Kansas State's Collin Klein Moves into Thick of Heisman Trophy Discussion

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Before the season began, I had Kansas State's Collin Klein pegged as a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

A multiple-threat quarterback, I figured Klein's stats and talents might garner some attention, but I didn't necessarily see him climbing up to contend with the likes of Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, and Landry Jones.

Yet here we are, four games into the 2012 college football season, and Klein has already surpassed many of those QBs we had thought might keep him out of serious Heisman discussions.

Klein is right in the thick of it all.

The 6-foot-5, 226-pound Klein further legitimized his candidacy by leading Kansas State to a 24-19 upset of then-No. 6 Oklahoma over the weekend. He went 13-for-21 for 149 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, and carried 17 times for 79 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.

Klein is fast and tough on the ground, accurate through the air. With 758 yards and five touchdowns, he might not have the eye-popping passing statistics of Smith (1,072 yards, 12 TDs) or Georgia's Aaron Murray (1,092 yards, 10 TDs), but Klein's multiple-threat game and overall leadership are enough to earn him serious consideration, particularly now that he and the Wildcats have that signature victory.

Klein's 79 rushing yards against Oklahoma brought his season rushing total to 289, and he's up to five rushing touchdowns, three of those coming in a 52-13 rout of Miami in which Klein went 9-for-11 for 210 yards and a TD, and carried 22 times for 71 yards and three scores.

In addition to his stats and abilities, Klein has a couple of things working in his favor that make him a serious candidate. For starters, his team is now ranked seventh in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, up from 15th after thewin over Oklahoma. A top 10 ranking brings a higher profile for the team, which brings more attention for Klein, which can only help his Heisman cause, so long as he produces.

Also, several of the quarterbacks who had started the season above him on most watch lists -- such as Barkley, Jones, and Michigan's Denard Robinson -- have more or less played their way out of the discussion, at this point. Klein still has to contend with the likes of Smith, Murray, Florida State's E.J. Manuel, and Ohio State's Braxton Miller for quarterback supremacy -- not to mention a handful of running backs who are legitimate Heisman hopefuls such as Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas. But, while some of the other big dogs have fallen off already, Klein is still very much in the mix.

He's also got a Heisman-making opportunity coming up. So long as Kansas State and West Virginia take care of business between now and then, the two will square off on October 20 in a battle of top 10 teams, with Klein up against Smith for a chance to leave an imprint on Heisman voters.

Of course, a lot will have to happen for both QBs for that to even be a possibility. Smith and the Mountaineers play three games before then, with Baylor and Texas among them, and Klein will need to keep producing and lead the 'Cats to wins over Kansas and Iowa State.

But that's down the road. Right now, after four games, Collin Klein deserves to be a big part of the Heisman Trophy conversation.

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