Skip to main content

Te'o rising, but passers continue to dominate 2012 Heisman Watch

During Saturday's telecast of LSU-Florida, CBS' Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist discussed whether a non-quarterback could win the Heisman Trophy this season. Not only does it look like a passer will capture the award for the 11th time in 12 years, it looks like a non-passer will struggle to even reach New York. We've seen two all-quarterback finals during that 12-year span, with Eric Crouch, Ken Dorsey, Rex Grossman and Joey Harrington earning spots in 2001 and Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow in '08.

Some intriguing candidates could stop that from happening this year, but the most promising player looks to be Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

As the poster boy for the Fighting Irish's revival, Te'o is gaining steam and could find himself at the ceremony come December. The next three weeks will prove crucial, as the Irish face No. 17 Stanford and No. 13 Oklahoma. If Te'o continues to dominate in those matchups, he could break up the QB party; otherwise, it's going to look a lot like 2008.

Now, on to this week's rankings, where Florida State's E.J. Manuel and Georgia's Aaron Murray tumble after upsets and Florida's Mike Gillislee and Oregon's Kenjon Barner join the race. As a refresher, here's how things stacked up after Week 5.

Note: We'll award our Halfway Heisman next week, so be sure to vote for your winner in our poll.

Last week: 25-of-35 passing for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 win over No. 11 Texas.

Season (five games): 166-of-204 passing for 1,996 yards and 24 touchdowns; 26 rushes for 66 yards and one touchdown.

Watchman's take: Once again the Mountaineers found themselves in a shootout, and once again Smith proved masterful. He was slightly upstaged by running back Andrew Buie's 207 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but the Heisman leader still built on his ridiculous stats. Smith threw four more touchdown passes to run his season total to 24, six more than any other FBS player boasts, and he hasn't thrown an interception in his last 259 attempts. This week he'll face the nation's No. 1 pass defense in Texas Tech, which is allowing 117.4 yards per game and has given up just four passing touchdowns, a total Smith has hit or surpassed in four of his five games.

Next up: Saturday at Texas Tech

Last week: 7-of-14 passing for 127 yards and one touchdown; 16 rushes for 186 yards and one touchdown in a 63-38 win over No. 21 Nebraska.

Season (six games): 83-of-135 passing for 1,060 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions; 106 rushes for 763 yards and eight touchdowns.

Watchman's take: Miller made his move in this race with another electric performance. After a first quarter in which he ran for minus-nine yards and threw for seven, Miller came alive, ripping off a 72-yard run, tossing an 18-yard touchdown and running for another score. He would go on to break his own school record for a quarterback with 186 rushing yards and pile up more than 300 yards of offense for the fourth time this season. It remains to be seen if a player on a team facing a postseason ban can win a Heisman in this era, but aside from Smith, there simply hasn't been a more consistently impressive player than Miller.

Next up: Saturday at Indiana

Last week: 7-of-14 passing for 129 yards and two touchdowns; 10 rushes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in a 56-16 win over Kansas.

Season (five games): 63-of-94 passing for 887 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions; 73 rushes for 468 yards and seven touchdowns.

Watchman's take: Klein continues to dominate the Sunflower State rivalry. Behind the strength of his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, Klein has now run for 268 yards and seven scores in three career games against the Jayhawks and has accounted for 10 total touchdowns in those matchups. Week 6 also marked Klein's 13th consecutive game dating back to last season in which he's both passed and rushed for at least one score, a streak that leads the nation. A year ago he racked up 244 total yards, including 86 rushing, against upcoming opponent Iowa State, but the Cyclones have been much improved this season, ranking 18th nationally in total defense.

SI Recommends

Next up: Saturday at Iowa State

Last week: Idle

Season (five games): 73-of-111 passing for 999 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Watchman's take: "Efficient" continues to be the adjective of choice to describe McCarron, and for good reason. He's the SEC's second-rated passer (177.0) and helms a Crimson Tide unit tied for No. 1 nationally as the best red-zone offense, having scored in each of its 22 opportunities. Oh, and he hasn't thrown an interception in 331 days. McCarron could be in for a big day this weekend as Alabama faces Missouri, which has already been torched by Georgia's Aaron Murray (242 yards and three touchdowns) and South Carolina's Connor Shaw (249 yards and two scores).

