The dust of the college football season, and more specifically the Heisman race, has more or less settled at this point with the exception of two players. Many less worthy candidates have been brushed aside by poor performance, team failure, or both. Those who are left are, of course, "Johnny Football" Manziel of Texas A&M and our own Manti Te'o. Let's take a deeper look at their candidacies.
Notre Dame senior Manti Te'o is the unquestioned leader - on both sides of the ball - of the #1 team in the country. He is also the captain and, as middle linebacker, essentially the quarterback of the #1 defense in the country; while the defense's success is certainly attributable to many superlative individual efforts, Te'o's leadership and talent is a large reason why it has been as good as it has. As a unit, that defense leads the country in scoring defense versus FBS opponents and scoring defense versus ranked opponents, holding its opponents collectively to 19.2 points per game below their scoring averages, and has been the primary reason that Notre Dame climbed from unranked to #1 with a 12-0 regular season. Individually, Te'o leads the nation in takeaways with nine; his seven interceptions are good for second in the nation overall, which is exceptional for a middle linebacker and the most for any FBS linebacker in 12 years (and the last linebacker to have that many, Rice's Dan Dawson in 2000, was a 219-lb. hybrid who participated in the NFL combine as a safety - not a linebacker in the conventional sense).
Te'o has played his best on the biggest stages this season: In the first critical road test for the Irish against then-#10 Michigan State, he had a pass broken up, tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery in support of a dominating defensive performance that effectively killed the Heisman candidacy of Le'veon Bell. Against rival and then-#18 Michigan he recorded a tackle for loss and two interceptions of former Heisman candidate Denard Robinson, and hurried Robinson and a halfback into two others. In an overtime win against current #8 Stanford, he recorded 11 tackles and was instrumental in the overtime goal line stand that sealed the game. On the road against current #11 Oklahoma, he had two tackles for loss, one an early drive-killing sack, and a late game-clinching interception of Landry Jones, another former Heisman candidate. In the regular season finale against hated rival and preseason #1 USC, he set the tone for the second half with yet another momentum-changing interception while dropping into coverage on Heisman candidate Marqise Lee. He is only the second player in the illustrious history of Notre Dame to record over 100 tackles in three consecutive seasons. He currently stands third in Notre Dame history in tackles, behind only legends Bob Crable and Bob Golic. His personal story of class, integrity, and perseverance has been well-documented; he has handled the tragic loss of family with uncommon grace and has inspired countless people inside and outside the Notre Dame family through the quality of his character in ways that go far beyond the game of football.
Texas A&M's redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel has done an admirable job helping #9 Texas A&M to an inaugural SEC season that has exceeded the expectations of many while providing an exciting highlight reel and impressive statistical totals. The single event that catapulted "Johnny Football" into the Heisman conversation was Texas A&M's stunning upset of Alabama, a remarkable achievement indeed. However, one game is not enough to support a Heisman candidacy in itself, and when you apply some scrutiny to Manziel's season it does not stand up as it must to prove he is the best college football player in the nation this year. The Alabama upset aside, Texas A&M's schedule has not been all that impressive - against the three currently-ranked teams on it, Texas A&M is 1-2. The AP recap of the loss to then-#24 (and current #3) Florida in week 2 had this to say of Manziel's performance in a game Texas A&M lost by a field goal: "Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 173 yards and ran for 60 more, but he couldn't move A&M's offense after halftime." The AP recap of the loss to then-#6 (and current #7) LSU in week 7 included this summary of Manziel's performance: "[Manziel] completed 29-of-56 passes for 276 yards and also threw three interceptions. He was also the league's leading rusher coming into the game and was held to 27 yards on 17 carries." Three interceptions in a game Texas A&M lost by five points.
