Who is number two?
That is the question on the mind of every Heisman prognosticator. Collin Klein is the obvious favorite right now and there are at least four other names in the Heisman conversation: Braxton Miller, Manti Te’o, Geno Smith and AJ McCarron. Some places have Te’o as the current runner up while others think Smith has done enough to justify the second spot. Miller has been proving his case all season and if not for his injury against Purdue last weekend he might be the clear number two.
In Alabama McCarron is the clear number two, if not the frontrunner. Hard to argue with the Tide, McCarron has been surgical and efficient in victory, as close to flawless as an Alabama quarterback has ever been.
You can make a case for all four of the players below Klein to be second place but within the next two weeks we’ll know for sure.
This weekend Te’o takes on Oklahoma in Norman in Notre Dame’s toughest test of the season. Te’o's narrative focuses on Notre Dame’s surprising success this season led on the defensive side by Manti. A close, hard fought, loss or win against Oklahoma, with Te’o making a major difference defensively, could put Te’o in the clear second position with his Heisman campaign then resting on the USC game on the 24th of November.
The biggest obstacle for Miller lies off the field in the bowl ban that Ohio State accepted this season. Everything Miller does is overshadowed by the fact that it doesn’t count for anything. For Miller he can make it all matter if he can find a way to get invited to New York City. While last week was less than ideal for the sophomore play caller, he has the opportunity to make a big statement against Penn State this weekend and in his final two games against ranked opponents.
Geno Smith squandered away a good amount of his Heisman goodwill in two ugly losses in consecutive weeks, but as I wrote earlier in the week, his numbers have kept him in contention thus far. For Smith, every game matters now and he needs to perform immediately. West Virginia has this weekend off to regroup before hosting it’s third Texas team in the last four weeks, TCU. After doing some rough guesstimation I can see Smith throwing for 18 more touchdowns this season. 46 total pass touchdowns would be impressive but unless Smith can win out (aka beat Oklahoma) second place might be as high as he can rise.
Down in Alabama where the nation’s most efficient passer currently resides (no not Kiehl Frazier) nothing much needs to change. AJ McCarron has yet to gain much national attention but his team has won every game comfortably. If McCarron helps Alabama beat undefeated Mississippi State this weekend and LSU the following week it will be hard to ignore him any longer. We know that Heisman voters like players who are playing in the national title game which could be McCarron’s calling card come December.
I’ve begun to hear rumblings and rumors about left for dead candidates Matt Barkley and Montee Ball. These zombie candidates have a long way to go to get back into the national conversation but it is worth noting that they both have a very important two weeks ahead of them. For Barkley, Arizona is possibly the best tuneup he could get before Oregon comes to the Coliseum. Barkley should (I repeat SHOULD) slice and dice the atrocious Arizona defense to bolster his numbers going into USC’s game of the season against Oregon.
Ball has returned to 2011 form to the tune of 10 touchdowns in his last four games. With four regular season games and the conference championship game (which Wisconsin goes to almost by default) left, Ball will have to score a truck load of touchdowns in order to work his way back into the Heisman race. Anything less than a colossal 15 touchdowns and 1000 yards will find Ball on the outside looking in come Heisman time.
One last note. HP and I had lunch yesterday to talk about what happens if or when Collin Klein falters. If Klein stumbles the race breaks wide open, and I mean wide. A player like Barkley could easily work his way back in and Smith’s blemishes would look a lot more minor in retrospect. It would also open the door to Heisman history, a full time defensive player winning the award. One thing would be for certain, there would be much midnight oil burned in the HP and HP Jr. households.