Matt Barkley has slipped back into the pack and Montee Ball has fallen off the board completely. Landry Jones? You can probably take him off the list, too. Same with Tyler Wilson.
All the preseason hype is pretty much out the window. The Heisman Trophy race starts now and it’s about results, not hype.
Barkley could still climb back into the race, he’s got the talent and the platform (games against Oregon and Notre Dame) to do so. Here are six players he’ll be competing with from here on out (in no particular order).
• EJ MANUEL, QB, Florida State — One of the main requirements of any Heisman winner is to have a big game in at least one of your biggest games. Manuel has already checked that box, carving up Clemson for 380 yards passing and 102 rushing. The Tigers’ defense won’t be mistaken for Alabama’s, but Manuel came through when his team was in a hole and that counts for something, too. The Seminoles will be big favorites against the rest of the ACC, which means one misstep could be too many for Manuel’s Heisman campaign. Key games: at Virginia Tech, Nov. 8; vs. Florida, Nov. 24.
• GENO SMITH, QB, West Virginia — His numbers are already off the charts. In three games, he has 1,072 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Mountaineers begin Big 12 play this week against Baylor, so expect the big numbers to continue piling up. In fact, the Big 12 should provide plenty of opportunities for Smith to put up flashy stats. Key games: at Texas, Oct. 6; vs. Oklahoma, Nov. 17.
• MANTI TE’O, LB, Notre Dame — A linebacker for Heisman? It’s never happened before, but Te’o has been spectacular the last two weeks on national television, while dealing with personal tragedy. And he plays for Notre Dame, which doesn’t hurt. If the Fighting Irish can stay unbeaten, it’ll be on their defense. Te’o is the face of that defense — and its heart and soul. Key games: vs. Stanford, Oct. 13; at Oklahoma, Oct. 27; at USC, Nov. 24.
• JARVIS JONES, LB, Georgia — If Te’o makes the list, no reason for Jones not to. He was thoroughly dominant against Missouri and as a pass rusher he’ll have be able to toss around those sack stats, which are far more appealing than plain old tackles. The All-American has 4.5 sacks in three games. Key games: at South Carolina, Oct. 6; vs. Florida, Oct. 27.
• AJ McCARRON, QB, Alabama — McCarron won’t be able to compete with guys like Manuel and Smith when it comes to sheer numbers, though the fourth-best passer rating in the country and 10 touchdown passes through four games is nothing to scoff at. Alabama’s offense isn’t built that way and the Tide look so good right now, who knows how many more fourth quarters McCarron will spend mostly watching from the sideline. Still, he’s more than just a game-manager. Key games: at LSU, Nov. 3; possibly the SEC championship, Dec. 1.
• COLLIN KLEIN, QB, Kansas State — His passes aren’t pretty and his runs aren’t flashy, but Optimus Klein is really tough to stop. A humble but tenacious wrecking-ball of a quarterback, he’s got just enough Tebow in him to make him a voter favorite. Key games: at West Virginia, Oct. 20; vs. Texas, Dec. 1.