackles and interceptions, which isn’t usually something that gets Heisman voters excited.

Why he might win: There has been a huge swell of support for Te’o in the media because of his intangibles and how important he has been to the Irish this season. Leadership isn’t a quantifiable stat, but Te’o has demonstrated it in bunches this season. Voters who are looking to reward someone for an exceptional career and for re-awakening the echoes in South Bend will throw their support to Te’o.

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1. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M Aggies

Johnny Manziel
John David Mercer - US PRESSWIRE

Johnny Manziel fell just short of taking the Texas A&M Aggies to the SEC Championship, so his season wrapped up a week ago. Johnny Football has been electrifying the college football world all season long, doing things that no freshman has ever done before, setting records upon records and pulling his team through huge moments all year long.

Why he won’t win: A freshman has never won the Heisman. It took a huge effort by Tim Tebow with the Florida Gators to get voters to overcome their bias against giving the award to a sophomore, and they may not be willing to break down and give the Heisman to a first-year star. Plus, Manziel went just 1-2 against the top opponents on his schedule, turning in his most disappointing performances in the two losses while piling up stats against the easier foes.

Why he might win: That one win against the top teams came in Tuscaloosa against then No. 1 Alabama, which is a phenomenal feat for anyone, but especially for a freshman. He’s been unstoppable this season, breaking the single-game SEC record for total yardage earlier this season and breaking the SEC single-season yardage mark previously set by Tebow that was broken by Cam Newton of the Auburn Tigers. Both of those other quarterbacks went on to win the Heisman the year they set the yardage record.