2012 Heisman Horse Race, Week 10: September doesn't really matter, does it?

US PRESSWIRE

Kenjon Barner goes crazy in the Coliseum and threatens to join the current Klein-Lee-Manziel hierarchy.

As you can see at the bottom of this post, here is the current Heisman Horse Race Top 5:

1. Marqise Lee, USC (26 points)
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia (26 points)
3. Collin Klein, Kansas State (22 points)
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (22 points)
5. Jarvis Jones, Georgia (19 points)

Honestly, that jibes rather well with what would probably be my own top 5 list. The exception, of course: Geno Smith's presence. In deciding to adopt the Horse Race format for this season's Heisman columns, I somewhat neglected the possibility of a player dominating national consciousness this season, building a big lead in the Heisman race, then completely and totally falling apart.

After his 651-yard, eight-touchdown performance against Baylor on Sept. 29, Smith not only led the Horse Race, but he almost led it by an insurmountable margin. He had 26 points, and only his receiver Stedman Bailey (16 points) and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (14) had even half of that. Collin Klein had put together a few honorable mention-worthy performances, but that was about it. Marqise Lee exploded once but stood at just eight points. Jarvis Jones single-handedly blew up Missouri but stood at just 10 points. Manti Te'o wasn't on the board, nor was A.J. McCarron.

Since Baylor, however, Smith's season has unraveled, slowly at first (5.9 yards per pass attempt in a win over Texas that was powered by running back Andrew Buie), then swiftly later on (5.0 yards per pass attempt in a blowout loss to Texas Tech, 3.3 in a blowout loss to Kansas State, and 4.6 in a home loss to TCU. Smith has gone straight from "best quarterback in the country" to below average. I did not see that coming. As a result, Smith is still sharing the top spot.

It bears mentioning, that SINCE Smith reached 26 points in Week 5, here are the top seven performers:

1. Klein (22 points)
2. Lee (18)
2. Manziel (18)
2. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (18)
5. Kenjon Barner (10)
6. Jarvis Jones (9)
6. Braxton Miller (9)

With the exception of, basically, Manti Te'o (seven points since Week 5, 12 points overall) and A.J. McCarron (eight points overall), and the somewhat odd presence of Gio Bernard, this list matches up relatively well with conventional wisdom. If I were to use the Horse Race format again next year, then, I would probably only assign points with half the weight in September. This race pretty clearly started around Oct. 6.

1. Kenjon Barner, Oregon

Here's your official welcome to the 2012 Heisman race, Mr. Barner. Barner had already scored some points here and there with his 201-yard performance against Fresno State and his 195 yards versus Washington State. But he absolutely exploded on Saturday, and at the best possible time. On national television, in the L.A. Coliseum, on a Saturday night, Barner erupted for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries; he threw in two catches for 26 yards as well. Last week, I called Gio Bernard the best running back in the country "right now." That "now" lasted one week.

It took me a while to see Barner for what he currently is and not as LaMichael James' understudy. Barner is not as elusive as James, but he showed on Saturday night that he might have the best vision in college football. As he made his first move on any given run, he already had the next one lined up. He made fools of a USC defense that a) has had a bad couple of weeks but b) is still pretty decent. Barner's ability to weave and advance, weave and advance, was as good as you'll ever see.

For the season, projected over a 14-game season, Barner is now on pace for 2,000 rushing yards, almost 300 receiving yards, and over 30 touchdowns. It will be tough to keep him off of the Heisman finalists list at this point.

2. Zach Mettenberger, LSU

Before A.J. McCarron engineered a perfect two-minute drive to save the game for Alabama, the biggest story, almost the ONLY story, from Saturday night's LSU-Alabama tussle in Baton Rouge was the play of Mettenberger, the junior Georgia transfer with the big arm who had struggled through a difficult season for LSU. Instead of pushing LSU over the top in the 2012 national title race, Mettenberger had struggled, both in his decision-making and in his rapport with a receiving corps that dropped a lot of his passes. Against the best pass defense in college football on Saturday, however, Mettenberger was incredible: 24-for-35 passing for 298 yards and a touchdown. Taking three sacks into account, Mettenberger averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt and did things to Alabama's defense that Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel can only hope to replicate this coming weekend. Now we'll see if Mettenberger can build off of that performance.

3. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The redshirt freshman quarterback's performance was a bit overshadowed by Barner's brilliance, but Mariota did everything asked of him, and more, in Oregon's 62-51 win over USC. Mariota completed 20 of 23 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns (including three sacks, he still averaged 11.0 yards per pass attempt, well more than double what Geno Smith averaged versus TCU) and ran 12 times for 113 yards. My initial instinct was to rank him below the No. 4 pick on this list, Collin Klein, but Mariota averaged more yards per pass attempt (11.0 to 10.3) and per carry (9.4 to 4.5) versus a defense of a similar caliber. So Mariota gets the nod.

4. Collin Klein, Kansas State

Klein reaches the top 10 for the third straight week after another disturbingly efficient game in another Kansas State win following the same "turnovers and Collin Klein" formula. Against Oklahoma State, Klein completed 16 of 22 passes for 245 yards and 10.3 yards per pass attempt, and he carried 16 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. Klein's current pace, projected over a 13-game season: 2,700 passing yards (with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions) and 1,000 rushing yards (with 25 touchdowns). Do that for an undefeated team that makes the BCS title game, and you are probably holding the trophy in mid-December.

5. Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

Against a Notre Dame defense that prevents big plays and swallows you up as well as almost any defense in the country, Graham was fantastic. He carried 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown, and he caught six of nine passes as well. Graham and Notre Dame turnovers almost handed the Panthers an enormous, uplifting victory, but the Irish pulled the game out in overtime. Still, this was a further sign of growth for Paul Chryst's squad. Since losing a humiliating, 31-17 game to Youngstown State in Chryst's debut, then following up with a 24-point loss at Cincinnati, Pitt has gone 4-3 and are basically two plays from 6-1. The Panthers lost at Syracuse by one point and barely missed an overtime field goal that would have given them the win in South Bend. Coming close might not count for much, but growth is growth.

6. Allen Chapman, Kansas State

Kansas State's defense is disciplined, unforgiving, and for the most part, anonymous. Sure, we know Arthur Brown's name, and cornerback Nigel Malone made some All-American lists last season. But no single defensive player's stats truly stand out for the Wildcats' whole-greater-than-the-sum defense. That said, Chapman figured out a way to stand out against Oklahoma State. KSU allowed 504 yards to the 'Pokes but forced five turnovers and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a 44-30 win. Chapman, meanwhile, completely confounded OSU's freshman quarterback, Wes Lunt, picking him off in each of OSU's last two drives of the second quarter and returning one for a touchdown. For the game, Chapman's stats were absurd: 4.5 tackles, three interceptions, two passes broken up. Some TEAMS don't defense five passes in a given game, but Chapman did it by himself.

7. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

The bar was pretty high this week, so high that what was perhaps Manziel's most efficient performance of the season -- 30-for-36 passing for 311 yards and 8.2 yards per pass attempt; 20 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns -- only got him No. 7 on this list. Manziel struggled in his last trip to the state of Mississippi (A&M won despite a string of sacks and turnovers from Manziel) but was relentlessly effective this time around and moves into a tie with Klein in the overall points race. A great game against Alabama (easier said than done) could put him in the lead.

8. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

Patterson makes his second top 10 appearance (his first was in Week 1 versus N.C. State) after an incredible homecoming performance against Troy. Tennessee's defense was humiliated, allowing 48 points and 721 yards to the good, but not THAT good Trojan offense; but Patterson saved the day, catching nine of 12 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown and carrying twice for 13 yards. Plus, there's this:

Patterson returned two kickoffs for just 43 yards, but he impacted the placement of Troy's nine (!) kickoffs to the point that Troy still averaged a miserable 32.2 net yards per kickoff.

