|AJ McCarron has to do more than just hand off against LSU if he wants to challenge for the Heisman. US Presswire|
Although the Heisman race is pretty clear at the top, with Collin Klein the strong favorite, there's still a lot of shuffling to be done with the rest of the field.
If you're interested in how the Heisman race turns out, here are the games to watch this week:
TCU at No. 23 West Virginia -- If Geno Smith is going to get up off the mat and make a late run at the Heisman, it starts with this game against the Horned Frogs. Remember that Smith's numbers -- 26 touchdowns and just two interceptions -- are still quite stellar, despite his recent dropoff. A four- or five-touchdown performance on Saturday would give him some momentum heading into the last few games and keep him in the Heisman conversation.
Pittsburgh at No. 4 Notre Dame -- Coming off a big win over Oklahoma, Notre Dame must avoid a letdown and continue to show why it's one of the top teams in the country. There's probably little Manti Te'o can do in this game to hurt his status in the Heisman race, but producing a highlight or two could sway some voters his way if they happen to tune in.
Illinois at No. 6 Ohio State -- Braxton Miller's Heisman campaign came back to life a little bit last week and now Urban Meyer is calling his sophomore quarterback a legit candidate. The Illini shouldn't pose much of a threat to the Buckeyes, so this is a chance for Miller to look sharp and pad his numbers. At this point, he needs as much gaudiness in the box score as possible to grab attention from the other contenders in the race. If it doesn't happen against Illinois, it might hamper his chances at getting to New York.
No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 USC -- Once upon a time this was going to be Matt Barkley's shining Heisman moment. Now, there's merely a trio of fringe Heisman candidates -- none named Barkley -- on display in this one, with each sporting a fighting chance to jump into the mainstream of the race with a big performance against a ranked foe. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner needs a career rushing night to make his case, and teammate De'Anthony Thomas must show his all-around ability and rip off several highlight-reel plays from scrimmage and on special teams. For USC, wideout Marqise Lee has to continue his torrid play. Putting up another huge receiving day and maybe breaking a kick return in an upset of the Ducks could put him on track for an invite to New York.
Oklahoma State at No. 3 Kansas State -- At this point, every game is a huge game for Collin Klein and Kansas State. The explosive Cowboys won a shootout against the Wildcats last year, but that was in Stillwater. If Klein leads his team to a victory in Manhattan this time around, he'll continue to solidify his candidacy and, with three games left to play, the window of opportunity for other contenders to overtake him will shrink even more. OSU's defense has improved in recent weeks, so this game presents a challenge for Klein.
HEISMAN GAME OF THE WEEK -- No. 1 ALABAMA at No. 5 LSU
Although Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron has had an excellent season, he has yet to be put in a position where his team has needed him to pull its fat from the fire. As a result, he continues to be perceived by the Heisman electorate as just another interchangeable cog in Nick Saban's Alabama machine. Everybody knows the Tide wins primarily with defense and the run game, but the highly proficient passing game is seen as a nice-to-have cherry on top. For McCarron to make a move in this race, he needs to be the catalyst for Alabama in a win over LSU. It's a huge opportunity for the junior, as this is the most-hyped game of the week. A ton of Heisman voters will be watching and a three- or four-touchdown game by McCarron against the vaunted Tigers defense would go a long way toward showing them that he's not just a game manager. Of course, any talk of McCarron as a Heisman candidate will quickly vanish if LSU stops him cold and the Tide loses. This game will go a long way toward determining who makes it to New York as a Heisman finalist.