1. Johnny Manziel – Freshman QB, Texas A&M
Last Week: 32-for-44 (73 percent) for 372 yards three TDs and one interception. 12 rushes for 67 yards (5.6 yards per rush) and two TDs
Season: 273-for-400 (68 percent) for 3,419 yards 24 TDs and eight interceptions. 184 rushes for 1,181 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and 19 TDs
Manziel’s performance against Alabama shot him up from the ranks of novelty act to Heisman frontrunner. Not bad for a redshirt freshman. He followed it up with a resounding win over a Missouri team that, unlike the Aggies, may wish it were back in the Big 12. Unlike former frontrunner Collin Klein, Manziel has made his case at the end of the season. Since the loss to LSU, where he completed 52 percent of his passes with three interceptions, Manziel has connected on 75 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. Right now, the only thing working against Manziel is that fact that he isn’t playing in the final week of the season. Because of home losses to Florida and LSU, Texas A&M is not playing in the SEC Championship game. He currently has the lead on the Heisman, but can he hold off the others without playing?
2. Manti Te’o – Senior LB, Notre Dame
Last Week: Five tackles and one interception
Season: 101 tackles and seven interceptions
Te’o didn’t have a prolific game as far as tackle numbers are concerned, but once again, he had an interception in a major game. He has seven interceptions on the season, half of which came against ranked teams. He picked off Denard Robinson twice and Landry Jones once and is third in the nation in the category. The Notre Dame defense has only given up nine touchdowns while the Alabama defense, though leading the nation in allowing nine points per game, has allowed 14 touchdowns. Te’o and Manziel present a unique challenge for Heisman voters this season. Voters will have to choose between a freshman and a player exclusively on defense. But like Manziel, Te’o’s campaign has ended and he will not be able to make a statement on the final week of the season. Te’o has made as good a case as any defender in the history of the award and he has a chance to make history next Saturday.
3. Collin Klein – Senior QB, Kansas State
Last Week: 27-for-50 (54 percent) for 286 yards for two TDs and three interceptions. 17 rushes for 39 yards (2.3 yards per rush) and one TD
Season: 172-for-258 (67 percent) for 2,306 yards 14 TDs and six interceptions. 171 rushes for 787 yards (4.6 yards per rush) and 20 TDs
Klein’s campaign took a major hit with Kansas State’s loss to Baylor. The Bears had won just one conference game against Kansas, but their maligned defense was able to hold Klein to one of his worst offensive performances of the season. Klein does have to his advantage that he’s playing this week. Unfortunately for Klein, the game between Texas and Kansas State has lost a lot of its luster. But since giving up 50 points in the win over Baylor, Texas has only allowed two teams to score at least 20 points. Klein has a lot of ground to make up, and even with an incredible performance, he may be too far back.
4. Marqise Lee – Sophomore WR, USC
Last Week: Five receptions for 75 yards (15 yards per reception)
Season: 112 receptions for 1,680 yards (15 yards per reception) and 14 TDs
After a strong freshman campaign, Lee has exploded onto the scene this season and has taken over the title of most electric player in the country. He surpassed his freshman season by 39 catches and 537 yards receiving with three touchdowns. He has had eight games with at least 100 yards receiving, and seven with at least 10 receptions. His 345 yards receiving in the loss to Arizona was one of the greatest single-game performances by any player this season. He is also one of the most dangerous return men in the country with almost 29 yards per kickoff return and a touchdown. Five losses for the Trojans are the only major thing holding him. If Lee was on a one-loss team, he may well be the leader right now.
5. Braxton Miller – Sophomore QB, Ohio State
Last Week: 14-for-18 (78 percent) for 189 yards and one TD. 20 rushes for 57 yards (2.9 yards per rush)
Season: 148-for-254 (58 percent) for 2,039 yards 15 TDs and six interceptions. 227 for 1,271 yards (5.6 yards per rush) and 13 TDs
Miller came up with one of his best passing performances of the season against Michigan. Most of the passes though, were within about seven yards of the line of scrimmage. He was largely held in check by the Michigan run defense with the bulk of his yards coming on a 42-yard scamper. He led Ohio State to the most unheralded undefeated season in recent memory. Were it not for the probation, the Buckeyes would be playing in the Big Ten Championship game with a chance to reach the national championship game against Notre Dame, and Miller would be a bit higher on this list.