NCF Nation: Heisman watch 101612

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
Here are the Big 12's best hopes for the Heisman after seven weeks:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith's day wasn't as bad as the scoreboard indicated in Saturday's 49-14 loss to Texas Tech, but his lead in the Heisman race was trimmed quite a bit. He completed 29 of 55 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, moving to 25 touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein did what Klein does in a 27-21 win against Iowa State, completing 16 of 24 passes for 187 yards and rushing for three touchdowns and 105 yards on 25 carries. Go up to Morgantown and win next week, while outgunning Geno Smith? Klein is the new Heisman front-runner.

3. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle's quietly still leading the Big 12 in rushing and averaging more than 20 yards more a game than any back in the league. He had a rough outing (29 carries, 80 yards, no TDs) against Kansas, but odds are in his favor to bounce back.

4. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones is back on the list after a pair of big wins and a pair of big performances in both of those wins. He's got a lot of ground to make up to really get back in the race, but the Sooners are back inside the top 10. That's a good start. Jones threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns against Texas, but his completion percentage still needs a lot of work.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin had his worst day of the season, and Stedman Bailey's absence no doubt was a big factor. He was quiet (9 receptions, 99 yards), but we'll see if he'll get back to his old ways this week. Before Saturday, he'd topped 100 yards and 10 catches in every game this season.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  3. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
  4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
  5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

Pac-12 Heisman tracker: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
Another week for the Pac-12 Heisman tracker, another week that Pac-12 players slip farther and farther behind the pack. After returning briefly to the top five, USC quarterback Matt Barkley is once again relegated to the "others receiving votes" category. Only Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas remains in the top five. Interestingly enough, he received five total votes -- each ranging from first through fifth. Go figure?

De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, WR/RB
  • Week 7 numbers: Bye week.
  • Season numbers: 41 carries for 377 yards (9.2 average) with six touchdowns; 20 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Thoughts: Another big chance for him to make a big splash in front of a national audience Thursday against Arizona State. Anyone else getting a sneaking suspicion that the folks in Eugene don't really care about the Heisman?
Others receiving votes

Kenjon Barner, Oregon, RB
  • Week 7 numbers: Bye week
  • Season numbers: Has 727 yards on 116 attempts (6.3 average) with nine rushing touchdowns. Has also caught 11 balls for 111 yards and a score.
  • Thoughts: (See Thomas).
Matt Barkley, USC, QB
  • Week 7 numbers: Completed 10 of 20 passes for 167 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
  • Season numbers: Has completed 121 of 193 passes (62.9 completion percentage) for 1,475 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
  • Thoughts: It's nice that some folks are still voting for him (full disclosure, I haven't in a few weeks) so he's at least staying in the loop. But even with a strong performance on Nov. 3, it's going to take a lot for him to again be relevant in the conversation.
Taylor Kelly, ASU, QB
  • Week 7 numbers: Completed 20 of 28 passes for 308 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
  • Season numbers: Has completed 112 of 164 balls (68.3 completion percentage) for 1,600 yards with 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
  • Thoughts: As previously noted, I added Kelly to my ballot this week. Maybe it will only be for this one week. Maybe he'll blow up against the Ducks and others will start to take notice. Either way, he deserves the recognition. He's thrown 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions in the past three weeks (including back-to-back road games) and has completed at least 70 percent of his throws in four of six games. Credit is deserved, so credit is being given.

SEC Heisman Watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
We have a new No. 1, and age ain't nothing but a number:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Sure, he's a freshman. No freshman has ever won the Heisman Trophy, but Manziel has been the most exciting player in the SEC this season. He can hurt teams with his arm and legs and showed it once again in the Aggies' shootout victory over Louisiana Tech. He broke his own SEC record for total offensive yards when he threw for 395 yards with three touchdowns and ran for 181 yards and three more touchdowns. That's 576 yards from one person. Nasty. He's third in the SEC in passing (1,680 yards) and has 14 touchdowns to three interceptions. He also leads the SEC with 676 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

2. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: He probably should have been in this spot last week after his 146-yard performance against LSU's defense. Gillislee has quietly gone about his business and leads all SEC running backs with 615 yards and is one of only two backs to average 100 or more yards a game. He also has seven rushing touchdowns. Gillislee ran for just 56 yards against Vanderbilt, but he carried the ball only 13 times because the Gators didn't need to use him that much. Gillislee isn't getting a lot of national love, but he's been one of the best in the SEC this season, and if he has a good performance against South Carolina, it should push him up the national charts.

3. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: McCarron continues to be steady for the Crimson Tide. He's never flashy, but he's still extremely efficient with his 1,170 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Even though Alabama blew out Missouri over the weekend, the Tide did most of their damage on the ground, leaving McCarron with just 171 yards on 16-of-21 passing. McCarron's yardage has to increase if he's going to make a run at the Heisman, but Alabama's winning ways certainly help.

4. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: After pounding away for the past few games, Lattimore was stuffed against LSU and didn't even touch the ball in the fourth quarter of the Gamecocks' 23-21 loss to the Tigers. Lattimore had some beefy runs here and there, but carried the ball just 13 times for 35 yards and a touchdown. He's tied with Manziel for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (10) and is fourth with 584 rushing yards. He could thrust himself right back into the Heisman limelight with a strong second half of the season.

5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: The gunslinger was off last week. Before his dreadful performance in the Bulldogs' loss to South Carolina, Murray was playing his best ball as a Bulldog. He has passed for 1,487 yards and 12 touchdowns plus four interceptions this season. He can still make a Heisman run, but he'll have to win out (that means beating Florida) and take the Dawgs to the SEC championship game. With the second-half schedule the Bulldogs have, Murray should be able to put up some nice numbers the rest of the season.

Notre Dame Heisman watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
Love ya, Stephon Tuitt. And your game Saturday might have been the best of your career. But we're kidding ourselves if we think anyone other than No. 5 is in this conversation after the midway point of the season.

Manti Te'o, linebacker: He is shooting up every national ranking after another remarkable defensive stand, one led by the man in the middle. With his parents in the stands after making the trip from Hawaii, Te'o notched a game-high 11 tackles, and the Irish defense withstood four straight Stepfan Taylor overtime rushes from inside the 5-yard line, as sure a sign as any that it can compete with the elite. "Those are moments that you remember," Te'o said after the win, "and I think that you remember it's one of the most gritty, just get-after-it defenses."

ACC Heisman Watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
The ACC’s odds of producing a Heisman candidate are about as good as the conference finding its way into the top of the BCS standings right now. The truth is, it’s a long shot, but if Florida State and Clemson can cling to one-loss seasons, there is still a chance. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel and Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins are both still getting mentions in’s weekly Heisman Watch.

Here are your top dark horse candidates heading into Week 8:

1. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel: He is coming off a terrific performance against a not-so-terrific defense. Manuel completed 27 of 34 passes for a career-high 439 yards and four touchdowns in the Seminoles’ 51-7 win over Boston College.

2. Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins: He leads the ACC with 8.2 receptions per game, and leads the league and is third nationally with 129.5 receiving yards per game. He has 777 yards and eight touchdown receptions this year. He is fourth in the ACC in all-purpose yards with 129.5 per game.

3. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: He enters Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech leading the ACC and ranked No. 11 nationally in total offense (328.7 yards per game). He also leads the ACC in passing average per game with 291.3 yards. He has 14 passing touchdowns to only five interceptions, and he is second in the ACC in passing efficiency behind Manuel.

Big East Heisman Watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
The Big East's best offensive player is the conference's best hope for some hardware.

Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville: The sophomore has orchestrated a 6-0 start for Louisville and a No. 16 ranking in the initial BCS standings. Coming out of a halftime deficit at Pitt in the Cardinals' first conference game, Bridgewater delivered -- first hitting DeVante Parker for a 75-yard touchdown pass on the second half's first play, then directing two more touchdown drives over Louisville's next three drives in the third quarter to help his team break away from the Panthers. Bridgewater finished with 304 yards and no picks on 17-of-26 passing, and he is completing nearly 72 percent of his throws this season while holding a 3-to-1 touchdown/interception ratio.

Big Ten Heisman watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
It's no secret by now that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is not only a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, but he's the only one in the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes' defensive struggles might actually be doing Miller's candidacy some favors, because he has to keep his foot on the gas. That was the case last week against Indiana, when the sophomore completed 13 of 24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns (with one interception) and rushed 23 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 52-49 thriller over Indiana.

That type of performance has become almost ho-hum for Miller this season. The best development for his Heisman hopes came not in Bloomington but in Lubbock, Texas, where West Virginia went down in flames to Texas Tech. Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith remains the heavy favorite for the trophy at the midseason mark, but his campaign lost a little luster last week.

That opens the door for some other contenders, and Miller is right there. In fact, Ohio State's star is probably one of the top two challengers to Smith right now, with the other being Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

Because Klein and Miller are both so adept at running, let's compare their season stats:

Miller: 96-of-159 passing for 1,271 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions; 129 rushes for 912 yards and nine touchdowns.
Klein: 79-of-118 passing for 1,074 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions; 98 rushes for 510 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Miller has played one more game than Klein, but he's averaging more total yards (311.9 per game) than the Kansas State star (264). They're pretty close in touchdowns, but Miller has more highlight-reel plays.

Both quarterbacks' teams are undefeated, but Klein may get more credit for playing on a team that can contend for the BCS championship. He also gets to face some questionable Big 12 defenses.

Miller gets a slight edge on Klein, in my book. He'll need Smith to falter some more to push for the top spot.

My Heisman Watch ballot for Week 8:

1. Smith

2. Miller

3. Klein

4. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M