The Heisman picture is starting to take shape
Each and every week of the college football season is life-or-death for programs and players hoping to make their mark on a game that has been crafted and nurtured into the bundle of tradition, action and even heartbreak that we love today.
Without a playoff system in place (yet) players and coaches cannot blink. They must be on their toes at all times; coaches must be studying film, players hitting the weight room, receivers and quarterbacks working on timing routes and defensive stars must be exploding off the ball all the time if they hope to reach the pinnacle of the college football world. Should the best of the best let down for even a moment, another member of the elite will step up to take his place.
Someone else will shove their way to the top.
With yet another week in the books in the marathon that is the college football season, a few members of that special class of student-athletes continued to rise to the occasion. A few more fell by the wayside, blinded by the bright lights of national scrutiny.
Did your favorite players live up to the challenge? Will they compete for the nation's most coveted award for another week?
Read on, Gamedayr(s).
Disappeared: Beau Blankenship, RB, Ohio
Whatever chances Blankenship had at the nation’s headlining Trophy evaporated, as quickly as they had come into form, this past weekend. His previously unbeaten Bobcats team blew it big time against Miami of Ohio. After breaking the 100-yard plateau in six of his team’s seven games (including a 269-yard breakout at Massachusetts), Mr. Blankenship averaged 4.6 yards per attempt en route to a season-low 74 yards in the 23-20 loss.
Goodbye top 25 ranking, goodbye perfect season, and goodbye long-shot Heisman hopes.
Disappeared: Ladarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
Mr. Perkins was the face of the Bulldogs’ resurgent, and 7-0, 2012 season. That tends to happen when not only you are the team’s starting running back, but you lead the nation’s best conference with an average of 103. 4 rushing yards per game.
Of course, Perkins was also the face of the team’s swift fall from grace on Saturday when the team’s premier weapon only managed to eke out 38 yards on 15 carries in a 38-7 blowout loss at No. 1 Alabama. After climbing all the way to No. 11 in the BCS Polls, the entire nation saw him and his teammates get beat down.
“No soup – I meant Heisman Trophy – for you!”
Disappeared: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Ball is the only player in college football this season to have been named a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011. After opening the 2012 slowly and battling post-concussion symptoms, Ball had finally started to "ball out" as of late. After going off for 116, 247 and 166 yards in his three previous games, respectively, both he and his Badgers had muscled themselves back into the national conversation.
However, you cannot average 2.1 yards per carry for 46 yards at home against a Michigan State team that entered the contest with a 1-3 record in a subpar Big Ten conference.
For shame, Mr. Ball, for shame.
Disappeared: Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada
This dude continues to pile up spectacular numbers rushing the football, but he cannot carry an entire team over the hump himself.
Despite leading the nation with 1,341 yards on the ground (the next closest running back is far behind with 1,185 yards), it has become painfully obvious that Nevada is a one man Wolf Pack. His Wolf Pack team had to go undefeated for him to have a chance at the hardware, and with two losses in the last two weeks, that is not going to happen.
Jefferson might be doing his best Heisman impersonation on the field, but that is as far as it is going to go.
Slipping: Matt Barkely, QB, Southern Cal
Rarely do preseason Heisman favorites throw for 493 yards in a single game and slip in both the current Trophy Watch and as a team.
However, after Arizona’s Matt Scott went off for 469 total yards himself and helped lead his Wildcats back from a 15-point, third quarter deficit to beat Barkely’s Trojans, 39-36, that is precisely what has happened. Heisman winners lead their teams to victory no matter what. The numbers were spectacular, but the ‘W’ just was not there.
Bummer, beach boy, major bummer.
Slipping: Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
Doege still has the numbers (2,540 passing yards with a whopping 30 touchdowns) and the schedule (vs. Texas, at Oklahoma State and vs. Baylor) to make a run at the Trophy, but after being totally outclassed by Big 12 and Heisman rival Collin Klein on Saturday, the journey to New York City's awards ceremony just got quite a bit more precarious.
