Manti Te’o, Senior LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: Six tackles
Season: 96 tackles and six interceptions
Te’o and Notre Dame needed help and they got it. Stanford and Baylor both won to put Notre Dame atop the rankings and in position for the national championship. The win also puts Te’o on the No. 1 team in the country. He is a sure bet as an All-American candidate and will be carrying the banner of the defense into New York for the Heisman ceremony. The only thing that is working against him at this point is USC. The Trojans have had nowhere near the kind of season they expected and are now looking th Holiday Bowl right in the face. Losing to Notre Dame would be its second loss to the Irish in three years. Those two programs are going in different directions: USC is falling apart at the seams while Notre Dame is making its long-awaited return to national prominence. Its return is being led by Te’o, which gives him as good a chance at taking the award as any defensive player in the past few years.
Johnny Manziel, Freshman QB, Texas A&M
Last Week: 14-for-20 (70 percent) for 267 yards three TDs and one interception. 16 rushes for 100 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and two TDs
Season: 241-for-356 (67.7 percent) for 3047 yards 21 TDs and seven interceptions. 172 rushes for 1114 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 17 TDs
Manziel has skyrocketed onto the Heisman scene with his performance agaisnt Alabama. Two weeks ago the freshman completed 77 percent of his passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 92 yards. He is now among the leaders for the Heisman, with Kansas State and Oregon losing Saturday. Manziel’s loss to Florida and ugly performance against LSU aren’t being mentioned in the wake of his stellar game against Alabama. Although, without a confernece championship game, he will be sitting at home on the last week of the season while others are still playing high profile games.
Collin Klein, Senior QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 27-for-50 (54 percent) for 286 yards two TDs and three interceptions. 17 rushes for 39 yards
Season: 172-for-258 (66 percent) for 2306 yards 14 TDs and six interceptions. 171 rushes for 787 yards and 20 TDs
Baylor crushed Kansas State’s dream of a national championship and put a major dent in Klein’s Heisman campaign. Klein, who threw three interceptions against the Bears, could still be in the lead for the Heisman, but it is razor-thin. He looked great early, but it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world and he has to produce. The senior has a week off to prepare for the season finale against Texas in what has become a major game. A loss will cost Kansas State the conference title and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game. Texas’ defense has been playing better of late and will also have extra days to prepare. Beat Texas and look good doing it, and the Heisman likely goes to Klein. Lose, and he has to watch it slip away along with so many other things from this season.
Braxton Miller, Sophomore QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 10-for-18 (56 percent) for 97 yards. 23 rushes for 48 yards (2.1 yards per carry)
Season: 134-for-236 (57 percent) for 1850 yards 14 TDs and six intercpetions. 207 rushes for 1214 yards (5.9 ayrds per carry) and 13 TDs
Miller was caught in a defensive slugfest against Wisconsin and was not able to put up very impressive numbers. Despite that, Ohio State was able to come away with another close win. This was Ohio State’s sixth game decided by a single posession and second overtime win in the past four games. Miller’s lines at times aren’t impressive, but he is one of the primary reasons for Ohio State’s perfect record this season, and has been very explosive and dangerous at times. Even with Ohio State out of the spotlight completely due to the NCAA probation, people will always pay attention when Ohio State plays. People will pay extra attention Saturday when the Buckeyes play arch-rival Michigan. Miller needs to put on a show.
Kenjon Barner, Senior RB, Oregon
Last Week: 21 rushes for 66 yards (3 yards per carry)
Season: 220 rushes for 1426 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 19 TDs
Since running for 321 yards against USC, Barner has been held in check rushing for 131 yards in his past two games combined. With Oregon’s loss to Stanford, it no longer controls its own destiny in the Pac-12, either. Stanford has to lose to UCLA in order for Oregon to have a chance. Meanwhile, the Ducks still have to take care of business against a nasty Oregon State team that has surprised a lot of people this season. Barner has gotten it done in other games this season and still has a chance at possibly two games if Stanford goes down. He is now the one that needs help in order to land college football biggest prize. If he can explode for a big game against Oregon State, then he has a chance. He is still one of the most explosive players in the country, but he has to find a way to break loose for some big plays. He’s shown that he can do it, now he just has to execute.