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Heisman Weekend Preview

With the emergence of Johnny Manziel on the Heisman scene these last couple weeks, a battle over statistics has begun to rage. In the Manziel camp the loudest supporters are touting his superior stats (as JUST a freshman!) for why he should be the Heisman frontrunner. In the Klein camp, the words like leader, toughness, and MVP are being thrown around to make voters look first at the man and then the statistics. Both groups are actually selling themselves short. Heres why:

For Johnny Football, yes, his raw stats are better than Collin Klein’s, but only marginally. Manziel has accounted for 3,794 total yards to Klein’s 2,578, the largest disparate statistic between the two. Manziel has 33 total touchdowns to Klein’s 31. Klein actually has a better completion percentage 69.7% to Manziel’s 67.6% and a significantly better passer rating, 167.65 to 151.7. Klein has also only thrown three interceptions this year to Manziel’s six.

Outside of the total yardage, Manziel’s statistics do nothing to prove that he deserves the Heisman more than Klein. In actuality statistics matter less if you win games and Klein has won all of his this year while Manziel and Texas A&M have lost two of their first 10. Plus, their yards per play is basically equal at 7.7 yards per play. Manziel has run 130 more plays than Klein and that explains why his yardage total is higher.

What HeisManziel fans should be touting is his narrative instead. Texas A&M was supposed to struggle its first year in the SEC, but has been rescued by a freshman phenom who broke SEC passing records, became the best offensive player in the league and knocked off the No. 1 team in the country who oh-by-the-way was the defending national champion. That is what will carry Johnny Football (and maybe a little bit of the nickname), not similar statistics to players on national championship contending teams.

Lastly for Manziel, let him get in front of a microphone. His story this year is too good to not hear it from the creator. Unless the kid has a mouthful of marbles, his soundbites are going to be gold. If he’s articulate and charming he could swing the race. College football fans love a great story and that could be Manziel’s calling card.

For Klein the character stuff is all well and good but his marketing team needs to lean on his stats a bit more. It’s a fact in this race that no one yet has outlandish stats that are going to completely separate them from the rest of the pack. For Klein this is an advantage because while his raw numbers are on par with the field, certain Klein statistics portray an anomaly that tells the story of the (potentially) best player in college football.

The first number Kansas State needs to point to is zero, the number of losses Klein has suffered this year. Assuming the Wildcats win out, the zero will be the most important number of all. Kansas State isn’t supposed to be playing for a national championship this year, at least not according to the preseason pundits. It took an exemplary player with a unique skill set to turn a 7-6 team two years ago into a national contender this year.

The next two statistics that Klein’s camp should be leaning on are his passer efficiency ratings and the number of rushing touchdowns. Klein is second in the nation in rushing touchdowns and currently eighth in passer efficiency. To be so high in both categories indicates that Klein is both one of the elite passers and runners in the country.

Klein looks like a linebacker, but he isn’t a physical specimen like Cam Newton and he doesn’t have Sam Bradford’s prototypical arm. Even without his physical prowess he is about to become the first player in FBS history to have 20 rushing and 10 passing touchdowns in multiple seasons. Sound like an anomaly to me.

Games to Watch

The Pac 12 has the two most exciting games this week as USC heads to UCLA in the rivalry that has taken a bitter turn this year and Stanford travels to Oregon.

In the Big 12 Kansas State plays Baylor in what is sure to be a shootout and Texas Tech plays Oklahoma State in a battle of ranked opponents.

In the SEC this is the schedule (also known as games not to watch):

Alabama vs Western Carolina

Florida vs Jacksonville State

South Carolina vs Wofford

Georgia vs Georgia Southern

Auburn vs Alabama A&M

Texas A&M  vs Sam Houston State (great way to follow up your Heisman contender’s break out game)

Kentucky vs Samford

Stay classy SEC.

 

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Heisman Weekend Wrap Up

[Johhny] Manziel and the A&M offense will be hard pressed to break the Alabama 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.

That’s what I wrote on Friday morning. Prescient on my part, I’ll be the first to admit, but I may have had my focus set too far in the future. It’s true Manziel will be a Heisman darling in 2013 and 2014 but after the win over Alabama on Saturday he’s trying to pull off an unheard rookie of the year/MVP performance in 2012. I made a point to say that Manziel’s ceiling is a runner up spot in New York City which is still true but Manziel has closed a large gap that Collin Klein originally created.