The gunslinger entered Saturday's highly anticipated road game at Kansas State having thrown 13 touchdown passes in his previous two games, a home blowout of then-No. 5 West Virginia and an onvertime victory on the road at then-No. 23 TCU.
However, Seth obviously ran out of bullets after the first half of this one.
After going into the locker room at halftime down only 13-10, Klein and the Wildcats outscored the Red Raiders a lot to a little the rest of the way.
Heisman winners find a way to make adjustments after halftime, not allow their team to get stomped.
As mentioned earlier, Doege will have the opportunities to jam himself back into the conversation, but it is going to be a long way from Lubbock to NYC.
Dark Horse Candidate: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Take what’s yours Damontre!
Very rarely are defensive players even awarded consideration for the nation’s most prestigious award, but as monstrous as Damontre has been this season, at the very least the Aggies’ superstar defensive end merits dark horse consideration.
His 10.5 sacks on the year are one behind the national leaders, and he is doing it in the punishing SEC, not the Mid-American Conference where Bowling Green’s Chris Jones has racked up 11.5 on the season (although any Florida Gators fan will tell you that the Falcons are no pushover).
Very important in the consideration for the award is whether or not a player can rise to the occasion.
Moore was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week following his 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack performance against LSU and its legion of NFL-ready offensive linemen.
This man has risen to the occasion in his program’s first SEC season.
Dark Horse Candidate: Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal
His quarterback, Matt Barkley, may have gotten all the pub before the season, but it has been Lee that has grabbed nearly every pass thrown his way in nabbing all the headlines from his signal-caller. In his team’s devastating loss to Arizona, both he and Barkely turned in larger-than-life performances, but it was Lee’s that really stood out.
With every single person in the building knowing exactly where Barkley intended to throw the football, not a single player on the Wildcats could do anything to stop the inevitable. By the time the final whistle had blown, Lee had smashed the Pac-12 receiving record after hauling in 16 passes for a video game-esque 345 yards and two scores.
It was the fifth-most receiving yards in the history of college football. With all apologies to Matt Barkley, who did throw two interceptions and nearly several others, Lee’s numbers warrant serious accolades.
PS – We didn’t even mention Lee’s return yards, which gave him a grand total of 469 all-purpose yards on the day.
Have yourself a day!
Making a push: De’Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
After struggling to a mere 25 rushing yards on 12 carries in the Ducks’ win at Arizona State, the lightening-fast Thomas did what he did best against Colorado on Saturday.
What exactly do we mean by that?
Try a 19.4-yard per carry effort, resulting in 97 rushing yards on a mere five carries.
The dude doesn’t touch the ball very often, but when he does he makes mad-crazy plays.
Tell your friends: De’Anthony Thomas is one of the most interesting players in the college football world.
Making a push: EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
After building up a 16-0 lead at halftime against North Carolina State, Manuel and the ‘Noles saw their BCS National Championship hopes dashed after allowing the Wolfpack to come back for a 17-16 win in front of the State faithful.
Since, Manuel and Co. have taken out their frustrations on the rest of the ACC, pounding Boston College, Miami, and even a bowl-eligible Duke program.
With the NC State game looking more and more like an anomaly, Manuel has moved up to third in the nation in quarterback rating, boasting a 174 mark, only 1.5 points behind Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein.
Stay tuned, ‘Noles fans, perhaps this team and this quarterback won’t break your heart.
Making a push: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel, just a redshirt freshman, stumbled badly against a rough and tough LSU squad out for blood against him and his Aggies.
Did you think Johnny Football had forgotten how to do work?
Manziel recovered in a big way on the road against Auburn, however, tossing for 260 yards and two scores while rushing for 90 yards – on only ten carries – and adding three more touchdowns on the ground.
This young gunslinger is now averaging 376.13 yards of total offense, good for third in the entire nation.
Again, although we hate to show this type of bias we’re going to just go ahead and say it: He is doing it against a slew of the best defenses in the nation in the SEC.
