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NFP Heisman Watch

Don't dismiss NIU's Lynch. Dave Miller

Print This November 21, 2012, 02:30 PM EST

As we approach the long Thanksgiving weekend, the Heisman Trophy race has never been closer.

Kansas State’s Collin Klein, who sat atop the National Football Post's Heisman Trophy Watch list for a good portion of the season, had his worst game of the year last week as the Wildcats were thrashed on the road at Baylor. Meanwhile, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner’s momentum was stalled when the Ducks’ high-octane up-tempo offense was grounded by Stanford.

So who is the Heisman frontrunner as we near the end of the regular season? Let’s take a look at how the NFP sizes up the race entering Week 13 of the 2012 season.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: The dual-threat signal-caller became only the second freshman quarterback to upset a top-ranked team on the road when the Aggies beat Alabama two weeks ago, and he followed that effort up with a strong game against overmatched Sam Houston State last Saturday. The redshirt freshman threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 100 yards and two more scores last week as he became the first freshman and fifth player overall to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 more in one season. Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin even let him attempt an extra point with A&M up 40-0. Manziel doesn’t need gimmicks to remain the leader in this race, however. He simply needs another typical Johnny Football effort at home against Missouri this weekend to possibly make him the first freshman to take home the Heisman when the trophy is awarded on December 8.

2012: 241 of 356 passing for 3,047 yards, 21 TDs and 7 INTs; 172 rushes for 1,114 yards and 17 TDs

Take a look at one of the defining highlight's of Manziel's 2012 season.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: The dual-threat quarterback may have lost his grip on the Heisman Trophy last week in K-State’s blowout loss at Baylor. Not because the Wildcats lost — it was how Klein played in the defeat. His streak of six consecutive games without an interception ended the week before, but Klein threw a season-high three picks against the Bears in the 52-24 loss. Since he was knocked out of the game against Oklahoma State with a reported head injury, the senior signal-caller has not been the same player. The Wildcats have a bye this week before concluding their regular season against Texas at home, so Klein should be 100 percent if he has not been the last two weeks. While no player is as important to his team as Klein is to Kansas State, we saw just how bad the Wildcats can play when Klein is not on his ‘A’ game.

2012: 172 of 258 passing for 2,306 yards, 14 TDs and 6 INTs; 171 rushes for 787 yards and 20 TDs

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: The leader of the dominant Fighting Irish defense likely can’t take the trophy back with him to his native Hawaii, but his trip to New York City for the ceremony isn’t really in doubt. The senior linebacker notched just six tackles in the blowout win over Wake Forest, but the Fighting Irish are the top-ranked team in the country, and a big part of the team’s success is because of a defense led by Te’o. Playing USC in a primetime contest will give the ND defender one more chance to make a statement on a national stage, which is something the senior has thrived on all season long. He’s a true difference-maker who has been strong against the run and pass throughout the fall.

2012: 98 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six interceptions, four pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Jordan LynchUS PRESSWIRECan Jordan Lynch net an invite to the Heisman ceremony in New York City?

Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois: The Huskies dual-threat quarterback simply cannot be ignored any more. Last week against Toledo, the signal-caller threw his first interception since September 22 against Kansas in leading NIU to the MAC title game. The Huskies will play at Eastern Michigan on Friday, so Lynch will have another chance to show the nation that he belongs in the Heisman race. It certainly would have helped his cause, however, if he could have had a standout game in the season opener against Iowa — the team’s lone loss.

2012: 187 of 294 passing for 2,582 yards, 22 TDs and 4 INTs; 215 rushes for 1,504 yards and 16 TDs

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: The dual-threat signal-caller didn’t put up great numbers in the Buckeyes’ win over Wisconsin, but he kept his team undefeated on the road against a team with a good defense. Ohio State’s bowl ban should have nothing to do with Miller’s candidacy, yet it has seemingly hurt his campaign nationally. While he still has a lot of room for growth as a passer, Miller has often had to be a one-man show for this Buckeyes offense. And the sophomore has shown his toughness throughout this season as he’s played while being banged-up. The perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s spread scheme has a chance to close out a fantastic season by leading the Buckeyes to a win over Michigan on Saturday.

2012: 134 of 236 passing for 1,850 yards, 14 TDs and 6 INTs; 207 rushes for 1,214 yards and 13 TDs

Continue to keep an eye on:

Marqise Lee, WR, USC: The sophomore has a tough task ahead of him, as only two wide receivers — Tim Brown in 1987 and Desmond Howard in 1991 — have ever claimed the Heisman Trophy. But Lee truly may be the best player in college football.

2012: 107 receptions for 1,605 yards and 14 TDs; 704 return yards and 1 TD

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: The redshirt freshman dual-threat signal-caller struggled a bit in the Ducks’ loss to Stanford. While he still leads the Pac-12 in passing efficiency, he had a rough series in overtime in the loss to the Cardinal and could not get the Ducks' high-octane offense going despite one long run.

2012: 201 of 288 passing for 2,371 yards, 29 TDs and 6 INTs; 90 rushes for 605 yards and 3 TDs

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: The Tigers dual-threat signal-caller has thrown 11 interceptions this season, but it’s hard to overlook his ridiculous eight-touchdown effort in a win last week over N.C. State.

2012: 240 of 353 passing for 3,367 yards, 33 TDs and 11 INTs; 140 rushes for 466 yards and 8 TDs

Give ‘em some love

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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