Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 11:06 AM
There's lots going on in the College Football kingdom -- the whole weekend doesn't exactly begin-and-end with the Alabama at LSU game, you know -- and among the key stories that folks like us will be keeping an eye on include what Heisman Trophy frontrunner QB Collin Klein does in Kansas State's game against Oklahoma State, what Notre Dame does as an unbeaten team coming off that emotionally-charged win at Oklahoma and there are some folks buzzing regarding how a couple of high-profile home underdogs fare as both USC (a once-upon-a-time #1 team in the land) and Michigan State are in the rather rare roles of gobbling up points in their own backyard. And, yes, LSU is a 9.5-point home pup against 'Bama and you just aren't gonna see that happen many times in a normal football lifetime.
Still, we roll out our latest Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List as we update our top five and so let's get it on:
1. COLLIN KLEIN, QB, KANSAS STATE -- No doubt about it the senior star has taken a major stranglehold on first place in the race for this year's famed bronzed statue and his 8-and-oh Wildcats go for more gusto in the above-mentioned 8 p.m. ET time against visiting Oklahoma State. Last weekend Klein completed 19-of-26 aerial attempts good for 233 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs and so the up-to-date numbers for Klein now include 1,630 yards passing with 12 TDs and only 2 INTs while he's added another 634 yards rushing (a 5.2 yards-per-carry average) and 16 TDs. The 6-foot-5 senior -- who also rushed for a pair of scores last weekend against overmatched Texas Tech -- may not have been on anyone's Heisman Trophy big board comin' into this 2012 campaign but now he's starting to pull away at the top.
2. MANTI TE'O, LB, NOTRE DAME -- The country's best defensive player simply added to his legend with last week's stirring 30-13 Irish win at 11-point favorite Oklahoma and now Te'o has 80 total tackles (39 of which are solo stops) with 5 interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries and yet those numbers still hardly tell the tale of a senior star who's overcome personal tragedy this year to lead Notre Dame to an 8-0 start. While some folks continue to rate other offensive players ahead of this senior star, we don't because if you've watched Te'o in action than you know he's played his very best ball in Notre Dame's biggest games. Another pick against the Sooners last week may have been a case of right-place, right-time but that's what stars do.
3. BRAXTON MILLER, QB, OHIO STATE -- Here's another star on an unbeaten team as the 9-0 Buckeyes right now may be the best ineligible team in the land but they have plenty of top-notch players and a real leader at the quarterback position. Miller -- a 6-foot-2 sophomore who juked Penn State plenty in last weekend's 35-23 win at Happy Valley -- finished off that game with rather modest stats such as 7-of-19 passing for 143 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT to go along with 134 yards rushing on 25 carries but if you happened to catch that whirling dervish short TD run against the Nittany Lions than you knew that was a"Hesiman Trophy moment" if there ever was one -- even ABC/ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough was amazed at the brilliance of that scoring run. On the year, Miller's thrown for 1,527 yards with 12 TDs and 6 INTs plus he's registered 1,093 yards rushing (a 6.6 ypc average) with 12 TDs. Next up: A home game Saturday against four-TD dog Illinois.
4. GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA -- Less than a month ago, this 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior was the runaway leader of the Heisman Trophy chase but now as we begin the all-important month of November the fact of the matter is Smith's one bad outing away from being whacked from our Jim Sez Top 5. Last week the skidding WVU Mountaineers were idle and so this becomes a real put-up or shut-up game against TCU this weekend as to whether or not the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder stays in the Heisman hunt or not. The season stats to this points are tough to knock: Smith has thrown for 2,414 yards with 26 TDs and 2 INTs but those lopsided losses in October versus Texas Tech and Klein's Kansas State crew has the 'Neer slinger back in our little Heisman pack.
5. AJ McCARRON, QB, ALABAMA -- Yes, we've heard the clamoring to get USC wide receiver Marqise Lee into the mix following last weekend's record-breaking 345-yard receiving game against Arizona but we'll hold firm with yet another undefeated quarterback and this lad leads the numero uno team in the land. McCarron -- a 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior -- isn't just a"game manager" for the Crimson Tide any longer as his stats prove with 1,684 yards passing with 16 TDs and 0 INTs and note he comes off a 208-yard, two-TD showing in that dominant 38-7 win against Miss State last weekend. If 'Bama scores some points this Saturday night down on the Bayou than McCarron could leapfrog a couple of folks on this list by this time next week. Do stay tuned!
Editor's Note: One inquisitive friend wanted to know just how good spreadwise the nation's top teams were doing this year and so let's check it out:
- ALABAMA -- The Crimson Tide is a solid 5-3 ATS (against the spread) this year and that includes"name" covers against Michigan, Arkansas and Miss State.
- KANSAS STATE -- No doubt the Wildcats have been a major money-earner with that 7-1 ATS mark and that includes a pair of upset wins against Oklahoma and West Virginia.
- NOTRE DAME -- The Irish is 5-3 versus the vig while also sporting two outright upset wins (against Michigan State and Oklahoma).
- OREGON -- The good news is the Ducks have covered their last three games in a row but overall this Pac-12 team is just 4-4 spreadwise.
So, the here-and-now results for the nation's top four teams is as follows: The quartet of Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon is a composite 21-11 against the Las Vegas prices -- probably a touch better than you might think considering all the times these clubs have been big betting favorites.
THE FRIDAY NITE TV PREVIEW
WASHINGTON (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) at CALIFORNIA (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) -- 9 p.m. ET, espn2
The Pac-12 standings show these two teams are merely battling for crumbs in the lower portion of the North Division that stars Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford (a combined 20-3 overall and 13-2 in league play) but at least the Washington Huskies come into play here off a feel-good game as last Saturday night's 20-17 mild upset win against 3 1/2-point fav Oregon State included four picks of OSU's Sean Mannion and a two-TD rushing game for RB Bishop Sankey.
If the elusive Sankey finds the seams in a California defense that ranks a lowly 66th nationally in rush defense (allowing nearly 165 yards a game) than the road dogs have a shot at landing the smallish upset (Cal's a 4 1/2-point betting fav at press time). One key for California: WR Keenan Allen (61 catches and 6 TDs) must be an impact player early here or even his brother QB Zach Maynard (12 TDs and 9 INTs) seems to forget about him for long periods of time.
Spread Notes -- The UW Huskies have split their eight pointspread verdicts so far this year but did you know that the Dawgs have covered five of their last six games against the kids from Berkeley. On the flip side, California is a rotten 3-6 against the odds this year and the Bears are a composite 18-25-1 spreadwise since the start of the 2009 season.
NOTE: Catch our College Football Weekend Previews plus more in the next edition of Jim Sez.