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WVU's Smith holds top spot, wins Halfway Heisman despite upset

It was close, but America is throwing its weight behind Geno Smith.

The West Virginia quarterback won SI.com's Halfway Heisman poll, receiving 38 percent of the 11,668 votes to edge out Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who came in second with 35 percent.

Smith and Te'o were the only players to hit double figures in the voting -- you can check out the complete results here -- while Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller (nine percent), Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (three percent) and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (three percent) rounded out the top five. Florida running back Mike Gillislee (two percent) and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (two percent) were the only other players to receive more than one percent of the vote.

As for the Watchman's picks: This week brings another shakeup, as preseason favorite Matt Barkley bows out, Wisconsin's Monteé Ball returns and two fresh faces debut.

But before we get to the rankings, a personal note: This is my final Heisman Watch before leaving SI.com. I'd like to offer a heartfelt thank you to those who have read this piece over the past three seasons. You've been a vocal and greatly appreciated audience.

Now, on to this week's standings. As a refresher, here's how things stacked up after Week 6.

Last week: 29-of-55 passing for 295 yards and one touchdown in a 49-14 loss to Texas Tech.

Season (six games): 195-of-259 passing for 2,271 yards and 25 touchdowns; 28 rushes for 71 yards and one touchdown.

Watchman's take: Smith had built up such a comfortable lead that one forgettable game wasn't enough to cost him the No. 1 spot. But there certainly won't be any clips from the Texas Tech loss on Smith's highlight reel. He looked out of sorts against a Red Raiders unit that backed up its standing as the nation's top pass defense, finishing with a single touchdown pass and a season-low 52.7 completion percentage. Plus, he was out-Genoed by Seth Doege, who threw for 499 yards and six touchdowns. Luckily for Smith, he has a chance to immediately rebound in a spotlight game against No. 4 Kansas State.

Next up: Saturday vs. No. 4 Kansas State

Last week: 13-of-24 passing for 211 yards, two touchdowns and one interception; 23 rushes for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 52-49 win over Indiana.

Season (seven games): 96-of-159 passing for 1,271 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions; 129 rushes for 912 yards and nine touchdowns.

Watchman's take: Say what you will about the B1G -- and with just one team in the Coaches' Poll (No. 25 Michigan), you've probably got something to say -- but Miller is feasting on league opponents. He's run for at least 136 yards in all three conference games this season and is averaging 329.3 yards of offense. He delivered his most prolific game yet against the Hoosiers, totaling 360 yards. That included a 67-yard touchdown run, his fifth run of at least 50 yards. If Miller continues his current pace, he could make a run at Denard Robinson's FBS single-season record of 1,702 rushing yards by a quarterback.

Next up: Saturday vs. Purdue

Last week: 16-of-24 passing for 187 yards; 25 rushes for 105 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-21 win over Iowa State.

Season (six games): 79-of-118 passing for 1,074 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions; 98 rushes for 510 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Watchman's take: Klein outgained Iowa State on his own, 292-231, and is riding a consecutive 100-yard rushing game hot streak into a Week 8 clash with West Virginia. With his three rushing touchdowns against Iowa State, Optimus Klein registered 43 for his career to pass Ell Roberson for Kansas State's QB record; Klein is now two away from Darren Sproles' overall school mark. Klein already has one big win under his belt, having dominated then-No. 6 Oklahoma in Week 4, but if he can upstage Smith this weekend he'll make a strong case to reach New York.

Next up: Saturday at No. 17 West Virginia

Last week: 11 tackles in a 20-13 win over No. 17 Stanford.

Season (six games): 59 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Watchman's take: No campaign is complete without a singular moment. Te'o delivered his in Week 7 and helped kept the Fighting Irish unbeaten in the process. With the Cardinal facing third-and-goal at the one-yard line, Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor dove for the goal line, only to be met in mid-air by Te'o, who prevented the game-tying score. The leader of the Notre Dame defense has racked up 41 tackles over the last four games, which includes wins over three ranked opponents.

Next up: Saturday vs. BYU

Last week: 16-of-21 passing for 171 yards in a 42-10 win over Missouri.

