Heisman Preview: What to look for, Week 12

Marcus Mariota and Oregon face off against Stanford in the Heisman Game of the Week.  (US Presswire)

The Heisman race is in its final sprint. 

We've got a good idea which players will end up in the top five. These last few games will determine the order of the outcome and which candidates will end up being invited to New York as finalists.

Voters have received their ballots via email and, starting Monday, they'll be able to send in their selections. The rest of the season is now prologue -- it's time for the top contenders to make their closing statements.

Here are the games to pay attention to this week if you care about the Heisman:

No. 21 USC at No. 17 UCLA -- This is a vital game for Marqise Lee's Heisman hopes because he needs his team to win in order to have a chance to play in the Pac-12 title game on Dec. 1. Without that extra contest to put up big numbers against a ranked opponent, his Heisman quest will be extinguished. At the same time, this matchup will get a lot of attention because much of the rest of the day's schedule is unappealing by comparison and the traditional crosstown rivalry actually means something this year. If Lee keeps up his torrid receiving and all-purpose pace while leading the Trojans to a win, he'll be on an inside track to New York.

Sam Houston State at No. 9 Texas A&M -- Let's be clear here: Outside of Aggies partisans, no one is going to be watching this game. I include it here because we will still see occasional highlights from this one and they will still serve to remind voters what makes Johnny Manziel so special. It's unclear whether he'll get many reps against an overmatched opponent or whether Kevin Sumlin will let him pump up his numbers a bit to support his candidacy. Whatever the case, Manziel won't get much traction from whatever happens in this game.

No. 2 Kansas State at Baylor -- It's funny that Baylor has been so integral to the last two Heisman races. Beating the Bears held little value a few years ago, but that has changed thanks to Robert Griffin III's success last season. Baylor is not near the team it was in 2011, but neither is it the patsy that it was once perceived to be. And so, Collin Klein and Kansas State will get a bit more mileage out of a good performance here. This game is in prime time, so it should serve to remind voters why they think so much of Klein as a candidate. If he plays well in leading his team to its 11th win, he'll be set up to clinch the Heisman and a BCS berth for K-State two weeks later against Texas.


No. 14 Stanford at No. 1 Oregon -- With such a wide array of offensive weapons, it should come as no surprise that three Ducks have, at one point or another, been included in the Heisman conversation this season. While De'Anthony Thomas never ended up catching on as a candidate, cohorts Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota are both in position to make a late run to New York. For Barner, he needs to get back to the form that saw him gain 321 yards against USC two weeks ago. Not that he has to rush for another three bills, mind you. But piling up 200-plus yards against the nation's top-ranked defense against the run would do him a world of good with voters. On the other hand, Mariota is an intriguing prospect. He now leads the nation in passing efficiency and, besides undermining Manziel's claim to be the nation's top freshman quarterback, this gives him a chance to emerge as Oregon's prime Heisman candidate with a big game against the Cardinal. This is also an important matchup since a victory puts the No. 1 Ducks in the Pac-12 title game, giving both Barner and Mariota another week to accumulate stats against a ranked opponent. 

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