9. Marqise Lee, USC

In the last two games, somehow both losses for USC, Lee has caught 28 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns and returned 11 kickoffs for 374 yards. That is absolutely absurd, and it has convinced USC to lay on a full-court, Lee-for-Heisman press.

CBS blogger (and SBN's Illinois expert) Tom Fornelli had a great comment in the CBS post linked above:

Yes, USC loves Marqise Lee so much it was willing to shell out the money for two Beatles songs. That's love right there, and that's all you need.

That is a very, very good point.

Collin Klein is about to lay a 2,500/1,000 for a national title contender, and if I had a Heisman vote I would be completely and totally torn between Klein and Lee. Lee's been just that good.

10. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

I had absolutely no idea what to do with Martinez this week, and I explained why in this week's Numerical:

3.4. Yards per pass attempt averaged by Nebraska's Taylor Martinez against Michigan State on Saturday. Martinez completed 16 of 36 passes for 160 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and was sacked twice for an enormous loss of 29 yards. Bad day, huh? Not exactly. In Martinez fashion, he also rushed 15 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 Nebraska win.

This was one of Martinez's most Martinezian performances, an old-school, "the legs overcome the arm" game. But it was also a really, really big win for the Huskers, one that put Nebraska in the driver's seat in the Big Ten Legends race.

2012 Heisman Horse Race Point Totals (Through 10 Weeks)

Week 10 Honorable Mention

I think this list gets longer with each week, and it quite possibly might. But this column has turned into one giant "Let's celebrate good things" column from week to week, and I find a few more things to celebrate each week. No apologies.

  • Nelson Agholor, USC (eight targets, six catches, 162 yards and a touchdown versus Oregon)
  • C.J. Anderson, California (25 touches for 171 yards versus Washington)
  • Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky (32 touches for 190 yards and a touchdown versus Middle Tennessee)
  • Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State (25-for-32 passing for 328 yards, two touchdowns and 9.6 yards per pass attempt versus North Texas)
  • Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech (5.5 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery versus Maryland)
  • Matt Barkley, USC (35-for-54 passing, 484 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions, 8.7 yards per pass attempt versus Oregon)
  • Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State (36 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns versus Nebraska)
  • Josh Boyce, TCU (10 targets, six catches, 180 yards, two touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion versus West Virginia)
  • Tajh Boyd, Clemson (16-for-23 passing for 344 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions and 13.6 yards per pass attempt; seven carries for 76 yards and a touchdown versus Duke)
  • Tyler Bray, Tennessee (29-for-47 passing for 530 yards and five touchdowns versus Troy)
  • Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (19-for-28 passing for 324 yards, five touchdowns and 10.0 yards per pass attempt versus Temple)
  • Terrance Broadway, UL-Lafayette (23-for-32 passing for 373 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and 7.6 yards per pass attempt; 12 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown versus UL-Monroe)
  • Brennan Clay, Oklahoma (26 touches for 169 yards and a touchdown versus Iowa State)
  • Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (8.0 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one pass broken up versus UAB)
  • Jamison Crowder, Duke (12 targets, seven catches, 167 yards and a touchdown versus Clemson)
  • Mike Davis, Texas (five targets, four catches, 165 yards and two touchdowns versus Texas Tech)
  • Titus Davis, Central Michigan (14 targets, 10 catches, 208 yards, one touchdown versus Western Michigan)
  • Reggie Dunn, Utah (one kick return for 100 yards and a touchdown versus Washington State, three kick return touchdowns in two weeks)
  • Matt Elam, Florida (5.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception for 42 yards, one pass broken up versus Missouri)
  • David Fales, San Jose State (27-for-39 passing for 328 yards, four touchdowns and one interception versus Idaho)
  • Nick Florence, Baylor (26-for-42 passing for 367 yards, three touchdowns and a rushing touchdown versus Kansas)
  • Sharrif Floyd, Florida (five solo tackles, three tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry versus Missouri)
  • Josh Francis, West Virginia (4.5 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks versus TCU)
  • Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (27 touches for 190 yards and two touchdowns versus Arizona)
  • Devin Gardner, Michigan (12-for-18 passing for 234 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and 10.0 yards per pass attempt; seven carries for 44 yards and a touchdown versus Minnesota)
  • Ryan Grant, Tulane (eight targets, five catches, 176 yards versus Rice)
  • Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (15 targets, 11 catches, 177 yards versus Tulsa)
  • Gerald Hodges, Penn State (7.0 tackles, three tackles for loss and one pass broken up versus Purdue)
  • Brett Hundley, UCLA (23-for-28 passing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and 9.6 yards per pass attempt, plus a rushing touchdown versus Arizona)
  • Justin Hunter, Tennessee (13 targets, nine catches, 181 yards, three touchdowns versus Troy)
  • Carlos Hyde, Ohio State (18 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns versus Illinois)
  • Duke Johnson, Miami (15 touches for 99 yards; two kick returns for 118 yards versus Virginia Tech)
  • Landry Jones, Oklahoma (32-for-45 passing for four touchdowns and two interceptions versus Iowa State)
  • Chuckie Keeton, Utah State (20-for-27 passing for 316 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and one rushing touchdown versus Texas State)
  • Marlin Lane, Tennessee (22 touches for 163 yards and two touchdowns versus Troy)
  • Brent Leonard, Arkansas State (14 targets, 11 catches, 168 yards, one touchdown versus UL-Lafayette)
  • Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois (15-for-19 passing for 191 yards, two touchdowns, 9.3 yards per pass attempt; 14 carries, 163 yards, one touchdown versus UMass)
  • Glasco Martin, Baylor (11 carries for 157 yards versus Kansas)
  • Matt McGloin, Penn State (22-for-36 passing for 321 yards, two touchdowns and 8.4 yards per pass attempt versus Purdue)
  • Demetruce McNeal, Auburn (9.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two passes broken up and a quarterback hurry versus New Mexico State)
  • Braxton Miller, Ohio State (12-for-20 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns and 8.5 yards per pass attempt; 14 carries, 94 yards, one touchdown versus Illinois)
  • Eric Monette, Western Michigan (12 targets, 11 catches, 196 yards, one touchdown versus Central Michigan)
  • Aaron Murray, Georgia (21-for-28 passing, 384 yards, four touchdowns, 10.6 yards per pass attempt versus Ole Miss)
  • Latavis Murray, UCF (25 touches for 196 yards and three touchdowns versus SMU)
  • Branden Oliver, Buffalo (37 touches for 182 yards and a touchdown versus Miami-Ohio)
  • Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech (13 targets, 10 catches, 152 yards, one touchdown and two defensive pass interference penalties versus UTSA)
  • Darrin Reaves, UAB (36 touches for 226 yards and two touchdowns versus Southern Miss)
  • Keenan Reynolds, Navy (8-for-15 passing for 147 yards, two touchdowns and 8.7 yards per pass attempt; 25 carries for 167 yards versus Florida Atlantic)
  • Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (4.0 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one blocked field goal versus Florida)
  • Corey Robinson, Troy (30-for-46 passing for 393 yards and a touchdown versus Tennessee)
  • Jake Ryan, Michigan (7.0 tackles, three tackles for loss versus Minnesota)
  • Bishop Sankey, Washington (31 touches for 197 yards and two touchdowns versus Cal)
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington (nine targets, eight catches, 152 yards and a touchdown on one leg versus California)
  • Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (12.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass broken up versus Illinois)
  • Shaq Thompson, Washington (6.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception for 33 yards versus Cal)
  • Tyler Van Tubbergen, Western Michigan (23-for-33 passing for 362 yards, four touchdown, an interception and 10.4 yards per pass attempt; eight carries for 49 yards versus Central Michigan)
  • Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (nine touches for 165 yards and two touchdowns versus Arizona State)
  • George Winn, Cincinnati (31 touches for 174 yards, three touchdowns and a touchdown pass versus Syracuse)

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