Manziel’s performance on Saturday was impressive, especially considering it came from a freshman playing in Tuscaloosa against the no. 1 ranked team in the nation. His season numbers are on par or better than the other Heisman hopefuls and he is leading a tenth ranked team that has the strongest offense in the defense heavy SEC. These superlatives all pale when you look at his biggest accomplishment this season, stealing the Cinderella story from Manhattan Kansas and planting it firmly in College Station Texas.

Collin Klein will win the Heisman. I believe that. I’ve said it a million times, barring a loss, injury or poor performance the Heisman is Klein’s to lose. When Klein came on the scene he sat in the shadows of Geno Smith before defeating Smith handily in primetime. Klein’s narrative was that of the hard-scrabble quarterback at an overlooked school that was winning games because Klein said so. Klein was the Cinderella of the season, beating out the preseason favorites and the regular season foes with ease.

After four weeks as the Heisman favorite, the Klein luster has lost some of its sheen and the media wants something new and shiny. Manziel is just that.

While stories were breaking that Klein saved his first kiss for his wedding day, pictures of Manziel dressed in a Scooby Doo costume partying on halloween surfaced. When Klein had a four touchdown game against Texas Tech in late October, Manziel put up five touchdowns against Auburn. This Saturday Klein carried Kansas State to a 23-10 win over TCU, we all know what happened with Manziel.

Luckily for Klein, Manziel has a cupcake this week and a down Missouri the week after and that’s it. No December 1st game for Johnny Football. Klein faces Baylor this weekend in what will surely be a high scoring game and then gets Texas on December first to finish out the season. Advantage Klein.

 

Quick Hits

–Just four undefeated teams remain. Of the four, only one, Oregon, has to play in a conference championship game (although Ohio State would like to I’m sure).

–With AJ McCarron’s two interception game; Colby Cameron of La Tech becomes the last full time quarterback that has yet to throw an interception.

–Geno Smith and West Virginia are in a free fall. After starting the season 5-0 the Mountaineers have lost four straight and are allowing 49.5 points a game in those losses.

–This

–Unless Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson can rush for 564 yards in the next two game we will not have a 2,000 yard rusher in college football for the fourth straight year.

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Heisman Weekend Preview

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

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Heisman Weekend Wrap Up

As I was returning from the Coliseum where I’d just witnessed Kenjon Barner vault himself into the Heisman conversation I peeked into a bar to watch the last drive for Alabama against LSU. AJ McCarron looked amazing, and watching that game winning drive made me think the Heisman race had been shaken up.

Barner tore up USC, McCarron came back heroically against LSU. Having checked my phone throughout the day I knew that Collin Klein had left his game injured. It seemed like the perfect storm. The worst place Klein can be is on the sidelines when two players are having Heisman moments.

Then I watched the whole Alabama-LSU game and my perception shifted. McCarron looked pedestrian for three plus quarters and the game could have easily slipped away on the last drive. McCarron at his best is a strong complement to the Alabama offense, at worst he is little more than a game manager. Those are not exactly the superlatives needed to win the Heisman.

The final drive in the LSU game may have helped him gain some national recognition but it’s not going to win him the Heisman.

Outside of the one drive in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game McCarron has done little to justify his Heisman hype. The thing is, he hasn’t done anything detrimental to quell it either. Tide fans are some of the most vocal in the country and they have used their status to artificially raise McCarron’s profile. The underlying McCarron narrative is “he’s the best alternative!?”. McCarron’s numbers and performance alone won’t win him the Heisman but if the guys ahead of him falter, he’s the best alternative, right?

For Oregon, Kenjon Barner finally showed why HP has been touting him as a dark horse all season. His record setting day against USC was very impressive, but in all honesty De’Anthony Thomas might have done the same thing if the ball were given to him.

Barner is certainly deserving of his recent plaudits and his numbers would look even more impressive if he played more in second halves like he did in Los Angeles, but we are 10 weeks into the season and and Barner is just starting to break into the serious conversation. It seems unlikely that Barner could overtake Klein solely on his final four performances unless Klein somehow collapses.

The race is not over but we now know who the real contenders are.

Quick Hits

–Week 10 is the first week of the season where no undefeated teams lost. Six still remain.

–Boston College opponents have fumbled the ball 22 times this year. The Eagles have recovered the ball just six times

–Rutgers has yet to allow a fourth down conversion.

–This (Tebow time)

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Heisman Weekend Preview

Collin Klein is the leading contender in the Heisman race, the leader of  the no. 2 ranked team in the nation and facing a ranked opponent that has the sixth highest scoring average in the country. Yet outside of Manhattan (Kansas) and Stillwater (the only Stillwater) no one will really take notice unless there is an upset. For Klein, a ranked Big 12 opponent coming into town is just another day at work, with little fanfare or publicity.

