The biggest factor in the Heisman race this weekend has to do with Collin Klein, as usual. Klein has been the front runner for three weeks now but faces his toughest challenge of the season, getting on the field tomorrow against TCU. Every indication out of Manhattan, Kansas is that Klein will play, but as late as yesterday his status was questionable. Without an official injury report, the details are a bit murky. If had to put money down I’d bet that Klein takes the first offensive snap of the game for the Wildcats. As long as he’s on the field and doing what he’s done all season, Klein should remain comfortably in the Heisman lead.
Over the last month here at Heisman Pundit we’ve said that Klein just needs to maintain. He doesn’t need ginned up numbers every week and he just needs to win games in which he is favored. His road to the Heisman is clearly laid out before him. Every scenario for another person to win the Heisman hinges on a late season collapse by Klein. Barring this collapse (and the outside/remote/implausible possibility that Kenjon Barner repeats his performance at USC four more times consecutively) the rest of the contenders are jockeying for a runner up position.
AJ McCarron, a current top five Heisman candidate, faces Johnny Manziel, another top five Heisman candidate (in my opinion) tomorrow in a pivotal game for both. McCarron can further reinforce his currently tenuous (performance wise) Heisman candidacy with a decisive win against the SEC’s best offensive team and best offensive player.
This game pits a strong offense against arguably the strongest defense in the country. The Tide relishes these games and aims to turn them into a battle in the trenches with ugly 17-7 or 21-10 outcomes. Manziel and the A&M offense will be hard pressed to break this game open and pull out a victory
For Manziel, the aforementioned best offensive player in the SEC (in my opinion), an unlikely win at Tuscaloosa as a freshman with a team in it’s first season in the SEC would be career defining (also program defining) and vault him into consideration for the Heisman runner up spot. Like Braxton Miller (who has faded from the Heisman race despite continuing to do what made him a contender in the first place) whatever Johnny Football accomplishes this year is just a foundation for his sophomore and junior campaigns.
Kenjon Barner heads to Berkeley this weekend to assault another Pac 12 defense. Barner has travelled an unlikely road that has led him to this point.
Recruited as a defensive back, Barner came over to the running back corps in the spring of 2009 to help the dangerously thin position group. He never returned to the defensive side of the ball but had to wait patiently behind LaMichael James. Even as the second string back, Oregon’s generous distribution of the ball allowed Barner to score 20 touchdowns before becoming the lead back this fall. This year Barner has gained 1,479 total yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns through just nine games. He is second in the nation in rushing touchdowns (19) second in rushing yards per game (143.9) and third in the nation in rushing yards (1295) while getting less than 20 rushes per game on average (due to Oregon’s penchant for blowing out teams early). Barner, who is best friends with 2010 Heisman finalist LaMichael James, has a schedule set up for an easy path to NYC. After California, Barner faces ranked opponents Stanford and Oregon State to end the season. A strong performance against these stout defensive teams would give Barner enough momentum to carry him to a spot as a Heisman finalist.
Games to Watch
The only thing I’ll be watching this weekend is my phone and ESPN ScoreCenter because my fiancé thinks it’s fine to go to weddings during football season. The reason she is my fiancé and not my wife currently is because I pushed our wedding until after the season. My good.
Oregon State at Stanford
Texas A&M at Alabama
Penn State at Nebraska (The battle of the only teams to beat Northwestern)
Mississippi State at LSU
Kansas State at TCU
Arizona State at USC