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Senior College Football Columnist

Power Poll: QB Klein, Kansas State standing up to all challengers

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Klein (left), here with brother Kyle, played WR and special teams before he was KSU's QB. (Getty Images)  
Klein (left), here with brother Kyle, played WR and special teams before he was KSU's QB. (Getty Images)  

A Kansas State player could win the Heisman. Just wrapping my brain around that concept makes my head hurt.

A Kansas State player from Loveland, Colo., who essentially had to prove himself to two coaches before getting on the field. A Kansas State player who at the beginning of 2011 was an afterthought. Since the kickoff of that season, Collin Klein has accounted for 64 touchdowns and is 17-3 as a starter.

Klein could win the Heisman because, to this point, two things keep happening -- defenses can't stand up to him and Heisman challengers keep dropping off the map.

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The Geno Smith we fawned over earlier this season is done, kaput as a candidate, a victim of a one-trick philosophy at West Virginia. Alabama's AJ McCarron has yet to throw an interception, but there is a sizable portion of the population who believe even you or I could quarterback the nation's No. 1 team. Manti Te'o is a fine story -- Notre Dame's best offensive weapon in some games -- but does anyone really believe a defensive player is going to win the Heisman?

As we enter Week 9, the Stiff Arm is Klein's to lose -- and that is amazing. Alabama players are supposed to win Heismans. Kansas State players are supposed to show up for weekly Tuesday interviews in slacks and blazers. Nevertheless, K-State should be favored in every game it plays the rest of the way. The Wildcats also have a legitimate shot to make the championship game.

Yes, all of it comes with the usual disclaimer. The fall can be quick and precipitous. Those two L's in Klein's Christian name? Same number of L's on West Virginia's season all of a sudden.

This happened once before at Kansas State. QB Michael Bishop led the Wildcats to the Big 12 championship game in 1998. In a regular-season game between the top two Heisman vote getters, K-State trounced Texas 48-7 while smothering Ricky Williams. Williams still won the Heisman. Bishop was second.

But to this day, that's not what bothers Bill Snyder. Halfway through the fourth quarter 14 years ago, the Wildcats were comfortably ahead of Texas A&M in that Big 12 title game. With a conference title and national championship shot minutes away, Bishop fumbled and everything changed. The Aggies rallied, tied it in regulation and won in overtime. They made a movie about the guy who caught the winning touchdown pass -- Sirr Parker.

Snyder called it the worst thing he's ever had to endure.

So no one in Manhattan is making reservations for New York or a BCS bowl just yet. The painful memories remind them that it can all blow up in a second. But for now, Klein is doing what neither defenses nor Heisman challengers have been able to do -– keep his feet under him. West Virginia on Saturday night looked like it spent the week on fall break instead of breaking down film. And clearly there is enough film of the Mountaineers now that they have been outscored 104-28 the last two weeks.

Was it any different when Tim Tebow was around? That seems to be the best comparison at this point. You know what's coming and still can't stop it.

They are/were both bulldozers. They are both deep thinkers. They are equally spiritual. The difference? Klein wasn't a five-star schoolboy recruit. Klein was coveted by Utah and Colorado State. No one really knows how much. Former Kansas State coach Ron Prince took him as a drop-back quarterback, then he was fired. Snyder 2.0 gave Klein a shot only after he paid his dues as a receiver and special-teams player.

There are no doubt great stories behind Klein. His dad Doug gave up college coaching to raise his children. Doug Klein had once coached with a young Bob Stoops at Kent State.

"There are pieces and parts of it I miss a lot," Collin's dad said of coaching. "The people, the kids. You cannot duplicate game day. You cannot duplicate a locker room. You can search the ends of the earth and you will never find what those guys have at Kansas State now."

Other great stories we would love to unearth: The co-offensive coordinators -- Dana Dimel and Del Miller -- are each in their third go-round with Snyder. But the head coach doesn't allow his assistants to talk to the media -- maybe not at all, for all we know. Bishop was sequestered in a similar way in '98.

Klein will have to let his play speak for itself. And that might be enough because he and the Wildcats are good enough. With six weeks to go in the season, they have to avoid becoming a 1998 re-run.

This week's Power Poll is preceded by a numbers roll call:

  • 4: The number of MAC teams with one or fewer losses (Ohio, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Kent State).
  • 5: Number of teams in the Power Poll that aren't bowl eligible. Meanwhile, Duke is.
  • 6: Number of TDs thrown by USC's Matt Barkley vs. Colorado to set the Pac-12 career record.
  • 7: TDs accounted for by Klein vs. West Virginia.
  • 14: MAC wins against non-conference FBS opponents, tying a conference record.
  • 18: Years since Duke was in a bowl game.
  • 42: Number of points scored by Houston vs. SMU -- only to lose by 30.
  • 48: Number of TDs Saturday in the Big 12, one more than the number of punts (47).
  • 50: The most points ever given up by Texas in a win (over Baylor).
  • 1952: Last year Auburn had a worse start than the current 1-6, with Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M left on the schedule.

