The conversation continues
The 2012 college football regular season had come to an end for the majority of the teams around the country.
However, the conversation regarding who is in and who is out of the Heisman Trophy race has really just begun. By now, most fans have seen him play and have heard the ridiculous numbers redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel has put together in his first season at Texas A&M.
With Championship Week upon us, there are plenty of elder statesmen that can earn an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City with a dominant performance on the national stage.
Who has fallen by the wayside, who has dominated, and who has found themselves back in the game after faltering earlier in the season?
There's only one way to find out.
Disappeared: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Before the torches and pitchforks are drawn upon this humble writer, understand that this reading on Lee's Heisman chances is in no way related to hist ability on the football field. Rather, it is exactly what it is: A realistic take on Lee's Heisman chances.
Has Lee broken records? A 345-yard receiving game can attest to that. However, has Lee carried his team to the level of the elite? Unfortunately, no. While one can point to the fact that he is not a quarterback -- well, that is exactly why quarterbacks and running backs are most likely to win the Trophy in the first place. They can more easily will a team to greatness.
Despite all of Lee's ability and the fact that he will be considered for the Trophy in the future, he had a first-time starter throwing to him in the Trojan's 22-13 loss to Notre Dame, and it showed. Five receptions for 75 yards may seem like a lot (especially against the nation's No. 1 defense), but Lee's Heisman hopes will have to be shelved for at least a little longer.
Disappeared: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
This time last week, Tallahassee's fifth-year senior was the talk of the town.
Just ask Oregon and Kansas State how quickly things can change in the world of college football.
Manuel may have found himself ready for his suit measurements had he been able to lead his team to a victory over No. 4 Florida at home. As has been the situation throughout his career, Manuel's numbers and record will now be seen more as a product of a soft schedule than anything he was able to do in terms of elite level of play.
In his five games played prior to the Sunshine State Showdown, all wins, Manuel tossed 11 touchdowns compared to a mere four interceptions. Against the stout SEC defense of Florida?
You guessed it: Only one touchdown pass compared to three interceptions.
The only way this dude makes it to New York now is if the Jets or Giants take a chance on him in the NFL Draft.
Harsh? Yup, but the love is not nearly as tough as that laid down by Gators safety Matt Elam and Co.
Disappeared: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
We very easily could have lumped Boyd and Manuel onto the same slide.
After feasting on an ACC conference schedule as weak or weaker than that of the Big East (and yes, that is intended as an insult against both conferences; this ain't basketball season), Boyd and his Tigers hosted an in-state SEC rival and got shown what the meaning of a 'stout defense' really is.
In his previous five wins, Manuel had thrown the aforementioned 11 scores and four picks. Boyd had absolutely blown up. In Clemson's five previous wins, Boyd had thrown for 19 touchdowns and run for six more while tossing six picks.
Against hated rival South Carolina? One touchdown each, rushing and passing, and two interceptions, while only completing 45-percent of his passes. He was also sacked by all-world DE Jadeveon Clowney 4.5 times.
This junior gets another shot at South Carolina and personal glory next year, should he decide to stick around campus.
Back in the game: De'Anthony Thomas & Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
What happens when you dominate a highly ranked and deeply hated rival? The opposite of what happens when you are either EJ Manuel or Tajh Boyd, that's what.
De'Anthony Thomas is known around the woods of the Pacific Northwest as the Black Mamba, and he finally inflicted the poisonous bite fans have seemingly been waiting for all season long in rushing for 122 yards on 17 carries. It was only his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, but he has now accumulated 1,071 yards on the year and has his team poised for a BCS at-large bid.
Barner also broke out in a big way after struggling for the better part of a month, rushing for 198 yards on a solid 28 carries. Barner had only rushed for 66 and 65 yards, respectively, in the two games after blowing up for 321 against USC.
With his effort and that of his partner in crime, Thomas, both are back in the game for the time being.
Back in the Game: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
Talk about redemption.
What better way to make up for the only two interceptions McCarron has thrown all season in the team's only loss of the season (at home against Trophy darling Johnny Football, no less) than by being his usual uber-efficient self in leading his Tide over Georgia in the SEC Championship game?
After tumbling down the Heisman watch list following the disheartening loss, McCarron has picked himself and his team back up. He currently boasts the No. 2 passer rating in the nation at 176.3, having thrown for 2,507 yards and a career-high 25 scores already.
Did we mention that he has the chance to be the leader of the nation's first back-to-back BCS National Champions since Nebraska in 1994-'95? Yes, that win over Georgia would go a long way towards putting McCarron on the long plane ride from Tuscaloosa to New York.
Making a push: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Franklin faltered, as did his entire team, in the Bruins' 35-17 loss to Stanford on Saturday. However, it is the belief of this prognosticator that his coach, Jim Mora, was willing to throw the regular season finale away for two reasons: UCLA was guaranteed a birth in the Pac-12 championship before kickoff, and they would be facing Stanford twice in a six day span.
