Collin Klein Heisman Watch (Week 9)

Jamie Squire

Another dominant performance from Klein, this time against a real defense, kept him well in front of the pack in the 2012 Heisman race.

For the first time in a while, it was a fairly uneventful week in the Heisman race as our hero and everyone else in the discussion (with the notable exception of Georgia's Aaron Murray) had solid if not spectacular weeks. Klein now sits just four rushing touchdowns away from another 20-10 season, and while this may seem crazy and is certainly on the optimistic side, he actually has an outside shot at 30 rushing TDs and 20 passing TDs.

Essentially, as long as Kansas State keeps winning, you can continue to expect to see Optimus at the top of the Heisman lists of all rational people, which really is a beautiful thing. The media seems to be loving the reality of a Klein candidacy, and it's not hard to see why when you're talking about a guy who is the type of person not only his coaches, but his teammates say they would hope their son would become.

To be honest, I'm a little surprised we really haven't heard much at all about Klein's pro prospects, which are still not great, though certainly getting better. You would hope most people realize that shouldn't matter at all when deciding the best college football player in the country, but you never know, and we as K-State fans must always have at least a little bit of paranoia when enjoying so much success.

Of course, it would be foolish to bet against Klein in just about anything, so he certainly can't be counted out at the next level, either as a quarterback or some sort of hybrid, or maybe even a dangerous slot receiver a la Brad Smith. But that's something we'll have plenty of time to analyze later, when K-State doesn't need Klein to keep being Klein for four more games to potentially earn a national title berth.

Last week

Another week, another Heisman performance by Klein against a defense that actually is pretty good. But with some help from Arthur Brown, Klein's offense scored 55 against the #14 team in the country and won by 31, or the same point differential as Notre Dame against Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford combined.

Sure, Klein got off to a slow start and John Hubert got the call near the goalline in the first half. But it's awfully tough to argue with 6.9 yards per carry on 12 rushes and more than 200 yards passing with a 73% completion percentage.

For the first time I can remember this season, Klein found Chris Harper on a deep pass, and Tyler Lockett was again the top target, catching seven passes. Klein remains the only quarterback to not throw an interception in Big 12 play, which is something that should not be taken lightly.

Plus, whereas in Morgantown three of his four rushing touchdowns came from one yard away, he scored from 22 and 16 yards out against the Red Raiders. No, he didn't get 100 yards on the ground due to the lack of touches, but it was still a dominant performance and once again Klein got to watch the final half of the fourth quarter from the sideline.

What he needs this week

When you think of Oklahoma State, Wes Lunt and Joseph Randle are probably the first guys that come to mind, and for good reason considering Randle leads the conference with 139 rushing yards per game in Big 12 play and Lunt has been very impressive for a freshman, when healthy. But this defense isn't too bad, either.

It is worth emphasizing the Cowboys haven't faced five of the conference's top 6 offenses this season, but they are still ranked third in total defense in conference play behind Oklahoma and Kansas State. Last week, they gave up only one offensive touchdown against TCU.

All of that is to say things won't be easy for Klein this week, but the opportunities should still be there for a big day. If he wants to reach the remarkable 30-20 plateau, three rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns would be nice.

That appears definitely within reach depending on playcalling near the redzone, and it's not hard to imagine Klein getting 200 yards passing and another 100 rushing this Saturday. After all, he rushed for 157 and threw for 231 while collecting four total touchdowns in Stillwater last season.

Finally, it's worth noting that if Klein gets 289 yards through the air this week, he would surpass his total from all of last season. It shouldn't surprise anyone that he's averaging 3.1 yards more per pass and 2.6 yards more per rush as a senior than he did a year ago. Improved efficiency, FTW.

Other contenders

Again, Klein is clearly a notch above the rest on this list, but certainly all of them that played last week turned in excellent performances. One bad day from Klein (God forbid) could quite easily turn this into a competitive race once again, or even do more serious damage.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: 117-165 (70.9%), 1,630 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT, 122 rush, 634 yards, 16 TD

A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama: 122-177 (68.9%), 1,684 yards, 18 TD, 0 INT, 31 rush, -51 yards

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: 216-291 (74.2%), 2,414 yards, 26 TD, 2 INT, 35 rush, 56 yards, 1 TD

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: 80 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 5 INT, 3 pass breakups, 8 pass deflections, 2 FR

McCarron's lack of an interception gets more impressive by the week, but 208 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win over Mississippi State leaves him still very much lacking a true Heisman moment. It's not his fault that he is surrounded by ridiculous talent and probably has played less than anyone on this list, but it's just hard to imagine him doing something spectacular enough to win the award.

Smith had a much-needed bye week and could be headed for the same fate as Aaron Murray, who threw three interceptions and completed just 50 percent of his passes for 150 yards against Florida. Really, Georgia won in spite of Murray, so his floundering Heisman campaign is pretty much over unless he puts up absolutely phenomenal numbers against the four weak teams left on the schedule.

In his absence, I decided to put in Te'O, more just to show his numbers than because I actually believe he has any shot at winning this thing. If ND sneaks into the #2 spot and he continues to lead a Notre Dame defense that absolutely shuts everyone down the rest of the way, maybe he'd have an argument, but I just don't see the absolutely otherworldly play and flashy performances needed for a defensive player to win the Heisman.

What others are saying

USA Today has a poll with 36 official Heisman voters, and 35 of them put Optimus at No. 1, so that's a good sign. One contrarian put Te'o in front, just because somebody had to, I guess.

Indeed, Klein remains the heavy favorite in most lists, including the Heisman Pundit/CBS Sports rankings that somewhat surprisingly still list Smith at No. 2. Please note I am completely disregarding the straw poll of media voters until it gets rid of whatever complete hack is voting USC's Marqise Lee as the Heisman frontrunner each and every week. What a joke.

Similarly, some idiot at Sports Illustrated gave a first place vote to Alabama offensive lineman Chance Warmack because it's cool to be different, I guess. Klein remains the obvious frontrunner for SI's Zac Ellis, though he says Manti Te'o is on the rise because of ND's big win.

Steve Greenberg of The Sporting News has trouble imagining a scenario in which he wouldn't vote for Klein as long as K-State wins the Big 12, even if the ‘Cats lose one down the stretch. I don't necessarily agree with the logic, but I'll take it regardless.

For the second straight week, Klein is the unanimous #1 in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch. They've got a rather curious third choice in Oregon's Kenjon Barner, but I guess his 974 yards and 14 TDs aren't bad, though they're certainly not eye-poppnig.

Klein is up to 12% in the ESPN Fan poll and gaining quickly on Smith, but he has a long ways to go to catch Te'O, who is all the way up to 28%. It may be hopeless at this point, but if you've got the time, go vote every day anyway to show your support for our incredible QB. Remember, the poll is worth one real vote.

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