Geno Smith - Senior QB, West Virginia
Last Week: 30-43 (69.8 percent) for 338 yards and three passing TDs.
Season: 96-118 (81.4 percent) for 1,072 yards and 12 TDs.
The Mountaineers’ signal caller is the leader of one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Smith’s profile has a chance to skyrocket over the next few weeks as West Virginia faces Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State. West Virginia is near the bottom of the Big 12 in total defense, so for the Mountaineers to win the conference, it will be relying on Smith and the offense to carry the load.. Baylor brings one of the most high octane offenses in the nation into Morgantown, and if West Virginia is going to stay unbeaten Smith will need to be on top of his game. With both defenses near the bottom of the Big 12, Smith will have a golden opportunity to put up monster numbers and cement his place atop the Heisman race. Smith’s biggest opposition could come from his own team if Tavon Austin erupts.
E.J. Manuel - Senior QB, Florida State
Last Week: - 27-35 (77.1 percent) for 380 yards and two passing TDs.
Season: - 69-94 (73.4 percent) for 905 yards, eight TDs and one interception.
The victory over Clemson at home was the Seminoles’ first marquee win of the season, and could be the last one. The ACC is not a strong conference this season. Outside of Florida State and Clemson, there is not another ranked team in the conference. Virginia Tech can still be dangerous, and the Seminoles have a road game against Virginia Tech in November, but that is about all the ACC has to offer. Florida State needs for Florida to continue to get better and provide another marquee game — and, for Manuel, a stage — at the end of the season. Manuel is the most dynamic player Florida State has had in years and his play has been key for the Seminoles being relevant again on the national stage.
Colin Klein - Senior QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 13-21 (61.9 percent) for 149 yards. 17 rushes for 79 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and one TD.
Season: 56-80 (70 percent) for 758 yards for five TDs and two interceptions, 63 rushes for 289 yards(4.6 yards per carry) and five TDs.
Kansas State’s trip to Norman did more than lift the veil on a Sooners team that is filled with holes; it proved that the Wildcats are not a one-hit wonder. There is not a more disciplined and technically sound team in the country than the Wildcats, not surprising for a team coached by Bill Snyder. The other signature trait of Snyder’s teams is that they are tough, and there may not be a tougher player in the nation than the man some call “Optimus Klein.” If Kansas State wins in Morgantown in a few weeks similarly to how it won in Norman, then expect Klein to stick around on this list for a long time.
Matt Barkley - Senior QB, USC
Last Week: 22-34 (64.7 percent) for 192 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.
Season: 88-143 (61.5 percent) for 1,005 yards, 12 TDs and five interceptions.
Barkley’s Heisman chances may have taken a shot, but they are not dead just yet. He is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country and USC can still make its way back into the National Championship chase, but it has some work to do. With only two games left against opponents currently ranked, the Trojans need to make sure they run the table in order to keep Barkley in contention. The strength of the Trojans’ schedule is at the end, with Oregon and Notre Dame both making trips to the Coliseum in November. Matchups against dangerous UCLA and Arizona State squads also highlight USC’s November schedule. Barkley will need to put up stellar numbers if he wants to climb the Heisman ladder, otherwise he is going to passed up by other players as their teams eye national titles.
Aaron Murray - Junior QB, Georgia
Last Week: 18-24 (75 percent) for 250 yards and two TDs.
Season: 69-104 (66 percent) for 1092 yards, 10 TDs and two interceptions.
With Arkansas falling apart at the seams, Murray has dethroned Tyler Wilson as the top passer in the SEC. Murray’s stats are solid, but he has yet to play any elite competition. That should change as the Bulldogs get deeper into their SEC schedule. He will have a showdown against Tennessee’s Tyler Bray this weekend in what should mark the start of his Heisman campaign. The Dawgs’ schedule really heats up in two weeks when they head to Columbia to play South Carolina in a game that could decide the SEC East. Three weeks later, Georgia will host a tough and resurgent Florida team. If Georgia navigates its schedule, and gets past either LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game, Murray has a chance to take over the top spot in the Heisman race.
A.J. McCarron - Junior QB, Alabama
Last Week: 15-25 (60 percent) for 212 yards and three TDs.
Season: 51-81 (63 percent) for 819 yards and 10 TDs.
The Crimson Tide is almost the unanimous choice for the top team in the country. Although most of the attention will fall on its defense, when it faces LSU, it will be up to McCarron to guide the Alabama offense to victory. Without Trent Richardson in the backfield, McCarron takes on a larger role in the offense, and he will have to show that he can take full control of the offense as defenses stack the box to stop the run. Traditionally, the quarterback on the nation’s top ranked team has a guaranteed spot in the Heisman race. While Alabama doesn’t necessarily conform to that trend, McCarron will be in the spotlight a lot as the season goes on and he belongs on this list until the Crimson Tide stumble.