The Wildcats quarterback remains the frontrunner for the award after another stellar performance this past weekend, as he shredded a much-improved Texas Tech defense — a unit that stifled West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith a few weeks back.
Let’s take a look at how the NFP sizes up the race as we enter Week 10. And as the weeks continue to get shaved off of the season, this list will dwindle to a final five.
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: The dual-threat quarterback is no longer being overlooked after yet another dominant performance this past Saturday in his team’s 55-24 win over Texas Tech. A week after dismantling West Virginia’s defense, Klein navigated his way through a Red Raiders unit that was ranked No. 7 in the nation. The senior signal-caller had no problems moving the football, recording four touchdowns as the Wildcats once again put up at least 50 points — the fifth instance this fall. K-State is 8-0 and in the thick of the BCS race after Klein’s strong performance, which included 19-of-26 passing for 233 yards, 83 rushing yards and no interceptions. While Klein will never have the most gaudy passing statistics, he’s been more efficient through the air this fall. As I’ve stressed numerous times, no player is as important to his team as Klein is to Kansas State. Next up for the Wildcats is a home game against Oklahoma State.
2012: 117 of 165 passing for 1,630 yards, 12 TDs and 2 INTs; 120 rushes for 634 yards and 16 TDs
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: The signal-caller for the defending BCS national champion Crimson Tide keeps taking care of business and is starting to gain more traction as a serious candidate after being under the radar most of the year. The junior quarterback leads the nation in passing efficiency at 182.4 after another commanding win by Alabama, this time a 38-7 victory over previously undefeated Mississippi State. He led the Tide to touchdowns on their first three series and finished 16-of-23 passing for 208 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs. He has yet to throw an interception and is two passing touchdowns from Alabama’s single-season record. He will have a chance to continue to win over voters when the Tide travel to Baton Rouge this week to battle LSU.
2012: 122 of 177 passing for 1,684 yards, 18 TDs and 0 INTs
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: The leader of the dominant Fighting Irish defense had his fourth consecutive game with double-digit tackles in the team’s 30-13 win over Oklahoma in Norman. It was yet another studly performance on a big stage, which is always an important feat in a Heisman race. In addition to his 11 tackles, he notched his first sack of the fall and added a fourth-quarter interception of Landry Jones to snuff out any hopes of an OU comeback. The senior helped the Fighting Irish shut down a Sooners offense that was averaging nearly 45 points per game. He is playing better than any defender in America — Georgia’s Jarvis Jones could be the lone exception, but he’s been banged-up this year — and he has had standout games in primetime contests against Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma. He’s a true difference-maker who is strong against the run and pass, and a primetime game with USC to close the regular season will give Te’o a chance to make a strong final statement. His trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony is almost surely set in stone.
2012: 80 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, five interceptions, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: The dual-threat signal-caller showed no signs of being woozy a week after getting knocked out of a come-from-behind win over Purdue. The sophomore completed just 7-of-19 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 35-23 win over Penn State, but he also rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in the game — his sixth 100-yard rushing effort of the season. And his athletic one-yard touchdown dive in the third quarter was a highlight that will be replayed throughout the rest of the 2012 campaign. Miller has been banged-up throughout the fall, but he has shown his toughness throughout and has been the perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s spread scheme. He has been a one-man show at times for an offense that is still searching for complementary playmakers, and he will remain in the race as long as OSU continues to win. What does Miller have in store for a shaky Illinois defense this week?
2012: 112 of 198 passing for 1,527 yards, 12 TDs and 6 INTs; 166 rushes for 1,093 yards and 12 TDs
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: The Mountaineers signal-caller had this past week off and will play TCU in Morgantown this Saturday. A week after struggling in a loss to Texas Tech, Smith played an even worse game his last time out in a loss to Kansas State. He saw his streak of consecutive passes without an interception snapped at 273 when Arthur Brown had the first of Smith's two picks on the evening. But the WVU quarterback remains in this race because of his ridiculous start to the season. However, he’ll have to have strong efforts against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, which boast solid pass defenses. And I just don’t see this Mountaineers defense improving enough to stop some of the difficult teams left on the schedule, which will likely result in a few more Mountaineer losses. And that will hurt Smith's cause.
2012: 216 of 291 passing for 2,414 yards, 26 TDs and 2 INTs
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon: Taking over for LaMichael James as the lead running back in Eugene, Barner has had three games of three scores on the ground and three contests of at least 140 rushing yards. He rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 70-14 rout of Colorado this past week as most of Oregon’s offensive starters were pulled by the midway point of the second quarter. He has some big games left to remain in the national spotlight for the undefeated Ducks.
EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State: The Seminole threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns on just eight completions in a 48-7 win over Duke, keeping alive FSU's slim BCS title game hopes. Manuel may be hurt by the fact that the Seminoles suffered a meltdown in Raleigh three weeks ago, but he had a standout game in the showcase contest against Clemson earlier in the year and remains in the mix.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
De’Anthony Thomas, ATH, Oregon
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
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BEFORE YOU GO
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.