Just as significant as poor performance against good teams is that a good portion of Manziel's gaudy individual stats came against poor teams. Against FCS opponents South Carolina State and Sam Houston State, Manziel was 29/40 passing for 441 yards, 6 touchdowns and 1 interception, while he had 24 carries for 178 yards and 4 touchdowns. Further, in a 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech and its last-ranked FBS defense, he went 24/40 passing for 395 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception along with 19 carries for 181 yards and three touchdowns. Putting all that together: Against Texas A&M's three weakest defensive opponents Manziel threw for 836 yards (10.5 yards per attempt), 9 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions while running for 359 yards (8.3 yards per carry) and 7 touchdowns. In Texas A&M's three toughest games, however, he threw for 702 yards (at a paltry 6.0 yards per attempt), 2 touchdowns, and three interceptions, while running for 179 yards (at 3.4 yards per carry) and 1 touchdown. He feasted on soft opponents and, in two out of three chances on the big stage, wilted. Nationally, he ranks only 18th in passer rating. And in an unfortunate display of Heisman pandering, he attempted an extra point against FCS Sam Houston State when Texas A&M was up 40-0. He missed, appropriately. As for career performance, clearly as a redshirt freshman his career only consists of this season. Finally, while denigrating another's character is a bit too unseemly in a debate like this, it is fair to note that perhaps nobody in football is of better character and integrity than Manti Te'o - and certainly not Johnny Manziel, as nice a guy as he may be.
If you vote based on who has a more exciting highlight reel, the arguable choice is Manziel (depending on your philosophical opinion of offense vs. defense).
If you vote based on who has the catchier nickname, the clear choice is Manziel.
If you vote based on who the best player on the best team is, the clear choice is Te'o.
If you vote based on who has had the best individual performances in the biggest games, the clear choice is Te'o.
If you vote based on who has had a better career, the clear choice is Te'o.
If you vote based on who best exemplifies the official criterion of the award - "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity" - the clear choice is Te'o.
It will be interesting. Manziel is incredible, but I suspect voters will not give it to a freshman. Te’o would be a great pick for the Heisman, but it is seldom they do defense..last I recall was Charles Woodson who also was an all time special teams great. Additionally, for every voter who is anti-SEC or anti-south, there may be two who are anti-Notre Dame.
If not either of them, I have no clue. Maybe we will see a surprise leader after these games this weekend.
IMHO the Heisman has become a joke. It’s no longer an award for the best player in college football. It’s a hype/popularity contest for QBs and RBs.
Nobody doubted Calvin Johnson was the best player in college football at the time, yet because he was a WR he didn’t win.
The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.
I don’t like the Heisman Trophy. For one thing, football is a team sport that requires all of the team’s members, not just some superstar, to succeed. For another, the award usually goes to players in “glamor” positions such as quarterback and running back. As far as I know, no lineman has ever won the Heisman, even though there were several who deserved it such as Ohio State’s John Hicks in 1973.
The award also goes mostly to players from big schools that get a lot of TV exposure. Thus Ed Marinaro, arguably the best running back in the country, was passed over in 1971 because he played for Cornell. And for some reason, they don’t wait for the season to conclude before they start voting. Thus, Anthony Davis missed out in 1974 because most of the votes were in when he scored four touchdowns against Notre Dame during the last game of the regular season.
The least they could do would be to award the trophy after the bowl games.
I would like to see Kadeem Carey of the U.of Arizona among the mix. But other than that, I vote for Manziel. This has more to do with me seeing Manziel play in multiple games against Top 10 teams.
His performance against then #11 Clemson last Saturday was just phenomenal. Last week he played defensive end, down lineman and linebacker. He created havoc through out the game.
He is a freak of nature who truly alters the way an opposing offense plays.
I’d like to see Braxton Miller get it...but then every year, I want one of my Buckeyes to get it, or some other major hardware.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. We had alot of luck this season...
Tavon Austin is arguably the best all around player in the country but doesn’t have a prayer.
And Manziel didn’t beat Florida.
Are any of them open and vocal Christians?
That will help you handicap it, since we all know that Tim Tebow went to the bottom of the pile once he came out as “one of those”.
My Chiefs never have it easy. I was all pumped about them coming in first for the April draft. They had competition for weeks, but now they are the only one win team in the NFL. However, and the post-game hosts didn’t mean to say the QB choices would suck in this upcoming draft, the two QBS that people had been suspecting would go first or in the top of the draft, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith, have been underachieving so now they look a whole lot worse. And Kansas City needs a better QB than Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. Quinn is a dud who was drafted in the first round.
Just as voters were enthralled with being in on voting for the first black president, so too will they want to elect the first freshman Heisman winner.
I like Johnny Football!
I think they’re going to give it to Notre Dame’s Teo Manti.