Everybody wants a piece
The college football season is a grind, to say the least, and only those with the laser focus of a champion, year in and year out, have ever proven themselves up to the task. Like any year, the 2012 football season has featured a number of incredibly talented playmakers lining up on both sides of the football.
However, several have blinked, and in that split-second they have seen their Heisman chances go by the wayside.
That said, a number of student-athletes, following yet another slate of spectacular games in Week 7, have continued to prove themselves to be up to the task. The bright lights of New York City, where the Trophy is awarded annually, can be blinding. Who has managed to keep the statue in their sights?
Dark Horse: LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
Raise your hand if you are living outside of Starkville and you knew that the oft-downtrodden Bulldogs were 6-0.
You’re all a bunch of liars.
This spot could have just as easily been awarded to State’s quarterback, Tyler Russell, who was impressive in out-dueling the talented, but underwhelming Tyler Bray of Tennessee (say that five times fast). That said, Perkins has been the workhorse every winning team needs to grind through an always-grueling SEC schedule. His 5.7 yards per carry have resulted in 600 yards on the nose, and he will have a chance to break into the national consciousness should he and his teammates manage to shock the world in two weeks. Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa to take on THE preeminent college football program right now in Alabama, in a night game that will be televised nationally.
Dark Horse: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
It is always hard to give the nod to a wide receiver, especially when the Trophy could just as easily be voted to the quarterback who threw him all of those passes. However, Bailey is a transcendent talent. He has already bested the 12 touchdowns he scored in 2011, with 14 trips to the end zone only six games into the season. For those without a calculator, that’s a lot.
He also returns kickoffs. Should he break open a few in the season’s second half, he will show off the type of individual playmaking ability Heisman voters love to see. Oh yeah, and the Mountaineers probably cannot lose another game, especially in blowout fashion.
Dark Horse: Beau Blankenship, RB, Ohio
Frank Solich, the formerly embattled Nebraska head coach, had enjoyed a total renaissance at the helm of the Ohio Bobcats. Not only is his team 7-0, but they are currently slotted at No. 25 in the AP Poll. Another strong performance or two against a vastly improved MAC schedule will move them into the BCS Polls, but those victories hinge on the legs of one Beau Blankenship.
Whether or not Beau is the romantic type would be pure speculation at this point, but what is certain is the man’s statistics with the football in his hands. He is currently the nation’s second-leading rusher, having compiled an impressive 951 yards on 198 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He is a dark horse for a reason, however. Even if his and Zolich’s Bobcats run the table, his chances of earning a free trip to the Big Apple are small.
Making a push: Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Without Gilly, the Florida Gators are barely sniffing the national rankings in coach Will Muschamp’s second season at the helm. He put up pedestrian numbers last weekend at Vanderbilt, taking 17 carries for 67 yards without a score, but their true sophomore quarterback, Jeff Driskel, was busying himself putting up the big numbers his program loves to see, but cannot count on week in and week out. Jeff might try to get to some Driskelin’ all the time, but he is simply not nearly experienced enough to put together the consistency necessary. When the team needed a signature win, at home against then-No. 4 LSU, Muschamp called Gilly’s number a career-high 34 times, and the free’d runner responded with a 146-yard afternoon.
Making a push: Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada
At this juncture, a one point loss at home to South Florida is the only thing standing between Jefferson and exponentially increased national exposure. Nevada is supposedly a full team like any other, but Jefferson has been a one-man Wolf Pack in leading, yes, the Wolf Pack to a 6-1 record thus far. He leads the nation in both rushing attempts (219) and yards (1,140). Despite the fact that every team he faces knows exactly what is coming, he has still managed to post an impressive average of 5.2 yards per carry. This dude is rushing the ball like a boss. Just try to keep him out of New York if Nevada wins out. They round out the season with a home game against Boise State on December 1. Should be interesting, and hopefully those voting on the Heisman will be setting their DVRs.
Making a push: De’Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
The Black Mamba is the most breathtaking playmaker on the most spectacular playmaking team in the nation. His numbers aren’t quite where Heisman voters would like them to be quite yet, but once coach Chip Kelly decides to get Thomas a few more touches, that is bound to change.
