The Race to the Heisman feature on this site is not an official prediction on which player should win the award, but rather my personal opinion on how the rankings break down from week to week. Follow me on Twitter.
1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Collin Klein took the lead for the Heisman trophy when he lead underdog Kansas State over Oklahoma in Norman. It might have looked like he cemented his campaign with his back-to-back thumpings over West Virginia and Texas Tech, but Klein isn’t in the clear just yet. For now, Klein’s above-average passing numbers combined with his outstandingly efficient rushing totals make him the favorite.
Key win(s): At Oklahoma, At West Virginia, vs. Texas Tech
Path to win: Klein’s Heisman campaign is not completely predicated on Kansas State running the table, but a loss would be crippling. Klein must perform at his highest level against Oklahoma State when his Wildcats are on national TV. Even if everything goes right for Collin Klein, he could still be passed, but it would take a historic effort.
2. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
I really like Manti Te’o's chances for two key reasons. First of all, the Heisman voters have to love that Notre Dame is back. Second of all, I believe there has been a desire to crown a defensive-only player with the Heisman Trophy. While Charles Woodson was primarily a defender, he was greatly benefited by his work on offense and special teams.
Key win(s): vs. Stanford, At Oklahoma
Path to win: Unlike Klein, Te’o's campaign is completely dependent on Notre Dame staying undefeated. Te’o must make buzz plays when Notre Dame ends it’s season on the road against USC. Their high-profile opponents need to look strong down the stretch. (Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, and Oklahoma) Also, Te’o will need Collin Klein to take a loss and either Oregon to take a loss or Kenjon Barner to perform poorly in his final four games.
3. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Although he seems to get less national press than teammate DeAnthony Thomas, Barner is quietly right in the thick of things for the Heisman trophy. On perhaps the country’s best offense, Barner is the keys to the engine. However, because Oregon’s three toughest games of the year still remain, doubt remains about Oregon. Barner could steal the spotlight away from Klein and Te’o with strong performances against USC, Stanford, and Oregon State.
Key win(s): At Arizona State
Path to win: Although he ranks third right now, Kenjon Barner is in the driver’s seat. If he can help his team win out and continue to put up statistics at the pace he is right now, Barner will be hard to beat. Barner also has the advantage of having the most high-profile games in the home-stretch.
4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
It’s impossible to argue with success. I didn’t think Ohio State had a chance to run the table, but the Big Ten is worse than I thought, and none of the teams on their schedule can take advantage of their lackluster defense. Miller is racking up the yards on the ground and projects to finish with a Touchdown to turnover ratio of over +30.
Key win(s): At Nebraska, vs. Michigan State
Path to win: There is absolutely no way Braxton Miller could win the Heisman Trophy. If every undefeated team takes a loss, which has to be step one on the Miller can win if hypothetical, the trophy would revert to statistical marvels, a race Miller can’t win either. Although it may not seem fair, Ohio State’s post-season suspension definitively prohibits Miller from winning the award.
5. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
If Marqise Lee’s statistics keep pace, his sophomore season will rival Larry Fitzgerald’s historic sophomore season at Pittsburgh. If he can keep pace with Oregon and Notre Dame still on the schedule, his chances will skyrocket. However, USC has underachieved, and that puts a big damper on his chances.
Key win(s): None
Path to win: Lee needs to perform against Oregon and Notre Dame, and his team needs to win both games. If he can lead his team past those two, I don’t think he would need a Klein loss to move ahead, but he would need Klein to look vulnerable.
6. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
7. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
8. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
9. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
10. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina