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2012 Heisman Horse Race, Week 7: Johnny Manziel is coming for you, Geno

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Geno Smith is still your race leader, but in two straight weeks, he has failed to build any further distance from the rest of the field. He better be careful: some exciting young quarterbacks are starting to make up ground.


Where do your preferences lie? Do you enjoy the quarterback who runs for over 100 yards and passes for almost 400 in a shootout? Do you like the quarterback who throws for 500 yards and six touchdowns in a surprising blowout? Do you like the running back who rushes for a long touchdown on the second play of the game and is only prevented from truly ridiculous numbers because garbage time came up too quickly? What about the receiver who caught over 20 passes in a game? Maybe the veteran running back coming up with his first breakout performance of the season? Or the game-changing linebacker who saved the day for his undefeated team? Wherever your allegiances lie, there was a candidate for you in Week 7.

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

When in doubt, go with the most exciting candidate. I have to say this about Johnny Manziel: There are harder times in the young quarterback's future, and I don't just mean the fact that LSU and Alabama remain on the schedule for him in 2012. Manziel is crazy and unstable and exciting, and he is incredibly fun to watch, but opponents are going to catch on to his act. That would be the case even in the Big 12, but in the SEC West, they are really going to catch on. The improvisation will lead to a few more fumbles and interceptions along the way. That isn't to say he is doomed, but his long-term success, and his Heisman prospects in future seasons (because he almost certainly won't win in 2012 as a redshirt freshman) will lie in his ability to adjust to adjustments.

That said ... wow, is he fun to watch right now. In a shootout win over Louisiana Tech, Manziel completed 24 of 40 passes, to nine different receivers, for 395 yards, three touchdowns and an interception and was sacked once. He also carried the ball 18 times for 187 yards and three touchdowns. That's 9.5 yards per pass attempt, 10.4 yards per carry in a win over a top 25 team (albeit one not known for defense). And facing a third-and-24 from his own 28 with just over two minutes left in the game, he reeled off a Heisman moment: a 72-yard sprint past the Louisiana Tech defense on a counter. He didn't even try to sell the counter very hard -- he just ran really fast.

2. Seth Doege, Texas Tech

West Virginia's Geno Smith could have solidified his grasp on the Heisman with a 500-yard, six-touchdown performance in Lubbock against Texas Tech. Instead, Doege stole that performance for himself. With Smith struggling to complete passes downfield against a wonderfully active Tech defense, Doege completed 32 of 42 passes (to 11 different receivers) for 499 yards, six touchdowns, one pick, one sack and 11.4 yards per pass attempt. He also threw in 35 yards on four carries just for grins. Doege showed some serious fortitude, bouncing back from a pretty awful performance versus Oklahoma to keep the surprising Red Raiders rolling toward a much better record than anybody anticipated in 2012.

3. Eddie Lacy, Alabama

On the second play of the game vs. Missouri, Eddie Lacy weaved 73 yards for a touchdown. In 19 more touches, he gained another 121 yards and scored two more touchdowns. The only thing preventing him from 250 total yards or more was the simple fact that Alabama was up 28-0 early in the second quarter and pretty quickly entered into coast-and-bearhug mode. For the game, Lacy averaged 9.7 yards per touch (18 carries, two catches) against a defense that held backs like Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley mostly in check. He was outstanding.

4. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech

It is difficult to catch 21 passes for 233 yards, score four touchdowns, draw four pass interference penalties ... and end up the second-most Heisman-worthy player in your own game, but that's what Quinton Patton managed on Saturday. He was as good as a receiver could be, but a) his team lost, and b) the other team had Johnny Manziel. But still: catching 21 of 27 passes and scoring four touchdowns is a full season's output from a majority of FBS receivers. That Patton did it in 60 minutes is absurd.

5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Hello, Montee! The Wisconsin offense is beginning to look like the Wisconsin offense again, and that includes Montee Ball posting a Ball-esque stat line: 29 carries for 247 yards and three touchdowns, plus one reception for 14 yards. It was looking like the winner of the Wisconsin-Purdue game would be the favorite to reach the Big Ten title game from ... whichever division that is. Ball and the Badgers made sure this wasn't a battle at all. Wisconsin won, 38-14, and it could have been much, much worse.

6. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

Rutgers is skating on thin ice here. With an offense that can only produce against Arkansas, the Scarlet Knights have stayed much closer than they should have against teams like UConn and Syracuse, but they remain undefeated, thanks mostly to Greene, who logged the following stats in a 23-15 win over The 'Cuse: 11.5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. He collected something for almost every column in the box score, and the Scarlet Knights needed every bit of it.

