2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 3

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Geno Smith is your new Heisman Trophy front-runner after three weeks.

<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Voting: Post-Week 3</p>

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports voted this week for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point.

USC's Matt Barkley has fallen off of the top slot. After no touchdowns for the first time since 2010 and a loss to Stanford, the Trojans signal caller is no longer the front runner. Barkley was left off of only one ballot this week — direct your complaints/praise to @AthlonSnowman — but stayed safely in the top five. Only three players appeared on all nine ballots and 22 different players received votes.

I have been voting Geno Smith No. 1 each week, and now, the rest of the Athlon staff has seen the light. The West Virginia quarterback is now the top vote-getter for the stiff-armed trophy with seven of nine first-place votes.

Meanwhile, the rest of the nation has closed the gap across the board. There are dynamic quarterbacks like Braxton Miller, explosive running backs like De'Anthony Thomas and a few defenders like Jarvis Jones getting plenty of attention now that the race is wide open. Having said that, the blond-headed gunslinger from Southern California will still have plenty to say in the race to New York. 

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (seven first-place votes)
Season Stats: 
66-75, 734 yards, 9 TD, 0 INT, 10 att., 83 yards, TD
West Virginia still hasn't been tested by any quality competition, but its hard to do what Smith has done against air in practice. He is leading the nation in total offense at 422.7 yards per game and is No. 2 in passing efficiency at 209.81 (Casey Pachall, 242.37). The numbers are downright insane — he has as many touchdown passes as he does incompletions — and the level of competition will only continue to get better. West Virginia will play 10 BCS AQ teams the rest of the way. Next game: Maryland

  Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Geno Smith QB W. Virgina 87/90 7 1 1 - - 9/9
2. De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 69/90 1 2 2 2 1 9/9
3. Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 65/90 - 2 3 1 2 9/9
4. Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA 59/60 1 2 1 2 1 8/9
5. Matt Barkley QB USC 40/90 - 1 1 1 1 8/9
6. Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford 26/90 - - - - 2 8/9
7. Jarvis Jones LB Georgia 25/90 - - - 1 - 5/9
8. Collin Klein QB Kansas St 19/90 - - - - 1 4/9
9. AJ McCarron QB Alabama 18/90 - 1 - - - 5/9
10. Marcus Lattimore RB S. Carolina 13/90 - - - 1 - 4/9
11. Le'Veon Bell RB Mich. St 11/90 - - - - - 3/9
12. Kolton Browning QB UL Monroe 10/90 - - - 1 - 2/9
13. Barrett Jones OL Alabama 9/90 - - - - 1 2/9
14. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 9/90 - - - - - 2/9
15. Aaron Murray QB Georgia 8/90 - - 1 - - 1/9

Also receiving votes: 16. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame, 17. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville, 18. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson, 19. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska, 20. Marqise Lee, WR, USC, 21. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona, 22. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

2. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 
13 att., 228 yards, 4 TD, 11 rec., 154 yards, 3 TD, 93 PR yards
Another six offensive touches and another 12 points on the scoreboard. He finished with 135 yards from scrimmage and 87 yards on four punt returns against Tennessee Tech. Through three games, Thomas has scored seven touchdowns on 24 total offensive touches. And while the level of competition has been fairly weak, Thomas has done all of his damage in the first half as Oregon's starters have been on the bench for the second half. Imagine what his numbers would be like if he received 20 touches per game for two halves of football? Of course, that could all change this weekend against Rich Rodriguez' squad. Next Game: Arizona

3. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 
48-78, 611 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 56 att., 377 yards, 5 TD
Miller might be the most important player in the nation through three weeks of play. Without his gritty, explosive runs and clutch, big-play passes, Ohio State could be 1-2. The dynamic sophomore led the Buckeyes on two key fourth-quarter drives to give the OSU the lead both times, the last of which ended with a 72-yard game-winning touchdown strike with less than four minutes to play. He totaled 324 yards of offense and five total touchdowns in the win over Cal. There is one more cupcake left for Miller to pad the stats before things get really serious in East Lansing on Sept. 29. Next Game: UAB

4. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Season Stats: 66 att., 541 yards, 3 TD, 8 rec., 121 yards, TD
The Bruins are arguably the most improved team in the nation and Franklin's performance is a huge part of it. With help from new star quarterback Brett Hundley, Franklin is leading the nation in rushing (180.3 ypg) and all-purpose yards (222.3 ypg) — a stat normally reserved for players who also play a big role on special teams. In the 37-6 payback win over Houston, Franklin posted a "paltry" 168 yards from scrimmage and has now gone two games without scoring a rushing touchdown. Things will get much more difficult for the Bruins as Pac-12 play begins this weekend. Next Game: Oregon State

5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 66-109, 818 yards, 10 TD, 3 INT, 8 att., minus-51 yards
Give credit to David Shaw and his staff for a tremendous gameplan against arguably the top passing attack in the nation. Barkley was held without a touchdown for the first time since getting banged-up against Oregon State late in 2010. The Trojans Golden Boy faced pressure all day from a defense targeting a Khaled Holmes-less offensive line, sacking Barkley four times and intercepting him twice. The USC passer will get back on track this weekend — and a little help from his offensive and defensive lines would be nice. Next game: Cal

6. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Season Stats: 67 att., 338 yards, 3 TD, 10 rec., 89 yards, TD
The senior tailback was arguably the most valuable player of Week 3 nationally. He carried the ball, caught passes and scored two huge touchdowns in the marquee upset win over USC. He finished with 153 yards rushing on 27 carries and 60 yards receiving on five receptions and was featured heavily in the fourth quarter, wearing down the defense to clinch the win in the final minutes. Next Game: Open Date

7. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Season Stats: 17 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, INT, 3 FF, 2 PBU
Jones didn't play against Florida Atlantic as a precautionary measure, but head coach Mark Richt is optimistic about his star linebacker's chances to play this week against Vanderbilt. He was the best player on the field against Mizzou and did it with a bad groin. Richt knows he needs Jones for the stretch run and resting him against FAU didn't help his Heisman campaign in the short term, but if it means an SEC title for the Dawgs, he is just fine with that. Next Game: Vanderbilt

8. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats:
 43-59, 609 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 46 att., 210 yards, 4 TD
Few players are easier to root for than CK7 from The Little Apple. He threw for 230 yards and rushed for 85, scoring three total times, in the win over North Texas. He is a gritty leader who gets another shot at his Heisman moment this weekend. An upset over Oklahoma — a team that beat KSU 58-17 last year — would vault Klein to the top of many Heisman ballots. Next Game: at Oklahoma

9. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 
36-56, 607 yards, 7 TD, 0 INT, 13 att., minus-42 yards
McCarron will never have the stats to compare to the rest of the Heisman vote-getters. However, he plays the most important position on the best team in the nation and he does it at an elite level. He is No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency and has led his team to easy wins over Michigan and Arkansas already. Next Game: FAU

10. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Season Stats:
48 att., 235 yards, 4 TD, 6 rec., 33 yards
The most talented runner in the nation hasn't been needed the last two weeks in easy wins for the Gamecocks. That will all change this weekend. Lattimore carried 23 times in a key SEC road win in Week 1 and has totaled 25 carries in two games since. Steve Spurrier is saving him, rightly so, for games like this weekend. Next game: Missouri

11. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Season Stats: 81 att., 357 yards, 4 TD, 11 rec., 75 yards

12. Kolton Browning, UL Monroe
Season Stats: 70-113, 649 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, 30 att., 127 yards, 2 TD

13. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Season Stats (Alabama offense): 42.7 ppg, 399.0 total ypg, 186.7 rush ypg

14. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Season Stats:
63-86, 747 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, 27 att., 75 yards

15. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Season Stats:
51-80, 842 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT, 15 att., minus-4 yards, 2 TD

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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