He is currently averaging 9.2 yards every time he rushes the ball and another 10.3 every time he catches a pass. He has compiled nine touchdowns despite only having 61 offensive plays go his direction. The Heisman Trophy is intended to be awarded to the best player on the field in any given contest; every Saturday that Oregon suits up in yet another bizarre color scheme, that’s Thomas.
Making a push: Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
West Virginia’s Geno Smith might be the nation’s leader, having thrown 24 touchdown passes thus far, but who is nipping at his heels with 21? None other than the quarterback who vastly outplayed one of the nation’s Heisman favorites in Texas Tech’s 49-14 whoopin’ of the then-No. 5 Hilltoppers. Doege announced his presence to the nation with a 499 yard, six touchdown afternoon, but his opportunities to solidify a spot in New York lies ahead of him. Each of the Red Raiders’ next three games are against teams currently ranked in the nation’s Top 25, including a trip to current No. 4 Kansas State in two weeks. He'll need to be ready for the NYC spotlight immediately if he wants to make a trip to the Big Apple.
Making a push: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
If it were not for the fact that Manziel has come out of nowhere as a mere redshirt freshman to put up the insane numbers he has, ‘Johnny Football’ would surely find himself amongst the frontrunners for the Trophy.
He had already broken the Southeastern Conference record after he racked up 557 total yards in the Aggies’ whipping of poor ol’ Arkansas. What to do for an encore when you’re still years from legal drinking age? Why, break your own record, of course. His 576 yards in his team’s win over a Louisiana Tech team that was ranked for the first time in its program’s history was impressive to say the least.
Manziel and Co. still have LSU, Miss St. and Alabama on their schedule. Put up numbers against the big boys, and this young gunner might be enjoying a trip to Broadway.
Heading to NYC? Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Are you sick of hearing about every fashionable dual-threat quarterback to put up video game-esque numbers against some random sieve of a defense? Well, so are the numerous fans of the No. 5-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are giving up a stout 8.7 points per game, good for second in the nation, and Te’o is the heart and soul of that defensive unit. He has posted double-digit tackles in four of his team’s six wins. He only recorded eight against Michigan, but he made up for it with two interceptions of preseason Heisman darling Denard Robinson.
The push to get this Hawaiian monster into a tuxedo is on.
Heading to NYC? Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Not only will Collin be pulling his best Calvin Kelin impression in a few months’ time if he continues to lead his Wildcats to an undefeated season, but he might be the nation’s favorite should K-State beat West Virginia and Geno Smith on Saturday. Smith’s Heisman campaign has already lost quite a bit of luster, but someone will have to step up in order to overtake some of Geno’s massive numbers.
After rushing for three touchdowns against an underrated Iowa State program that was out for blood, Klein looks ready to take the leap.
Heading to NYC? Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
A number of pundits had originally written off Miller’s Heisman chances before the season had even begun. He was too young. He was learning a whole new offense. His team was not bowl eligible.
Well, first year head coach Urban Meyer’s wide open offense was seemingly tailor-made for Braxton, who has compiled 1,271 passing yards and 912 rushing yards already. He has accounted for 20 total touchdowns and only four picks. Not bad for a student-athlete who will have played the same 12 games as everyone else when the Trophy votes are counted.
Heading to NYC? AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
The power of the bow tie! AJ McCarron carries the best quarterback rating in the SEC at 171.9 and he is doing it obviously for the defending national champions and current No. 1-team in the country. He has only thrown 12 touchdown passes but, like Geno Smith, he has yet to throw an interception on the season. When all is said and done, McCarron has the potential to go down as the man who captained a dynasty.
Plus, wouldn’t it just be sweet to see him sporting an uber-classy bow tie at the Presentation Ceremony?
Leader (barely): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Before you get out your pitchforks, Mr. Fan-of-every-other-team-in-the-country, let’s all take a quick and very deep breath. Smith still has four more touchdown passes than anyone else in the nation, coupled with exactly zero interceptions on the season. Despite his squad’s embarrassing blowout loss at the hands of Texas Tech (more on that later), Smith’s quarterback rating still leads the nation at a stellar 180.8. The Mountaineers host No. 4 Kansas State on Saturday. Should the Wildcats’ own Heisman candidate, Collin Klein, outperform Mr. Smith, expect a heavy shakeup in next week’s rankings.
Information and statistics sourced from ESPN.com.
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