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K-State's Klein bests WVU's Smith, takes over top Heisman Watch spot


Warning: Do not adjust your screen. As you can see, I am not Cory McCartney. But I am excited to take the reins of's new-look Heisman Watch for the rest of the college football season.

When last we left our rankings, West Virginia's Geno Smith had managed to maintain a loose lead on the race despite his Mountaineers getting bludgeoned at Texas Tech. Likewise, readers had anointed Smith the winner of our Halfway Heisman poll.

Oh, how a week can change things. Saturday's matchup between Smith's Mountaineers and fellow Heisman hopeful Collin Klein's No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats erased Smith's mid-season lead. The matchup saw only one passer deliver a performance worthy of the hardware: The versatile Klein smothered the Mountaineers, propelling the Kansas State senior from early season dark horse to current Heisman Watch leader.

Before moving on to the post-Week 8 rankings, here's a reminder of where things stood last week.

Last week: 19-of-21 passing for 323 yards and three touchdowns; 12 rushes for 41 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-13 win over No. 17 West Virginia.

Season (seven games): 98-of-139 yards passing for 1,397 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions; 110 rushes for 551 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Watchman's take: Klein couldn't have gotten a better opportunity to stage his Heisman coming-out party than against West Virginia's own prolific passer in Morgantown. Klein accounted for seven total touchdowns while completing 90.5 percent of his passes against the Mountaineers and also broke the FBS record for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. The Wildcats have scored 50 points or more in four games this season, and Klein is a big reason why: The senior has accounted for 64 percent of his team's offense and is the nation's second-rated passer.

Next up: Saturday vs. No. 15 Texas Tech

Last week: 10 tackles, ½ tackle for loss and one interception in a 17-14 win over BYU.

Season (seven games): 69 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Watchman's take: Te'o helped the Irish remain undefeated with his third straight double-digit tackle performance. The senior also picked off BYU quarterback Riley Nelson early in the first quarter for his fourth interception of the season. As long as Notre Dame keeps itself in the national title picture, Te'o's chances of reaching New York remain afloat, though he still has a couple of offensive tests ahead of him. The Irish must travel to No. 8 Oklahoma in Week 9 and then No. 10 USC on Nov. 24, but Te'o has performed well on a big stage, averaging 10.3 tackles against ranked foes this season.

Next up: Saturday at No. 8 Oklahoma

Last week: 17-of-22 passing for 306 yards and four touchdowns in a win at Tennessee.

Season (seven games): 106-of-154 passing for 1476 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Watchman's take: A banged-up knee suffered last week against Missouri didn't seem to bother McCarron against Tennessee, as the junior bounced back from the touchdown-less Week 7 outing to spearhead Alabama's win in Knoxville. McCarron threw for a career-high 306 yards and matched a career high with four passing touchdowns. McCarron may not provide the highlight-reel plays other Heisman contenders deliver, but the country's top-rated passer (183.6) has yet to throw an interception and is the constant behind one of Nick Saban's better offenses. The Tide have scored 30 or more points in all seven games to start the season, a first for any 'Bama team.

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Next up: Saturday at No. 13 Mississippi State

Last week: 9-of-20 passing for 113 yards and one interception; 12 rushes for 47 yards and one touchdown in an overtime win against Purdue.

Season (eight games): 105-of-179 passing for 1384 yards, 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions; 141 rushing yards for 959 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Watchman's take: Call it an "incomplete" for Miller. The Buckeyes' dual-threat passer left Ohio State's game against Purdue after a hard hit on the next-to-last play of the third quarter, so Urban Meyer's squad squeaked out a win without Miller's services in the waning moments. But the Buckeyes' still-perfect record helped keep Miller's name in the Heisman hunt, as did the quarterback's first-quarter rushing touchdown.

Next up: Saturday at Penn State

Last week: 21-of-32 passing for 143 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Season (seven games): 216-of-291 passing for 2,414 yards, 26 touchdowns and two INTs

Watchman's take: Smith followed up a forgettable Week 7 outing with an even worse performance against Kansas State. West Virginia's defense was exposed once again, while Smith failed to get the offense moving, mustering only 243 yards of offense. Smith also saw his streak of consecutive passes without an interception snapped at 273 with a third-quarter pick by K-State's Arthur Brown, one of two picks on the night for Smith. Since tossing 24 touchdowns in his first five games, Smith has thrown as many touchdowns (two) as interceptions in his last two starts, both West Virginia losses. A second-half surge could save Smith's Heisman hopes, but playing two of the Big 12's top passing defenses (Oklahoma State and Oklahoma) in the next three weeks won't make it easy.

Next up: Nov. 3 vs. TCU

Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, Wisconsin running back Monteé Ball and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel missed the cut this week.

As part of our new approach to the Heisman Watch, we'll poll SI's Heisman voters each week to get their current top-three list. In this first installment, SI staffers largely agree with the Watchman's top pick, with all but one first-place vote going to Klein. The final first-place vote went to a player left off every other ballot: Alabama offensive lineman Chance Warmack.

1. Kansas State QB Collin Klein -- 9 votes (8 first-place votes)2. Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o -- 8T3. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller -- 2T3. West Virginia QB Geno Smith -- 2T3. Alabama QB AJ McCarron -- 2Alabama OL Chance Warmack -- 1 (1)USC QB Matt Barkley -- 1Texas Tech QB Seth Doege -- 1LSU LB Kevin Minter -- 1

SI's voters: Senior writers Thayer Evans; Stewart Mandel, Andy Staples, Phil Taylor; senior editors Jim Gorant, Mallory Rubin, B.J. Schecter; associate producers Zac Ellis and Ben Glicksman.

Irish linebacker Te'o intercepts a pass in Notre Dame's 17-14 win over BYU. (Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

Alabama quarterback McCarron hits a wide-open Amari Cooper in the corner of the end zone to give the Crimson Tide the early lead in their 44-13 romp over Tennessee. Brad Nessler says it best in the video: "That was too easy."

Should we credit Klein ... or blame West Virginia?