7. Damien Williams, Oklahoma

In his first Red River Rivalry game, Williams didn't waste time making an impact. He broke off a 95-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. It was pretty. After a couple of mediocre games, Williams' 167-yard effort versus Texas gives him 508 yards and six touchdowns in five games; that's a 1,300-yard pace for the season. A running game that figured to be questionable in 2012 is starting to look a whole lot more sturdy.

8. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

Allegedly, Oregon State was playing a backup quarterback on Saturday, and against a BYU defense that is among the stingiest in the country. But thanks to Cooks, new starting signal caller Cody Vaz had a pretty easy time of it. Cooks caught eight of 10 passes for 173 yards and carried twice for 10 yards. Cooks has almost surpassed Markus Wheaton as the Beavers' No. 1 receiver, but co-No. 1's are pretty nice, too.

9. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

The sophomore missed two games in September, but his output in just five games has been extraordinary. A week after rushing for 267 yards against what was supposedly the Virginia Tech defense (and finishing third in the week's Heisman race), Bernard gained 213 yards in 33 touches and scored twice in a tight win over Miami. Bernard is not getting much midseason All-American talk, but he probably should be; he has gained 679 yards in just 79 carries (8.6 per carry) and has scored seven touchdowns. Despite the short absence, he could go for 1,500+ yards if he doesn't miss any more time.

10. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M

Choosing a defensive player from the Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech game seems a bit dicey, but Moore seemingly made every good play the A&M defense had (for the game: 12.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), and he made perhaps the most underrated play of the game. A&M led, 34-7, late in the second quarter, but when Tech scored on a short run, Moore blocked the extra point attempt, and it was housed by Dustin Harris for two points. What should have been a 34-14 lead became a 36-13 lead, and what ended up a 59-57 win very easily could have been a 58-57 loss. Moore is among the best defensive playmakers in the country, and this is his second top 10 appearance this season.

Bonus Point: Benny Cunningham, Middle Tennessee

Cunningham had a good top 10 case this week, rushing for 230 yards and two scores in a tight win over Florida International. He didn't make the cut, but he gets a point anyway because, after two 200-yard games in three weeks, Cunningham found out on Monday that he has a torn patellar tendon in his left knee and will almost certainly miss the rest of the season (and his career). So, the best Benny in college football gets a point because I say so.

Symbolic Bonus Point: All MAC Running Backs

No actual points are awarded here, but I wanted to draw attention to the fact that seemingly every single MAC running back posted silly stats this week, from Kent State's Dri Archer (222 yards in 16 touches), to Eastern Michigan's Bronson Hill (294 yards in 31 touches), to Bowling Green's Anthon Samuel (196 yards in 27 touches). Throw in Toledo receiver Bernard Reedy (237 receiving yards in 13 targets) and Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (232 passing yards, 129 pre-sack rushing yards), and you see that MACtion is alive and well in 2012.

Honorable Mention:

