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Collin Klein Heisman Watch (Week 10)

Injury speculation won't do anything to stall our hero's Heisman hopes, and there's a guy out in Oregon who had a Heisman-like day Saturday.

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The Collin Klein for Heisman Express keeps going at full speed, but last Saturday it veered dangerously into injury lane, the worst lane imaginable. While we nervously wait to see if it can straighten itself out, I'm choosing to believe Klein will be back this Saturday, so this week's watch will be written with that underlying assumption.

However, it is worth it to take a moment to consider what an absence would do to Klein's Heisman hopes. As unfair as it would be, I think it's safe to assume a non-Klein loss would hurt a lot more than a non-Klein win, though the Big 12 title may be the most crucial thing to protect at this point.

Though the other candidates might have something to say about it, Optimus could probably survive a week off, as long as he were to come back just as strong as when he left in the third quarter against Oklahoma State. A second week would probably make things difficult — OK, this is getting too painful and scary to think about. Let's just move on.

Last Week

I'm becoming more and more impressed with Kansas State's receiving corps each and every week, which I think can be attributed just about equally to their performance and Klein's rising accuracy. Saturday was the third game in a row and the fifth time this season that he completed more than 70 percent of his passes, which is something that happened exactly zero times last year. Remarkable.

Tyler Lockett is clearly a star and a little ways ahead of the schedule I was expecting, and it's great to see Klein finally connecting with Chris Harper on some deep throws. This offense is becoming deadly through the air, and it's a wonderful thing to see.

That's largely because the ground game is still the bread and butter, as Bill Snyder reminded Oklahoma State whenever they forget, and really, quite a lot when they didn't. It was a rather unusual day as Klein got most of the workload and the yardage, but Hubert got the touchdowns.

Scoring was the obvious weakness in Klein's game Saturday, and the always ambitious dream of 30 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing is probably out of reach now. Still, Klein is just three rushing touchdowns away from another 20-10 season, and considering he has at least one score on the ground in every game except Missouri State, it seems like a safe bet he'll get there.

It's very difficult to overstate the significance of the fact that our quarterback hasn't turned the ball over once in six conference games, which admittedly takes some luck, but mostly illustrates just how fundamentally sound and focused he is. By the way, the guy who everyone said couldn't throw last season and even at the beginning of this year now leads the nation with a 174.4 passer rating. Not bad.

What he needs to do this week

Some more touchdowns should be the top priority here. I appreciate what Hubert's done and it was great to see the defense and special teams make game-changing plays, but it's time to go back to the guy that got you here.

When Klein throws a 50-yard pass and then runs it two plays later to get the ball down to the 1 yard line, let him take it into the endzone rather than run an option where (duh) teams are going to focus on Optimus. When you intercept a pass or return a kickoff and have only green in front of you, step out a foot short so Klein can score. OK, maybe not. But who's to say he doesn't deserve that?

TCU has a pretty legit defense, especially against the run, but they can be worn down. I suspected a lack of depth would hurt this team from the beginning of the season, and the fact that they've allowed 74 points in the first and third quarters compared to 116 in the second and fourth tells me Kansas State wants to keep them on the field as long as possible.

As luck would have it, that's pretty much always the gameplan for a Bill Snyder team, even if the receivers have been kind of screwing it up with all their big plays lately. I may be wrong, but this just feels like a game where Klein could really take over on the ground and maybe even surpass 100 yards if the 'Cats keep going to him.

That's not to say a playaction pass here and there wouldn't be nice, and another solid 200-yard passing day would be great, especially if it came with 70 percent completions and no turnovers. In other words, keep on keeping on, Mr. Klein.

Other contenders

It takes quite a bit to become a contender for the first time at this point in the race, but a 321-yard, five touchdown day in your team's toughest test of the season certainly qualifies. Plus, I probably didn't pay as much attention as I should have to this guy because I was so irritated by all of the undeserved media love being given to his teammate, De'Anthony Thomas.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: 133-187 (71.1%), 1,875 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT, 139rush, 698 yards, 17 TD

Kenjon Barner, HB, Oregon: 179 rush, 1,295 yards, 19 TD, 15 rush, 184 yards, 1 TD

A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama: 136-204 (66.7%), 1,849 yards, 19 TD, 0 INT, 34 rush, -44 yards, 1 TD

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: 249-346 (72.0%), 2,677 yards, 29 TD, 3 INT, 45 rush, 84 yards, 1 TD

Welcome to the group, Mr. Barner. His stats are kind of insane, when you consider how much he hasn't played or carried the ball. He's averaging 7.2 yards per carry and ranks third in the country in rushing, plus all of those touchdowns.

He has rushed for 100 yards in his last five games, but that's not to say his resume doesn't have weaknesses. Most notably that he didn't reach 100 yards or score on 20 carries against Arizona, and he only had 57 yards on 13 carries against freaking Tennessee Tech, a team that has managed to go winless in the FCS Ohio Valley Conference despite holding a halftime lead in five of those six games (they did not lead at halftime at Oregon).

McCarron could have easily been picked off and lost that football game in which case I might have knocked him off the list. Instead, he's still one of 2 QBs without a pick (Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron is the other, and he's thrown 75% more passes), he led a game-winning drive, and he even scored his only rushing touchdown of the season against a stout LSU defense, so he gets to stay.

This is almost a sympathy listing for Smith at this point, and I simply refuse to type the name of that defensive player you might have heard about for that team that almost lost to Pittsburgh, who lost by two touchdowns to Youngstown State. That's really all I can say about that without cursing.

What others are saying

Barner and McCarron took three votes away from Klein because some people apparently have very short-term memories, but 33 of 36 rational Heisman voters surveyed by USA Today picked Klein as their frontrunner. One crazy person picked Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, who I don't think I had ever heard of until I saw his name in this poll.

Oregon's running back made a big jump up to #2 in the Heisman Pundit/CBS Sports Rankings, but Klein remains safely ahead. The same is true for SI's Zac Ellis, except he understandably left McCarron at #2 largely on the strength of that stupidly easy game-winning drive.

The Sporting News' Steve Greenberg is one of the few that still likes Braxton Miller, and there's a strong case to be made that's because Ohio State is ineligible. Either way, it doesn't really matter, and Greenberg does still have Klein as #1, though the injury concerns him greatly.

Two ESPN voters didn't pick Collin Klein, but he's still first overall with 13 of 15 first-place votes, and one third-place vote somehow. Fortunately, friend of BOTC David Ubben has Klein in the lead, and he's one of three voters who didn't even include McCarron in his top five.

Klein is still third in the ESPN Fan Poll. Go vote, but don't do it before you go vote in the bigger more important election today if you haven't voted yet. Even if you don't live in one of the nine contested states (if you're any sort of political nerd, click on this link for one the NYT's coolest graphics ever).