It’s been a while since the last weekend of college football promised so little drama with regards to the Heisman race.
On 2011′s last weekend, Robert Griffin III went 15 of 22 for 320 yards and two touchdowns, with two more scores on the ground, in Baylor’s 48-24 win over Texas. Griffin III’s performance against the highly-rated Longhorns defense served as the capper to his campaign and helped him hold on to a slim Heisman victory over Andrew Luck.
In 2010, Cameron Newton threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns and added two more touchdowns rushing, to lead Auburn over South Carolina, 56-17, in the SEC title game. The dominant performance on the season’s final Saturday put the Tigers into the BCS title game and helped make Newton’s Heisman win a fait accompli.
In 2009, Mark Ingram rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns to lead Alabama to a 32-13 win over Florida, helping him clinch his school’s first-ever Heisman in what turned out to be the closest vote in the history of the award.
And Sam Bradford’s 384 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri in 2008′s Big 12 title game boosted the Oklahoma sophomore’s hard-fought Heisman win over Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow.
You’d have to go all the way back to 2007 to find a final college football weekend that didn’t have much of a bearing on the final result of the Heisman race. That was the year Tim Tebow won the trophy and, with his Gators knocked out of contention for the SEC title game, he essentially wrapped up the honor by November 24.
This year feels pretty much the same. Front runner Johnny Manziel won’t play on Saturday, nor will Manti Te’o, Braxton Miller, Marqise Lee, Kenjon Barner and a bunch of other players who have been bandied about in this year’s Heisman conversation.
So while this final weekend of the 2012 season may be a glorious one for college football and have a lasting impact on which team wins the BCS title, it is highly unlikely that it will make much of a difference to the outcome of this year’s Heisman race.
That said, here are the games you should keep an eye on if you care about the Heisman:
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia – No one who plays in this very important game is going to win the Heisman, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have any bearing on the final vote. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray leads the nation in passing efficiency and has an outside chance at making it to New York if he comes up big while carrying the Bulldogs to a win over the Tide. A huge performance by linebacker Jarvis Jones could make Manti Te’o's case as the nation’s best defender seem a bit spurious. And AJ McCarron could once again remind voters that he’s the glue that holds the defending national champions together. Using a little bit of logic, it stands to reason that the player who comes out of this shining the brightest is most likely to take votes away from Johnny Manziel, since some voters in the South region of the Heisman electorate might drop him down a peg or two as a result. But the more likely result is that the player emerging the strongest from this encounter will hurt candidates from outside the region more. A Southern voter with a current ballot of (1) Manziel (2) Te’o (3) Klein might be more inclined to put, say, a triumphant Murray in the second or third spot before it’s all said and done. Another factor to take note is the set up for next season. Murray (if he returns), McCarron, TJ Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Todd Gurley or Keith Marshall could all use this game as a springboard for a run at the Heisman in 2013.
HEISMAN GAME OF THE WEEK — No. 23 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State
But for Kansas State’s debacle in Waco a couple Saturdays ago, this game would have served as the informal coronation of Collin Klein as the 2012 Heisman winner. As it stands, he’ll need to play well and lead the Wildcats to a win just to assure his journey to New York as a finalist. I can’t foresee any likely circumstance by which Klein can use this game to vault over Manziel in the final voting calculus. It might require that Klein produce 300-plus passing yards and a combined seven touchdowns, with the final one being a dramatic last-second game winner, for voters to be shaken from their Johnny Football-induced stupor. Perhaps leading K-State to an unexpected Big 12 title and a top five finish will be enough to sway a large chunk of voters, but I doubt it. Klein will have to be satisfied with becoming a Heisman finalist. Of course, a loss by K-State would further jumble the race down the ballot. It might open the door for Braxton Miller, Marqise Lee, Aaron Murray or AJ McCarron to sneak their way to an invite. Whatever the case, I don’t expect either outcome to prevent Manziel from making history on Dec. 8.