Klein probably prefers it this way.

For a guy who should be practicing his acceptance speech (that I told him to get started on in September) Klein doesn’t seem to be fazed by the Heisman hype. In his first week as the Heisman favorite Klein accounted for four touchdowns and an blowout win over Texas Tech. Oklahoma State might be able to score more than Tech did but Klein and the Wildcats have made a habit of scoring 50 or more points.

In Columbus the Braxton Miller train is still rolling along albeit with a little less steam. Miller performed last weekend but was overshadowed by Klein and Manti Te’o. This week he takes on a hapless Illinios team that he should literally be able to run over. Miller doesn’t have much in the way of marquee games the rest of the season (save Michigan… I guess) so he will have to put up stellar stats in the last month of the season.

Geno Smith could not have had an off week at a worse time this season. After two straight losses and a bye week it feels like the Geno Smith of September last played in 1936. Is Smith out of the Heisman race? Technically no, but the hill he has to climb is only slightly easier than that of  Sisyphus. A herculean effort (no more greek mythology I promise) against TCU this weekend would put Smith back on the right track but Klein has created a large gap between the conference foes.

For Te’o up in South Bend there isn’t much he can do but watch and wait. Te’o is in a unique position where he is his in our polls but low on our watch. Basically it means he is a contender but he has a very little chance to win. That possibility only arises if he is viewed as the best alternative to a weak group of finalists. With Klein in the race Te’o has no chance but he could make a case if Klein and company falter late in the season.

Games to Watch

November third has been circled on every college football fan’s calendar since schedules were released. Before the season began the first weekend of November was tabbed as the Saturday we’d find out who is going to the national championship game. In the preseason the match ups looked great; no. 1 USC taking on no. 5 Oregon and no. 2 Alabama playing no.3 LSU. What we’re left with, no. 17 USC taking on no. 4 Oregon and no. 1 Alabama playing no. 5 LSU, isn’t quite what we imagined but is very compelling none the less.

USC has irreparably damaged its season and now must take on the role as spoiler or simply roll over and die. Matt Barkley has faded from the Heisman race but surprisingly Marqise Lee has sprung up in his place. Lee can make a case for the Heisman because his stats are not dependent on wins or losses.

In Tuscaloosa, AJ McCarron will try to legitimize his Heisman hopes by beating LSU in arguably the biggest football game of the regular season. I don’t really care what happens in this game but if it is a snoozefest like the previous two I’m boycotting this rivalry for at least a decade.

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Heisman Weekend Wrap Up

Collin Klein has four games remaining to prove that he is the most outstanding college football player of the year. Luckily for him, he probably is.

A week after throwing and running for seven total touchdowns against West Virginia, Klein took Texas Tech to the woodshed, accounting for four more touchdowns in a 55-24 win. Kansas State has now scored 50 points or more in five of its eight games.

Klein’s season stat line is now beginning to match up with his Heisman hype.

Through eight games Klein has thrown for 12 touchdowns, has the third highest completion percentage in the nation (70.9%), the second highest yards per pass attempt (9.9) and the second highest passer rating (175.73, the latter being a strong Heisman indicator). On the ground has has rushed for 16 touchdowns, second most in the nation (by any position). At this rate Klein will end the season with around 2,500 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns.

Klein’s biggest improvement this season, his passing, has given a balance to Klein’s game that was missing last year. In 2011 Klein rushed for 27 touchdowns but threw for only 13.

Other players will finish with more gaudy numbers (Geno Smith for example) but none will mean as much to their team as Klein. Kansas State has begun sending out Heisman campaign information about Klein and on the front of the packet it says “College Football’s Most Valuable Player“.

With Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and Texas to go, Klein has the opportunity to bring Kansas State its first Heisman Trophy and the Big 12 its third Heisman in five years.

BUT…

Should Klein falter in the final month of the season there will be no shortage of contender to fill his shoes. In no particular order Braxton Miller, AJ McCarron, Manti Te’o and Geno Smith are all waiting in the wings for a chance to swoop in and steal the Heisman right out from under Klein’s nose.

Quick Hits

–Maryland will start a converted linebacker at quarterback this week after its four true quarterbacks sustained season ending injuries.

–The backup quarterback for Maryland is the tight end.

–Five undefeated teams lost this weekend, leaving the total number of undefeated teams at six.

–Theoretically all six teams could finish the regular season undefeated.

–This

Jonathan Franklin is averaging just one touchdown per 173.6 yards rushed.

–The Black Mamba is a beast

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Heisman Weekend Preview: Who is Number Two?

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.

 

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