Heisman Watch 2012: Dark Horses Who Could Make Race Interesting

Thomas Boniface@tboniface89Correspondent INovember 30, 2012

Which dark horse player could have a shot at taking the trophy away from Johnny Manziel with a big performance this weekend?
Which dark horse player could have a shot at taking the trophy away from Johnny Manziel with a big performance this weekend?Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

At this point in the college football season, the Heisman trophy race is almost always decided. Most teams have finished playing all the teams on their schedule and are either starting to prepare for bowl games in December and January or figuring out which couch is best for watching all the bowl games.

However, things are a little different this time around.

It has been a "survival of the fittest" among Heisman Trophy contenders with many of the potential candidates considered to be locks at the beginning of the season to win the trophy performing poorly in a game or two, consequently falling out of the race. This would include players like Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas and, most recently, Collin Klein.

With the contender landscape changing week in and week out, no player, including Johnny Manziel, is a lock to win the award heading into conference championship week, though he is the frontrunner.

So who could mess up Manziel's chances at winning college football's most prestigious award?

One person who could is the very player written off after a horrid performance against Baylor; Collin Klein.

Obviously Klein has the stats to win the award and the record on the field in his favor. Through the air he has racked up 2,306 yards and 14 touchdowns to just six interceptions (three of which came against Baylor) with another 787 yards gained on the ground and 20 more touchdowns. His team also has just one loss.

Perhaps the best thing Klein has going for him is the fact that he gets to play a game this weekend.

While Manziel is sitting around likely watching the various conference championship games like the rest of America, Klein gets the chance to play an actual game against a ranked opponent in No. 18 Texas. Thus, Klein gets the last shot at impressing voters with a potential stellar performance on national television, while Manziel does not.

The other thing Klein has going for him is his seniority. With Manziel just a freshman (albeit a redshirt freshman) and Klein a senior on his way out, voters could be thinking that Manziel will win it another year.

Don't believe me?

Consider former Ohio State running back Keith Byars. Many thought Byars did not win the award in 1984 despite having a stellar season where he set rushing and all-purpose records simply because he was a junior and voters figured he would win it the following year (which he did not).

In all likelihood, voters could be thinking the very same thing when it comes to choosing the best player in America this time around. Being only a freshman, Manziel has three more chances to win the coveted award and Klein does not.

Another player that could crash the Heisman party and threaten Johnny Manziel's chances at winning the award is A.J. McCarron.

All the guy has done is win, lead his team to big wins and put up great numbers in the process.  McCarron has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, completed over 68 percent of his passes and has only thrown two interceptions, both of which came in the same game.

Yet the guy still gets no credit for his body of work from voters and pundits across the country.

Like Klein, McCarron has a chance to impress voters one last time in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia on national television. Most people will likely be tuning in to watch that game, as the winner will go on to play in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame.

This offers McCarron a perfect stage to showcase his talents in front of a national audience and put on a stellar show like he did against LSU a few weeks ago with the hope of earning a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy Presentation.