Friday, October 19, 2012

Can Collin Klein really win the Heisman?

All that stuff I said/wrote about Geno Smith not having already won the Heisman turned out to be pretty accurate; the support for him diminished about eleventy-fold after he went whatever is the opposite of ham against Texas Tech, although he's probably still the favorite by default. I mean, the viable alternatives are almost nonexistent at this point since Matt Barkley is doing nothing of significance while playing for a team that's mediocre-ing its way toward 9-3, DeAnthony Thomas has like 300 rushing yards this season and Manti Te'o is playing defense.

Here's the Heisman Pundit straw poll this week:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia -- 19 (4)
2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State -- 18 (4)
3. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State -- 13 (1)
4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M -- 7 (1)
5. (tie) Marqise Lee, WR, USC -- 3 (1)
5. (tie) Manti Te'o , LB, Notre Dame -- 3

Oh hai Collin Klein. There are actually, like, people voting for him to win, which is interesting since probably 10 percent of the voters couldn't pick him out of a lineup made up entirely of legitimate-Heisman-candidate quarterbacks, two of whom are black. BTW, Johnny Manziel doesn't fall into the "legitimate" category since (a) he's a freshman and (b) he didn't do much against Florida and has yet to play LSU and Alabama, the top two statistical defenses in the country. He'll be mostly forgotten when A&M is 8-4 and his numbers have come back down to Earth with authoritah.

Anyway, as for Klein, I've been somewhat skeptical of his candidacy largely because I don't think Kansas State is that good and thus will lose some games, and losses are bad things that are destroyers of Heisman relevancy. But the losses are getting a little harder to identify as Texas continues sucking on defense, West Virginia continues sucking on defense, etc. Here's K-State's remaining schedule:

at West Virginia                                              
TEXAS TECH                                      
OKLAHOMA ST.                                              
@ TCU                                
@ Baylor                                            

All those games are plausibly losable, but all of them are also plausibly winnable. And with a win over Oklahoma somewhat forgotten but still relevant in the grand Big 12 scheme of things, it's not unrealistic to think K-State could lose two conference games (as long as one of them isn't to West Virginia) and go to the Fiesta Bowl via tiebreakers, which would be crazy since Kansas State is Kansas State and the Big 12 is loaded with good-ish teams. So for all the Geno Smith/RGIII comparisons, Klein is probably more comparable to RGIII in a carrying-a-meh-team-to-LOLWUT-heights sense. West Virginia had a pretty dang good offense last year and scored a bajillion points in the Orange Bowl, so Smith hasn't been a surprise the way RGIII was; Klein has been (kind of).

HOWEVA, it's probably worth noting that K-State started 6-0 last season and finished 10-2, with Klein accounting for most of that success by rushing for an FBS-quarterback-record 27 touchdowns (!!!!!) and 1,141 yards and throwing for just under 2,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and six picks. His projected numbers this year: 1,020 rushing yards, 20 rushing touchdowns, 2,148 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns and four picks. So basically the same except with a not-quite-as-crazy number of rushing touchdowns. And Klein didn't finish in the top 10 last year, probably with good reason. His presence in the top two of the straw poll right now probably says more about the lack of real candidates than it does about Klein (sorry, man).

But can he win it? Yeah. If West Virginia ends up 9-3/8-4, it probably means Geno Smith's numbers have gone from ludicrous speed to warp speed, and that's obviously gonna be a necessity for Klein to have any chance. I mean, Smith is on pace to throw for just under 5,000 yards with 50 touchdowns and no picks. If he throws for 50 touchdowns and no picks, the Heisman people will give him the trophy so, so hard regardless of whether West Virginia goes 8-4 or 11-1. If he throws, say, 40 touchdowns and six picks, that's really good (RGIII and Andrew Luck had similar numbers last year) but not totally overcome-able. Basically, Klein has to win something of significance and not get totally destroyed numbers-wise; both of those are possible but dependent on Smith this week and beyond.

And as for other potentially viable candidates, there are probably only two: Matt Barkley (in the relatively unlikely event that he goes bonkers against both Oregon and Notre Dame, resulting in USC going 11-1 and being a legit national title contender again) and Braxton Miller. The thing about Miller is that he's gonna have numbers very comparable (in every way) to Klein's for a team that will almost definitely be 11-0 going into the Michigan game, which everybody will be watching because obviously. Will it matter that Ohio State can't win anything of significance if Ohio State wins all its games and Miller does the Tim Tebow 20/20 thing? I dunno. I'm guessing it wouldn't but can't really say for sure since the poll numbers above are drawn from a pretty small sample size that might not be totally indicative of the full field of voters (and the ineligibility thing hasn't come up since 1989, when Andre Ware won the Heisman in what was obviously a totally different setting since Andre Ware won the Heisman). I'm sure he’ll be a finalist but less sure that he can actually win it without implosions from the other dudes.

One other thing worth considering that Heisman Pundit's been harping on for a couple weeks now:
2 -- The number of Heisman voting regions where Geno Smith will be a favorite son. His school is located physically in the Mid-Atlantic region, but he'll play four games in the Southwest region. Being a well-known commodity to media in two different regions could be crucial in a close vote.
Interesting point, FWIW. I honestly don't know how many people outside the greater Kansas area are gonna care what Collin Klein has done statistically unless K-State is doing something of greater significance nationally than winning an insane Big 12 in which every team scores 74 points a game and goes 9-3, and beating West Virginia is probably a prerequisite (even if the opposite isn't necessarily true for Smith, who's given himself some margin for error by doing a lot of ridiculous things thus far). So I’ll be watching. Of course I’ll be watching.


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