If the school's career rushing yards leader, with 4,175 for his career, can play big in the team's biggest game in over a decade, his squad will be headed to the "Grandaddy of 'em all."
It will be the Bruins' first Rowl Bowl birth since 1999, and it just might be enough to push Franklin over the top and into the ranks of Heisman finalists.
Making a (massive) push: Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
Lynch and his Huskies have headlined what has been a banner year for the Mid-American Conference. NIU has won 11 straight games since losing a heartbreaker to Iowa in Week 1, 18-17. Lynch's numbers are comparable to those of Kansas State's Collin Klein and Manziel (more on those two super-stallions later), but what is really going to push him over the top or dump him into a New York City drainpipe is going to be the MAC Championship game against fellow 11-1 Kent State.
Both programs have an outside chance at earning a BCS Bowl birth with the win, and if Lynch can build upon his 2,750 pass yards and 1,611 rush yards (fourth in the nation, mind you) there is a very real chance that this BCS-buster could also ruin a big-timer's dream of taking the trip to the Big Apple.
Heading to NYC? Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to introduce the very first player in the proud history of the Southeastern Conference to throw for more than 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons: Mr. Aaron Murray.
While that does not exactly have the same ring to it as, say, 'Heisman Trophy winner,' for now it will have to do.
Of course, that all could change with a win over Alabama in the SEC Championship game, which would result in a meeting with Notre Dame for the chance to win the program's first national title since 1980.
While many folks around the country believe Murray's candidacy hinges on the title game (an argument not without merit, of course) his numbers -- 177.1 quarterback rating leads the nation, and he has tossed 30 touchdown passes compared to only seven interceptions -- merit Trophy consideration in their own right.
Heading to NYC? Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Following he and his team's dramatic fall from grace, suffering a blowout loss at the hands of Baylor, Klein and his Wildcats had the week off to lick their wounds.
While the Wildcats' one loss on the year was of course both ugly and seen by millions (not generally a good combination), Klein has still led K-State to 10 wins and to the verge of a BCS bowl berth.
He is the heart and soul of that football team. Of course, more than 3,000 combined rushing and passing yards and 34 total touchdowns don't hurt his case either.
He and his teammates close out their regular season as they play host to Texas on Saturday, giving Klein one more opportunity to shine brightly against a good 2012 team and a massively historical football program.
Should he dominate as expected, we can expect to see the King of the Little Apple in a tailored suit in the Big Apple come Dec. 8.
Heading to NYC? Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Miller has been in the conversation for the Trophy all season long, entirely due to the fact that he has carried his unheralded Buckeyes. On his back. All season long.
Without much by way of a receiving corps or capable running backs, Miller did it all himself, showing toughness and poise en route to a perfect 12-0 finish rarely seen by a sophomore. He and his coach, the bane of Gainesville, Florida, Urban Meyer, will not get a shot at the likes of Notre Dame, Alabama or Georgia due to postseason sanctions, but they won their biggest game of the season.
Blame former players for selling memorabilia for tattoos. Blame the NCAA for punishing student-athletes that had nothing to do with the situation, or a coach in Jim Tressel that covered up the issues more clumsily that OJ Simpson might have.
It does not matter to Miller, who put up 189 passing yards and added 57 more on the ground against a solid Michigan defense, despite the fact that everyone in the stadium knew he was going to have his number called.
Miller played big in what was his most important game, as well as all season long. That is all the Trophy committee should ask for.
Heading to NYC? Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Rejoice, not only nationwide lovers of the Fighting Irish, but also those who love seeing defense dominate in the old-school manner that games used to be played.
Not even USC coach Lane Kiffin and all of his offensive weaponry stood a chance against the nation's premier player on the nation's premier team. Notre Dame closed out the season as the nation's lone bowl-eligible undefeated team by taking down one of their most storied rivals, 22-13. The game saw Te'o collect his seventh interception of the season.
Even the most casual college football fan understands that Notre Dame has a long and storied history. What most do not know is that no linebacker in that long and storied history has ever accumulated as many interceptions as has Te'o in 2012.
With his five tackles on the evening, Te'o surpassed the 100-tackle plateau for the third season, perhaps surprising the nation in leading the Irish to the BCS National Championship game in the process.
It's time: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
No freshman in the history of college football has ever won the Heisman Trophy.
Now, with the emergence of a superstar in College Station, Texas, that streak must come to an end.
Johnny Manziel, who will be just a shade over 20 years old at the time of the Trophy ceremony, would become the second youngest player to ever win the award (Mark Ingram of Alabama was younger at the time than Manziel will be should he hoist the Trophy).
Tim Tebow became the first sophomore in the award's revered history to be named the winner, and Johnny Football has blown Tebow's numbers out of the water. With 3,419 pass yards and another 1,181 on the ground, Manziel's 4,600 total yards broke the SEC record.
In 2007, Tebow's total of 4,181 was good enough for the nation's most coveted individual prize.
Manziel, allowed to speak to the media for the first time recently, called his Heisman-caliber season "surreal".
Voters may find themselves feeling the same way as they cast their ballots for a freshman for the first time in history.
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