Season (six games): 89-of-132 passing for 1,170 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Watchman's take: McCarron managed to put a scare into the Alabama faithful as he grasped his knee in pain after a third-quarter sack by Missouri's Brad Madison. McCarron would return, but he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. Overall, however, McCarron continued his efficient ways, completing a season-best 76.2 percent of his passes. He's one of only three quarterbacks in the top 100 in pass efficiency to have not thrown an interception, joining Smith and Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron.

Next up: Saturday at Tennessee

Last week: 24-of-40 passing for 395 yards, three touchdowns and one interception; 19 rushes for 181 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-57 win over No. 23 Louisiana Tech.

Season: 128-of-190 passing for 1,680 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions; 91 rushes for 676 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Watchman's take: The legend of Johnny Football grows. Manziel piled up 576 yards of offense against Louisiana Tech, breaking the program and SEC records, and accounted for six touchdowns in the Week 7 shootout. He also overtook the conference rushing lead, as he became the first player in SEC history to deliver more than 500 total yards in two games in the same season. The toughest part of the schedule lies ahead, though, as Texas A&M faces three ranked teams over the next four games, beginning with Saturday's trip to No. 6 LSU. Manziel's stay in this race could be short, but he's proving to be as entertaining as any player in the nation.

Next up: Saturday vs. No. 6 LSU

Last week: 29 rushes for 247 yards and three touchdowns; one reception for 14 yards in a 38-14 win over Purdue.

Season (seven games): 172 rushes for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns; nine receptions for 65 yards.

Watchman's take: Guess who's back? Ball disappeared from the Watchman's radar after his 40-yard effort against UTEP in Week 4, but he seems to have regained the form that made him a finalist last year. He ran for a career-high 247 yards to go along with three touchdowns against the Boilermakers, giving him 456 yards and eight scores over his last three games. Ball now has 72 career touchdowns, which breaks Ron Dayne's Big Ten career record of 71 and leaves Ball six shy of Travis Prentice's FBS mark.

Next up: Saturday vs. Minnesota

Last week: Idle

Season (six games): 116 rushes for 727 yards and nine touchdowns; 11 receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown.

Watchman's take: UCLA's Johnathan Franklin leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards, but Barner has been the far more dominant back in conference play. He's averaging more yards than Franklin (134.3 to 84.5) and yards per carry (6.7 to 5.2), but trails by 151 yards overall after playing six games to Franklin's seven. But Barner should make a run at the Pac-12 lead this week as Oregon takes on Arizona State, which is allowing 152 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents. Barner torched the Sun Devils for 171 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries a year ago.

Next up: Thursday at Arizona State

Last week: 17 rushes for 67 yards; two receptions for 12 yards in a 31-17 win over Vanderbilt

Season (seven games): 120 rushes for 615 yards and seven touchdowns; four receptions for 26 yards.

Watchman's take: Gillislee took a step back after his career day against LSU, losing his SEC rushing lead and falling 42 yards shy of his season average. But Gillislee frankly didn't have to carry much of a load, registering just seven second-half carries as quarterback Jeff Driskel did the damage on the ground, breaking Tim Tebow's single-game quarterback record with 177 rushing yards. It may have been a well-timed light workload for Gillislee, as the Gators now prepare to face Clowney and South Carolina, who are fourth in the SEC against the run (108.7 yards per game) and fifth in the nation in points allowed (12.2 per game).

Next up: Saturday vs. No. 9 South Carolina

Last week: 34 rushes for 185 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-37 win over UNLV.

Season (seven games): 219 rushes for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns; 14 receptions for 139 yards and one touchdown.

Watchman's take: Could this be college football's next 2,000-yard rusher? Only 14 players have ever hit the plateau -- five of whom (Marcus Allen, Mike Rozier, Barry Sanders, Rashaan Salaam and Ricky Williams) own Heismans -- and no one has done it since Matt Forte and Kevin Smith in 2007. But Jefferson may soon join them. He's averaging 162.8 yards per game, and with a remaining schedule that includes four teams that rank 50th or worse against the run, and with the 6-1 Wolf Pack certain to play in a bowl game, Jefferson could easily join the exclusive club.

Next up: Saturday vs. San Diego State

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