  • Keenan Allen, California (14 targets, 11 catches, 166 yards, one touchdown versus Washington State; all other Cal receivers: 3 for 9 for 23 yards)
  • Dri Archer, Kent State (16 touches, 222 yards, one touchdown versus Army)
  • Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (17-for-26 passing, 304 yards, one touchdown, 10.5 yards per pass attempt versus Pittsburgh)
  • DeAundre Brown, Tulsa (10.5 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one pass broken up versus UTEP)
  • Sam Carter, TCU (seven solo tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception versus Baylor)
  • Jawon Chisholm, Akron (35 touches, 232 yards versus Ohio)
  • J.C. Coleman, Virginia Tech (14 touches, 186 yards, two touchdowns versus Duke)
  • Cody Davis, Texas Tech (13 solo tackles, two passes broken up versus West Virginia)
  • Stefon Diggs, Maryland (four targets, four catches, 89 yards, kick return touchdown versus Virginia; all other Maryland receivers: 5 for 16, 80 yards)
  • Darin Drakeford, Maryland (6.0 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble versus Virginia)
  • Jeff Driskel, Florida (11 for 20 passing for 77 yards and 3.5 yards per pass attempt; 10 non-sack carries for 181 yards and three touchdowns versus Vanderbilt)
  • Noel Grigsby, San Jose State (15 targets, 11 catches, 181 yards, two touchdowns versus Utah State)
  • Bronson Hill, Eastern Michigan (31 touches, 294 yards, four touchdowns versus Toledo)
  • Jeremy Hill, LSU (18 touches, 145 yards, two touchdowns versus South Carolina)
  • Carlos Hyde, Ohio State (24 touches, 183 yards, two touchdowns versus Indiana)
  • Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada (34 carries for 185 yards and three touchdowns versus UNLV)
  • Taylor Kelly, Arizona State (20 for 28 passing for 308 yards, five touchdowns and 9.4 yards per pass attempt; 11 non-sack carries for 85 yards versus Colorado)
  • Jordan Leslie, UTEP (14 targets, 10 catches, 218 yards, one touchdown versus Tulsa)
  • Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois (13 for 20 passing for 232 yards, two touchdowns and 11.6 yards per pass attempt; 15 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns versus Buffalo)
  • E.J. Manuel, Florida State (27 for 34 passing for 439 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and 9.6 yards per pass attempt versus Boston College)
  • Venric Mark, Northwestern (20 carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns versus Minnesota)
  • Tyler Matakevich, Temple (14.0 tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass broken up versus Connecticut)
  • Trey Millard, Oklahoma (11 touches, 164 yards, one touchdown versus Texas)
  • Braxton Miller, Ohio State (13 for 24 passing for 211 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and 7.1 yards per pass attempt; 20 non-sack carries for 167 yards and a touchdown versus Indiana)
  • Dee Milliner, Alabama (3.5 tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, three passes broken up versus Missouri)
  • Eugene Neboh, Texas Tech (two solo tackles, four passes broken up versus West Virginia)
  • Denzel Perryman, Miami (10.0 tackles, three tackles for loss versus North Carolina)
  • Jordan Poyer, Oregon State (0.5 tackles, one pick six, one pass broken up versus BYU)
  • Silas Redd, USC (26 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown versus Washington)
  • Bernard Reedy, Toledo (13 targets, 11 catches, 237 yards, two touchdowns versus Eastern Michigan)
  • Denard Robinson, Michigan (7 for 11 passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns; 11 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns versus Illinois)
  • Bradley Roby, Ohio State (0.5 tackles, three passes broken up versus Indiana)
  • Jake Ryan, Michigan (9.0 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble versus Indiana)
  • Anthon Samuel, Bowling Green (27 touches for 196 yards and a touchdown versus Miami-Ohio)
  • Jeff Scott, Ole Miss (24 touches for 207 yards and a touchdown versus Auburn)
  • James Sims, Kansas (31 touches for 180 yards and a touchdown versus Oklahoma State)
  • Phillip Steward, Houston (8.0 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception, one quarterback hurry versus UAB)
  • Will Sutton, Arizona State (five solo tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, one pass broken up versus Colorado)
  • Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (14 for 23 passing for 256 yards, two touchdown, one interception and 9.0 yards per pass attempt; eight non-sack carries for 73 yards versus Duke)
  • Cody Vaz, Oregon State (20 for 32 passing for 332 yards, three touchdowns, and 9.6 yards per pass attempt versus BYU)
  • Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (17 for 22 passing, to eight different receivers, for 226 yards, one touchdown and 8.7 yards per pass attempt; 13 non-sack carries for 57 yards, two touchdowns versus Auburn)
  • Steve Williams, California (5.5 tackles, one interception, four passes broken up versus Washington State)
  • Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (23 for 31 passing for 372 yards and five touchdowns versus Kentucky)


2012 Heisman Horse Race Point Totals (Through Seven Weeks)

26 points
Geno Smith, West Virginia

18 points
Braxton Miller, Ohio State

16 points
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

14 points
Marqise Lee, USC
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Denard Robinson, Michigan

13 points
Connor Shaw, South Carolina

10 points
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Andrew Buie, West Virginia
Jeff Driskel, Florida
Jarvis Jones, Georgia
E.J. Manuel, Florida State

9 points
David Ash, Texas
LeVeon Bell, Michigan State
Seth Doege, Texas Tech
Stephen Morris, Miami

8 points
Morgan Breslin, USC
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M

7 points
Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada
Aaron Murray, Georgia
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
John Simon, Ohio State
Terrance Williams, Baylor

6 points
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Kolton Browning, UL-Monroe
Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
Damien Holmes, UCLA
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

5 points
Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
Nick Florence, Baylor
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
Brandon Sharpe, Syracuse
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Kyle Van Noy, BYU

4 points
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Damien Williams, Oklahoma

3 points
Kain Colter, Northwestern
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Deandre Hopkins, Clemson
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Dee Milliner, Alabama
Cordarelle Patterson, Tennessee
Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
Chris Thompson, Florida State

2 points
Andre Ellington, Clemson
Sam Montgomery, LSU
Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Jake Ryan, Michigan
Robert Woods, USC

1 point
Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
Benny Cunningham, Middle Tennessee
Mike Gillislee, Florida