Yes, it's only been two weeks and Collin Klein is still a dark horse candidate, but after his masterful performance on Saturday it's time to take a closer look at where he stands in the Heisman race and how he could win. Much like the Daniel Thomas Heisman Watch at Ahearn Alley two years ago, this feature will continue each week unless the CK for Heisman train runs completely off the tracks with no chance of getting back on.
Geno Smith appears ready to provide some tough competition within the conference, and it's not going to be possible to keep up with Matt Barkley's ridiculous pace (10 TDs in 2 weeks!). On the bright side, the Pac-12 had a great week (9-3 with 3 upsets of top 25 teams) so maybe someone other than Oregon will challenge the Trojans and their quarterback after all. We may find out when they play at Stanford Saturday.
In a perfect world, the Heisman would go to the player who had the best season, regardless of all other factors. In reality, that's not the case. The good news for Klein is that voters will likely value how important he is to the team (though this has actually gone down slightly now that we've seen flashes of Daniel Sams) but the bad news is he plays for Kansas State and faces a very difficult schedule that will make it hard to keep the ‘Cats in the national picture.
No one entered this season as the clear Heisman favorite, and Robert Griffin III certainly showed last year that a quarterback playing for a team that isn't in the top 10 of the country can win the award. It just takes some ridiculous numbers and probably a strong likeability factor. Klein has the latter. He's got a long way to go to reach the former.
After a strange week in which CK was 0-for-3 on goal-to-go runs against Missouri State -- leading Snyder to give admittedly well-deserved carries to Braden Wilson - the Klein we all know and love returned against Miami. He pushed and shoved his way to touchdowns on his first two runs inside the ten and added another one late in the blowout.
That impressive running performance against the ‘Canes was complemented by one of the best passing performances of his career. Did you know that despite not cracking the top 70 in total yards, Collin Klein currently ranks 10th in the country in quarterback rating, just one spot behind Barkley? It's true.
If only he could have avoided that silly third quarter interception, we'd be talking about his performance as one of the best in the country last week. A questionable throwing motion doesn't much matter as long as you're getting results and your throws are hitting receivers in stride.
All that being said, a 3.2 yards per carry average and only 71 yards rushing isn't exactly eye-popping. Four failed attempts to run into the endzone inside the ten (not counting the Big 12's worst play of the week) are still a slight concern for his candidacy moving forward and not all voters are smart enough to notice Klein only threw 11 passes and 210 passing yards is quite good in K-State's offense.
It's great that he spread it around to all of his receivers so that no one even reached 60 yards, but BC showed against Miami that having one go-to guy (Alex Amidon) can be more effective. Though Tramaine Thompson has been a pleasant surprise, I'm still quite skeptical that anyone on this team is even capable of becoming a top 10 receiver in the Big 12 this season.
What he needs this week
This game and the one against KU on Oct. 6 will be the last opportunities to pad stats and inflate those numbers to Heisman quality. Perhaps more importantly, it's a chance to build up the national hype even more in advance of the Oklahoma game, which you can be sure most voters will be watching.
It's unrealistic to think Klein will replicate Daniel Thomas' remarkable 269-yard performance from two years ago without borrowing a jetpack from TCU, but he should be able to easily top Thomas' two touchdowns. That's not even counting the scores Klein should rack up through the air.
The Mean Green's rush defense lived up to the name last week by holding FCS Texas Southern to just 31 yards on 25 carries. The week before was a different story. LSU had two 100-yard rushers while racking up 316 yards on the ground and an average of almost seven per carry.
That's great news for Klein, and if he's going to be a Heisman contender, I don't think 150 yards is too much to ask for this week. The passing may depend on if this one gets out of hand quickly and the K-State offense consistently gets a short field, but another 200 or so would sure be nice.
It is quite possible Snyder will try to limit Klein's carries this week to make sure he's 100% ready for Oklahoma. I certainly wouldn't protest this decision and would just hope that Klein at the very least gets the opportunity to pad his touchdown totals. No disrespect to John Hubert or Sams intended.
These are the guys I see as ahead of or at least even with Collin Klein right now. Some of them are there because of huge numbers, some of them are there because of the team on the front of their jerseys, and some of them are lucky enough to have both. Please note that at least for these first few weeks, candidates must be on undefeated teams.
Collin Klein: 28-39, 379 yards (71.8%), 3 TD, 1 INT, 35 rush, 125 yards, 3 TD
Matt Barkley, QB, USC: 46-68 (67%), 559 yards, 10 TD, 1 INT, 2 rush, -17 yards
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: 45-61 (73.8%), 643 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INT, 3 rush, -1 yards
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: 49-60 (81.7%), 576 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 12 rush, 23 yards
Matt Scott, QB, Arizona: 58-87 (68.3%), 707 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 33 rush, 129 yards, 1 TD
Geno Smith, QB, WVU: 32-36 (88.9%) 323 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 8 rush, 65 yards, 1 TD (1 game)
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: 41 rush, 431 yards, 3 TD, 4 rec, 63 yards, 1 TD
Marqise Lee, WR, USC: 21 rec, 263 yards, 4 TD, 1 rush, 23 yards
The first two are obvious, and the numbers for Franklin, Bray and Bridgewater are simply too good to ignore, even though they came against lesser competition. Tennessee plays Florida next week and unfortunately Louisville plays no one good ever and UCLA doesn't face another ranked team until November.
I put Scott on this list only because the win against OSU was impressive, and he has more yards than Klein both through the air and on the ground. Arizona plays at Oregon in two weeks, so sink or swim time is coming soon. Despite the missing 'u' in his name, Lee gets the nod for being the best receiver in the country so far and playing for USC.