Headed to NYC? AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
After busting out massive yardage totals against Tennessee, setting a career-high with 306 passing yards and four touchdowns, McCarron was back to his usual, mistake-free self against previously unbeaten Mississippi State on Saturday.
The leader of the nation's No. 1-ranked team completed 16-of-23 passes for 208 yards, two more touchdowns, and zero interceptions (for the eighth straight week). In the process, McCarron remained the nation’s leader in quarterback rating, boasting a mega-studly 182.4 mark.
The slow, steady march of the Red Elephants continued with a 38-7 blowout of previously unbeaten, No. 11 Mississippi State, and its quarterback continues to lead the way.
Headed to NYC? Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Miller is the epitome of what first year coach Urban Meyer looks for in a starting quarterback (with all due respect to Mr. Tim Tebow of course). Not only does young Braxton – he is only a true sophomore after all – throw and run the ball at an elite level, but he has shown the type of toughness that wins championships.
As much as Florida fans may despise Meyer for the way he handled his departure from Florida, one must admit that the man does win, and win big.
After sustaining a neck injury so severe that it sent him to the hospital, Miller turned around and dominated a Penn State team with one of the strongest linebacker units in the country. He threw for 143 yards and a score and rushed for another 134 and two more touchdowns. His rushing yardage moved him up to No. 5 in the entire nation (including running backs) with 1,093 rush yards on the year and, more importantly, moved the Buckeyes closer to an undefeated season with a 9-0 record thus far.
Headed to NYC? Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Kenjon Barner aka the Oregon Barn-burner.
Forgive us for the relatively simple nickname, but this dude can really move. After starting the year off relatively slowly, Barner’s last four rushing totals are as follows: 195, 122, 143 and 104. Ready for this? His total carries in each of his four contests read thusly: 20, 20, 16 and nine.
Last weekend, Barner averaged 11.6 yards per carry in his team’s 70-14 smothering of Colorado.
He is now averaging 6.9 yards per rush on the season and is not showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, the only things keeping Barner from putting up otherworldly numbers are a teammate who is also making a run at the Heisman in De’Anthony Thomas, as well as a coach who does not hesitate to sit his stars at the first signs of a blowout in Chip Kelly.
Seriously, Coach, can we get some garbage-time scores for these guys or what?
Headed to NYC? Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Manti Te’o, the heart, soul and biceps of one of the nation’s most muscular defensive units, shined brightest when it mattered most in the biggest game of the weekend.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had complied a 79-4 record at home in his long tenure with the Sooners, and despite the Irish’s No. 5 BCS ranking coming into the game, OU was listed as a favorites by Vegas oddsmakers.
More to the point, Te’o’s defense was supposed to be tested by an offensive unit that had put up point totals of 41, 63 and 52 in its previous three contests, respectively.
The Hawaiian could not have cared less about any of that, sealing the 30-13 dominating victory with a fourth-quarter interception of Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
The pick put him at No. 2 in the nation in that category with five, and his 11 tackles put him at double-digits in that category for the sixth time in his team’s eight games. He has reached at least 10 in each of Notre Dame’s last four games.
This man is a superstar, and it is nearly time to give such a defensive presence his due.
Leader: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Another week, another dominating performance against a one-time Heisman hopeful.
After vastly outperforming Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and West Virginia’s Geno Smith (you will notice that neither of these two record-setting signal callers appear on this list) Texas Tech’s Seth Doege rolled into Manhattan, Kansas with his Red Raiders bunch having tossed 13 touchdown passes in his previous two games. Then Doege got a lesson in what it takes to sustain an elite level of play over an entire season.
In the Wildcats’ 55-14 win over West Virginia, Klein accounted for a career-high seven touchdown passes (three passing, four more rushing). Just one week later, Klein tossed two more and rushed for two more en route to a 55-24 beating of Doege and Co.; his passer rating of 175.5 ranks second in the nation and he has accounted for a whopping 28 touchdowns on the season.
Most importantly, K-State is currently sitting pretty at 8-0 and is primed to make a run at the BCS National Championship Game.
Information and statistics sourced from ESPN.com.
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