Heisman Watch List Revisited

Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith continues to be the front runner for the Heisman Trophy at the midway point of the 2012 season.

Before the season, the Orange Bowl staff took a conference by conference look at who could emerge as a Heisman candidate in 2012. Some have lived up to the hype, while others have let the weeks slip by. Here in week six, we’ll take a look back at some of the names we mentioned to see who’s still standing midway through the college football season. 

The Favorites:

Geno Smith, West Virginia QB – At this point in the season, there’s no arguing that the West Virginia quarterback has been hands down the best player in football. Through five games, Smith leads the nation with a 228.4 passer rating, 24 touchdowns, no interceptions and an 83.4 completion percentage, while ranking third with 1,996 passing yards. He’s shown a complete mastery of Dana Holgersen’s “Airraid” offense, and has proven a transition from the Big East to the Big 12 isn’t too much for the senior to handle. His gaudy numbers have established Smith as the Heisman frontrunner, and if he keeps this pace up he’ll have no trouble bringing home the hardware in December.

Collin Klein, Kansas State QB – As long as the Wildcats keep winning (and they’re 15-3 with Klein under center), his name can’t be counted out. He’s shredding his reputation as a run-first quarterback, already throwing for 887 yards and seven touchdowns through five games. The rest of his throwing numbers are up too, collecting a 166.6 passer rating (125.6 last season) completing 67 percent of his passes (up from 57.3 in 2011) at an average of 9.44 yards per attempt (as opposed to 6.83 a year ago). What makes him truly dangerous is despite the advancement in the pocket, he’s still just as lethal out of it. Klein has collected another 405 yards and seven scores rushing while conducting ninth-ranked rushing attack in college football.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State QB – Urban Meyer has placed a great deal on the shoulders of his sophomore quarterback, and Miller has carried Ohio State to a perfect 6-0 record while establishing himself as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Through six games he’s tallied over 1,800 yards of offense and 17 touchdowns, statistically improving across the board from last season.  Miller will only get better as the season rolls along, but while we can expect a few mistakes from the youngster, we can also expect to see him play some of the gutsiest football in the country.

 De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon RB – When the ball is in his hands, he’s just lethal. With just 61 touches on the season, Thomas has found the end zone nine times and averages 9.5 yards per touch. By comparison, teammate Kenjon Barner has scored just one more touchdown despite over twice as many offensive touches. Thomas has tapered off a bit the past few weeks, being held scoreless against Arizona and slowed significantly against Washington State, but his position allows it. Unlike a quarterback, one or two off games won’t push a playmaker like Thomas out of the Heisman picture. All he needs is a performance similar to his week one drumming of Arkansas State (seven touches, 119 yards, three touchdowns) to put him right back in the thick of things.

A few we missed on:

Montee Ball, Wisconsin RB – He just hasn’t looked like the running back who tied an FBS record for points scored a year ago. After averaging over six yards per carry in 2010 and 2011, Ball’s average is down to just four this season. He’s only broken the century mark in all-purpose in half of his games this year, despite reaching that plateau in every game last season. Luckily Ball has still managed to find pay dirt, with eight touchdowns on the year and four scores in his past two games that Badgers fans hope is a sign of things to come.

Matt Barkley, USC QB – When you play for a team many expect to run the table, one loss can knock you out of Heisman contention. Such is the case for Matt Barkley, who has fallen off since USC’s week three loss to Stanford. After throwing 10 touchdowns and just one interception through the first two matchups, he’s thrown just two scores and four picks in the two games after and  he’s already been sacked six times this season. There’s still time for Barkley to turn his season around with two potential matchups with Oregon looming on the horizon, and his performance in last week’s win over Utah was a positive step. However, he’ll need some of the frontrunners to miss a step or two if he hopes to get back in the race.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma QB – Jones got off to a slow start last season before stringing together a number of impressive performances against the Big 12, but he looks awfully exposed without Ryan Broyles streaking down the sidelines. With the high powered offenses of West Virginia and TCU joining the conference ranks, Jones’ 1,032 yards, seven touchdowns and 135.2 passer rating don’t look nearly as impressive. Not to mention, Jones had two late turnovers that helped Collin Klein and Kansas State pull off an upset over the Sooners in week four.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas QB – Our tough luck candidate in the group, Wilson actually kicked off the season with the best start of his career (19-of-27, 367 yards, three touchdowns). Then came the overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the collarbone injury, watching his Razorbacks be dismantled by Alabama from the sideline, a four-game losing streak, two conference losses and a porous defense that has allowed 35 points per game (worst in the SEC).

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech QB – Thomas’ numbers are actually better right now than they were at this point last season. He’s thrown for 1,447 yards , 14 total touchdowns  and a 124.1 rating, but that’s not what was expected out of him. The physical tools haven’t gone anywhere, but LT3 hasn’t taken the steps forward many anticipated he would, and Virginia Tech has stumbled out to a 3-3 start. He’ll have a chance to make something happen in conference play, but it’d take winning from here on out to get within a whiff of the Heisman bronze. 


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