Collin Klein Heisman Watch (Week 7)

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Geno Smith finally looked human as Collin Klein just kept on carrying Kansas State to make up some ground in advance of Saturday's epic showdown.

Well, that was unexpected. Collin Klein had another Collin-Klein-like week (not spectacular but solid and best when it mattered most) while that guy at the top had, by his standards, a miserable showing. Suddenly, with a little help from the K-State defense this weekend, it's not too hard to imagine Optimus Klein being at the top of some Heisman lists by this time next week.

The importance of K-State becoming the Big 12 favorites (among rational, unbiased observers) simply cannot be overstated in Collin Klein's quest for the Heisman Trophy. It certainly doesn't hurt that at least his next two games are going to be broadcast nationally on FOX. FACT: Gus + Kansas State = Awesome.

By the way, for those of you who said earlier in the season that those two interceptions that could have possibly been prevented by Chris Harper didn't matter.....what say you now? If Harper had just found his aggressiveness a few weeks earlier and saved a couple of admittedly awful throws by Klein, our hero would be one of just four starting quarterbacks in all of FBS without an interception right now (not coincidentally, those QBs, including Klein, are 22-2).

Last Week

Klein once again proved that if you give him the ball close to the endzone, he's probably going to score. Six times he ran inside the ISU 12 yardline. Once he converted a 4th down, and three times he scored touchdowns. That's efficiency.

Passing-wise, the efficiency wasn't quite there, especially early, and it's unfortunate that he wasn't able to get a passing touchdown for only the second time this season. Maybe this isn't surprising at all, but Klein hasn't thrown for a passing TD against a decent defense all year. That won't change Saturday, by the way.

However, Klein did convert two out of every three passes and came through on two huge third down passing plays on K-State's final scoring drive. He now has 335 more passing yards than he did at the halfway point last season to go along with a completion percentage that is 7% better, so that's quite encouraging.

It's a little disappointing that his 17 touchdowns are the exact same as what he had through six games a year ago, though that's at least partly attributable to improved red zone running from Hubert and extra focus from opposing defenses. Just to illustrate the point, in last year's 7th game, against Kansas, Klein had 5 touchdowns vs. 1 for Hubert, and this season it was Hubert 4 vs. Klein 4 against the Jayhawks.

I believe ISU's defense remains underrated, making Klein's 292 total yards in Ames more impressive than most people think. He was only the second player to surpass 100 yards rushing against the Cyclones, and Tulsa's Trey Watts needed a 77-yard run to make that happen. Klein's longest run was his 12-yard touchdown scramble.

All in all, it was just the kind of day we've come to expect. No explosive, game-changing plays, but very few mistakes and remarkable determination to make sure he did everything he needed to seal a K-State win.

What he needs this week

Even though Texas Tech took away a little bit of the luster, this is still the one we've all been waiting for ever since the ‘Cats came through in Norman. That's when I bought my ticket, but even if you didn't do that, hopefully you'll still be able to tune in for this matchup of, in my mind, the top two candidates in the Heisman race.

Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech can confirm that West Virginia has basically nothing even resembling a pass defense, so perhaps this will be the time for Klein to truly show off his improved arm. Maybe this will be the day he'll surpass 300 yards for the first time, and Tyler Lockett will finally have that breakout game we've all been waiting for in which he truly looks like his dad and his uncle at the wideout position.

On the other hand, West Virginia's defense has put up somewhat respectable numbers against the rush, but they haven't faced any attack remotely close to Kansas State yet. Maybe it's time for Klein to just run wild all day and help the defense keep his nemesis off the field.

Either way, this is probably another one of those games that the most important thing Klein can do for his Heisman chances is win. The more upsets the Wildcats pull off and the closer K-State moves to a national championship, the more people talk about him, and the more people look closer at him to see past the statistics, which is what will have to happen for him to win the trophy.

Of course, it would be great if he could rack up 400 total yards and it'd be nice to see him get at least four touchdowns to keep pace with what he did last season. The Mountaineers defense is very vulnerable, and I think one huge statistical day just to show he can do it could prove valuable for Klein as well.

At this point, I'd like to take a moment to point out that last week, I wrote:

...it's reasonable if ambitious to assume Klein can surpass 100 yards for the second straight game. Even more importantly, he could really use another three-touchdown game."

TA-DA! I'm like a poor man's Bill Snyder.

Other contenders

You might have heard that Smith didn't do so well. I'm pretty sure it's the first time in history a Texas Tech defense has slowed down a Heisman frontrunner rather than light a fire behind them.

We'll likely talk more about this later in the week, but the Red Raiders managed to force some bad throws by putting Smith under pressure, holding him to under 300 yards and a completion percentage barely above 50%. I think it still remains to be seen how much of that is repeatable or how much of it was just an off day for Smith, but either way expect offensive genius Dana Holgerson to have a plan to combat itt this week and beyond.

A.J. McCarron will be back for Alabama's next beatdown after he injured his knee against Mizzou. His numbers are really not impressive at all, but he does still have more passing yards than Klein and has been able to avoid any interceptions, so he stays on the list.

Collin Klein, QB, KSU: 79-118 (66.9%), 1,074 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 98 rush, 510 yards, 10 TD

A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama: 89-132 (67.4%), 1,170 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 23 rush, -32 yards

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: 99-160 (61.9%), 1,479 yards, 12 TD, 4 INT, 25 rush, -17 yards, 3 TD

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: 195-259 (75.3%), 2,271 yards, 25 TD, 0 INT, 28 rush, 71 yards, 1 TD

Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: 37 rec, 830 yards, 8 TDs

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: 59 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 3 BU, 6 PD, 2 FR

Even my intense dislike of Notre Dame is no longer enough to keep Te'o from deserving a mention, since he's been just an animal on D. EJ Manuel, however, is out after throwing 2 interceptions vs. Boston College, even if he did also throw for 439 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Make no mistake, though, Geno is still the clear favorite based on those numbers. But if Klein outduels him and moves Kansas State to 7-0 vs. WVU's 5-2, then I think a lot of voters could have a change of heart.

What others are saying

CBS Sports/Heisman Pundit has moved Klein up to second, and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M is now fourth. I understand he's been really good, but it seems like it would take a minor miracle for a freshman to even be invited to NYC. At least it's not De'Anthony Thomas.

SI decided to keep that irrelevant sophomore from Ohio State in their number two spot ahead of Klein in third despite the fact that he only had three touchdowns, a 54% winning completion percentage, and an interception in a 3-point win over Indiana. I am not impressed. Get it together, SI.

The Sporting News used the same logic to keep Klein at third while implying that he would jump Smith if K-State wins this weekend. Well, that's something, I guess.

The wwL kept Klein solidly in third as well, while friend of BOTC and Big 12 blogger David Ubben continued to stay smart and put Klein at second while dropping De'Anthony Thomas completely out of his top five. It's about time.

ESPN's fan poll still doesn't like Klein at all, ranking him SIXTH, directly behind Matt Barkley. Gross. Go vote now to fix this!

Lisa Horne of Bleacher Report used some odd math to rank no one third but Johnny Manziel second between Klein and Smith, who she has in a tie for first. It's a bit confusing, but she has Klein ranked at #1, so that's cool.

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