He is the front-runner in every serious media poll. He leads some by enormous margins.
By throwing for 300-plus yards and scoring seven touchdowns against former front-runner Geno Smith and West Virginia in front of a national TV audience, Klein took command of the race last week.
“Collin Klein has a pretty big lead,” said Fox Sports college football writer Cory McCartney, who served as the Heisman expert at Sports Illustrated until switching to his new gig. “He just dominated in a huge national spotlight game against the guy who had the lead. It is his to lose.”
The only question now is, what will it take for anyone to catch him?
Most experts have tabbed Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o as the current runner-up, with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege and Smith also being mentioned as candidates.
If K-State loses any of its remaining games, the race will certainly tighten up. But if the Wildcats stay undefeated, everyone else has considerable ground to make up, and over-the-moon stats to produce, if they want to win the award.
“I hate saying it, because there is a lot of football left to play, but it is going to take a lot for someone to catch him,” McCartney said. “I think K-State can suffer at least one loss and he can still win. The only thing that will lose him a little bit of his lead is if they lose and he performs badly.”
That’s what happened to Smith. He was the overwhelming favorite to win the award two weeks ago, but his stock fell when West Virginia lost to Texas Tech. He still maintained a slight lead at that point, but he practically fell out of the race after the way he played in another lopsided loss to K-State.
I’m not sure if he can make a serious push for the Heisman anymore. Te’o could if Notre Dame beats Oklahoma and USC and he leads the Fighting Irish in tackles in both games. But even then, he would probably need a K-State loss to help him out. Defensive players face an uphill battle in this award.
Charles Woodson accomplished the feat at Michigan, but he played some offense and was an electric punt returner. If Ndamukong Suh couldn’t win the Heisman in 2009, I don’t see Te’o doing it now, though I do see him making it to New York.
Chris Huston, of HeismanPundit.com, told me last week that he didn’t see a defensive player winning the Heisman this year. McCartney, who currently ranks Miller second and Smith third in his Heisman poll, agreed.
“Even though it’s Notre Dame and they are playing so well I don’t see people voting for a linebacker,” McCartney said.
Doege, Barkley and Barner seem like more realistic threats. Miller is also in the running, but Ohio State being on probation hurts. If Doege plays well on Saturday and Texas Tech beats K-State, he will obviously skyrocket up the Heisman race. Barkley has a big name and can re-enter the race if he plays well against Oregon and Notre Dame. Barner also has plenty of chances left to prove himself.
“There are some guys out west who can make some headway as the season progresses,” McCartney said. “Klein needs Oklahoma to continue to play well and West Virginia to rebound. If that happens, his performances are only going to look better.”
So far, they have him in the Heisman lead.
“This sort of reminds me of two years ago, when Cam Newton won,” McCartney said. “Denard Robinson seemed to be the guy early on and fell off the map. Then Cam came out of nowhere. It’s reminiscent of that from a national perspective with a guy putting his team on his shoulders. Collin is doing it the same way Newton and Tim Tebow did before him.”
MY HEISMAN RANKINGS
This will be my fourth straight year as a Heisman voter. Here is how I would vote today:
1. Collin Klein – 1,397 yards passing and 10 touchdowns, 551 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.
2. Braxton Miller – 1,384 yards passing and 11 touchdowns, 959 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.
3. Manti Te’o – 67 tackles, four interceptions