Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon; Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State.
Barner was the first one off my ballot. Even though he is a stat machine, he is one of many at Oregon. The Ducks would still be really good without him.
JOHN HELSLEY, OSU BEAT WRITER
1. LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame: The heart and soul — and dominant force — on a defense that carried the Irish to the No. 1 ranking and a berth in the BCS Championship. For a defender, he's got the stats, too, as well as a signature Heisman-moment signature stamp from every big game.
2. QB Collin Klein, Kansas State: He is to the Wildcats, emotionally and productively, what Te'o is to the Irish. Some downgraded him after K-State's loss at Baylor, but his overall body of work is outstanding this season, with big wins and big moments on a team nobody pegged for the Top 5.
3. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The kid brought excitement and success to the Aggies in their debut season in the SEC, as a premier playmaker who showed maturity beyond his years. A popular favorite, I couldn't vote him No. 1 and overlook his slowdowns in the team's two losses.
NOT ON MY BALLOT
Marqise Lee, WR, USC; Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia; RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon.
Lee's team didn't live up to advance billing, but he exceeded it, hauling in 112 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14 TDs. Austin made you hold your breath almost every time he touched the ball. Barner outshined teammate DeAnthony Thomas, rushing for 1,624 yards and 21 scores — in a timeshare.
JASON KERSEY, OU BEAT WRITER
1. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: I've seen few defensive players single-handedly impact a game the way Te'o did Oct. 27 in Norman. He was everywhere, and his diving interception that sealed the Irish's biggest win of the season sure felt like a Heisman moment. Te'o isn't flashy, nor does he have a catchy nickname, but he is the undoubtedly college football's most outstanding player.
2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein carried Kansas State to some great wins this season, while also elevating the program to new heights. KSU would've never sniffed the No. 1 ranking or Big 12 title without Klein. It takes a special player to affect his team like that.
3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel is the most exciting player in the game, and will almost certainly win a Heisman before his career is over. But not this year. Manziel was amazing against Alabama, but racked up the rest of his numbers against weak opponents. I also couldn't overlook his poor play in A&M's home losses to LSU and Florida.
NOT ON MY BALLOT
Marqise Lee, WR, USC; Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State; Tavon Austin, RB/WR, West Virginia.
Lee is one of the most under-the-radar superstars in the game. He'll be among the favorites next season. ... Miller was impressive and efficient in leading Ohio State to an unbeaten record. ... Austin's effort vs. Oklahoma was the greatest single-game, individual performance I've ever witnessed.