Next up: Saturday at Missouri

Last week: 10 tackles and one pass break-up in a 41-3 win over Miami.

Season (five games): 48 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, three pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries.

Watchman's take: Te'o was again dominant in Week 6, totaling 10 tackles as the Fighting Irish held their third consecutive opponent without a touchdown -- an opponent, Miami, that had piled up 1,260 yards and 86 points over the previous two games. In so doing, Notre Dame moved up to second nationally in scoring defense at 7.8 points per game allowed. The All-America's candidacy is building steam at the right time, as the Irish face No. 17 Stanford and No. 13 Oklahoma over the next three weeks. Te'o may not win, but if he continues his current level of play he figures to remain a factor in this race.

Next up: Saturday vs. No. 17 Stanford

Last week: 34 rushes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-6 win over No. 4 LSU.

Season (five games): 103 rushes for 548 yards and seven touchdowns; two receptions for 14 yards.

Watchman's take: LSU hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 20 games dating back to the 2011 Cotton Bowl, but Gillislee broke through and burned the Tigers for a career-high 146 yards. The SEC's leader with 109.6 rushing yards per game also ranks third in total yards, trailing Georgia's Todd Gurley by 27 and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore by one despite playing one fewer game. And like those other two backs, Gillislee is looking to feast on Vanderbilt's 80th-ranked rush defense, which allowed 110 yards and two touchdowns to Lattimore and 130 yards and two scores to Gurley.

Next up: Saturday at Vanderbilt

Last week: 23-of-30 passing for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 win over Utah.

Season (five games): 111-of-173 passing for 1,308 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Watchman's take: It looked like Barkley's candidacy was going to take another hit against Utah, as he had the ball stripped away by Nate Fakahafua on the Trojans' second play of the game to help propel Utah to a 14-0 lead. But Barkley rallied USC to the win and delivered a statement in the process, throwing a career-best 83-yard (60 throw the air) touchdown pass to Marqise Lee. For the first time since the season opener, Barkley surpassed 300 yards and avoided an interception. He'll face a much stiffer defense next week as USC takes on Washington, which ranks second in the Pac-12 against the pass.

Next up: Saturday at Washington

Last week: 20 rushes for 122 yards in a 52-21 win over Washington.

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

Watchman's take: De'Anthony Thomas, the big-play threat with the catchy nickname, looked like the Ducks' most logical Heisman candidate during the preseason. But while Thomas' numbers have been up and down over the first six games, Barner has proven to be the most productive member of Oregon's backfield, and quite possibly the team's best shot at the award. Barner has topped 100 yards in all four games in which he's registered at least 20 carries, including each of the last two weeks, when he's combined for 317 yards and four scores while averaging a whopping 7.9 yards per carry.

Next up: Thursday, Oct. 18 at Arizona State

Last week: 11-of-31 passing for 109 yards and one interception in a 35-7 loss to No. 6 South Carolina.

Season (six games): 99-of-160 passing for 1,479 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions; 25 rushes for minus-17 yards and three touchdowns.

Watchman's take: With an opportunity to earn a signature win in front of him, Murray stumbled yet again and remains the only quarterback under Mark Richt to start at least one full season without beating a top-10 team. Facing constant pressure from Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina defense, Murray went without a touchdown pass for the first time since last Oct. 8 and posted the lowest yards (109) and completion percentage (35.5) of his 33-game career. He remains one touchdown behind David Greene's program record of 72 and should hit that mark against Kentucky, which has already allowed 19 on the year.

Next up: Saturday, Oct. 20 at Kentucky

Last week: 17-of-29 passing for 218 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 17-16 loss to NC State.

Season (six games): 105-of-149 passing for 1,365 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions; 42 rushes for 181 yards and one touchdown.

Watchman's take: Manuel had as clear a path as any player to the trophy ceremony, but NC State changed that by all but dashing the Seminoles' BCS title hopes. Manuel didn't get much help up front as he was sacked four times, but he was simply off his game, completing a season-low 58.6 percent of his passes while going 3-of-15 on third-downs and throwing his first interception since Week 1. The Seminoles still have No. 3 Florida on the schedule, but it seems unlikely Manuel can play his way back into contention.

Next up: Saturday vs. Boston College