Dodd's Power Poll
RankTeam (Previous)Comment
1Alabama (1)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 4-0
The No. 1 team wins by 31, its QB throws for four TDs -- and it gets overshadowed? You bet. It's gotten to the point where Bama is competing against itself for headlines. Within its own conference right now, Florida is a better story. Meanwhile, we already knew a) Tennessee stinks and b) McCarron isn't just a game manager.
2Florida (3)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 6-0
The Head Ball Coach called Saturday's result "sad" and "embarrassing" for South Carolina. Florida fans called it The Next Step. There may be only one defense better in the country (See No. 1) after the Gators smacked down the Gamecocks.
3Kansas State (4)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 4-0
Coach of the year? Player of the year? Team of the year? Klein led the Cats to scores on their first eight possessions to make a national championship a valid talking point in Manhattan.
4Oregon (2)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 4-0
Reality bites. The Ducks drop two spots because the three teams above them have accomplished more to this point in the season. Hard to compare a win at Arizona State with Kansas State's triumph at West Virginia or Florida's bombing of South Carolina.
5Notre Dame (5)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: N/A
No Golson? No problem. At least for a week, Tommy Rees is an answer, not the answer. The Irish continued to patch it together in a close win against BYU. They will need plenty more offensive spark this week against Oklahoma.
6LSU (6)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 3-1
The Tigers made Johnny Football look like Johnny Turnover in College Station. Now there are two weeks to prepare for Alabama. "Looking forward to the open week and the next opponent," Miles said. What, Lesticles can't say their name? That would be That Team Back East.
7Oklahoma (7)
Overall: 5-1
Conference: 3-1
Back in the national title picture? The Sooners tuned up for Notre Dame by slapping Kansas 52-7. Don't know quite how to evaluate that. Dangerously close to being a bye.
8Oregon State (8)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: 4-0
The Beavers are 6-0 for the first time since '07. That would be 1907. Best college football story in the state?
9Ohio State (10)
Overall: 8-0
Conference: 4-0
The words "miracle worker" and "Urban Meyer" have seldom appeared in the same sentence. But, wow, what was that against Purdue? Down, out and done, the Buckeyes fought back against the Boilermakers. Hearts are warmed. The NCAA's is not among them. The Ineligibowl (vs. Penn State) looms.
10Florida State (11)
Overall: 7-1
Conference: 4-1
A methodical trouncing of Miami. Say it with me again: Where. Was. That. Against. North. Carolina. State? Also, another disturbing outbreak of nerd glasses on the sidelines by LeBron and D-Wade.
11Mississippi State (15)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 3-0
Pardon the Bulldogs if their heads are spinning. They go from middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt (Middle Tennessee) to No. 1 in the country (Alabama) this week. Dan Mullen attempts to validate a 7-0 start and extend a nine-game win streak.
12USC (13)
Overall: 6-1
Conference: 4-1
Matt Barkley's joy of six (TD passes) makes him the USC and Pac-12 record holder with 102 in his career. Let's hope his NFL career surpasses the man he surpassed, Matt Leinart.
13Clemson (17)
Overall: 6-1
Conference: 3-1
Held to its lowest output of the season (295 yards), the Tigers' defense claws Virginia Tech. "We don't have to play like Alabama yet," D-coordinator Brent Venables said. "But we'd like to." What?
14Rutgers (16)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 4-0
It must be the helmets. Sounds cheesy, but the Scarlet Knights are meant to look like knights in shining armor with those new lids. Works so far as Rutgers roared back with 35 unanswered against Temple.
15Georgia (14)
Overall: 6-1
Conference: 4-1
How not to get ready for the Cocktail Party: have an extended hangover against Kentucky. Aaron Murray threw for four TDs, but there was little else to indicate Georgia is ready to knock off Florida.
16Texas Tech (18)
Overall: 6-1
Conference: 3-1
Tommy Tuberville provided the defensive blueprint on how to stop WVU. Now he's thinking about a BCS bowl. A 56-53 triple-OT win over TCU would suggest it's possible. Seth Doege gets in the Heisman line behind Klein with seven TD passes.
17South Carolina (7)
Overall: 6-2
Conference: 4-2
Now there's a quarterback controversy. Steve Spurrier wouldn't say who will start this week vs. Tennessee after Connor Shaw stunk up the Swamp. Good to see the HBC still has a special place in his heart for his QBs.
18Stanford (19)
Overall: 5-2
Conference: 3-1
Not a tuba player in sight in the Big Game. "This is a blueprint. This is what we want to do," David Shaw says of the 21-3 thumping of Cal.
19Boise State (20)
Overall: 6-1
Conference: 3-0
What in the name of Kellen Moore has happened? The Broncos are suddenly a defensive giant, giving up 13.6 points per game. The last five opponents have been shut out in the first half.
20Louisville (22)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 2-0
The Cardinals had to rally against South Florida to score the winner with 1:35 left. Louisville is off to its best start since 2006.
21West Virginia (12)
Overall: 5-2
Conference: 2-2
Thank you, Geno Smith, for playing the Heisman game. Here are some lovely parting gifts. The Mountaineers have been exposed -- and overrun -- having been outscored 104-28 the last two weeks.
22Penn State (NR)
Overall: 5-2
Conference: 3-0
This is not the look of a program that should be hanging its head. The Nittany Lions have outscored opponents 66-0 in the first quarter. They won in Iowa City for the first time in 13 years.
23Louisiana Tech (NR)
Overall: 6-1
Conference: 1-0
Idaho shouldn't count, should it? Anyway, Tech ran up 839 yards and 70 points on the aptly named Vandals (they're stealing WAC bowl money), a week after a brave try against Texas A&M.
24Ohio (25)
Overall: 7-0
Conference: 3-0
Bobcats had a bye week while getting ready for Miami (Ohio). Meanwhile, (the MAC) is (really) good with (14) wins against (FBS) schools, tying that (conference) record.
25Duke (NR)
Overall: 5-1
Conference: 2-0
Yeah, Duke. You got a problem with that? The Dookies beat North Carolina for the first time since 2003 and got their first home win over the Tar Heels since 1998. Coach Cut deserves this.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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