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The 2012 Heisman Race

December 8, 2012

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Below are the Top 4 likely Heisman vote getters, their bios, and the pros and cons of their case for being the Heisman Trophy Winner.

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Marquise Lee

Team: USC

Record: 7-5

Stats: 112 receptions for 1,680 yds (15.0 ypr) 14 TDs

Case for him: He’s neck and neck with Manziel for the title of most dynamic player in the nation as Lee is a human highlight reel. He has elite speed to bust the top off coverages, is adept at taking a short pass and turning it into a big play, and was the centerpiece of a very good passing offense (25th in the country). He’s likely the highest rated draft prospect among the Heisman finalists which shouldn’t matter but often does when the votes are tallied. His game against Arizona really put him on the map as he had 16 receptions for 345 yds and 2 TDs. Also it is some sort of accomplishment knowing that his quarterback Matt Barkley was the preseason Heisman frontrunner yet by the end of the season Lee not Barkley was the Heisman candidate. To outshine a preseason Heisman frontrunner on your own team is unique to say the least.

Case against him: His team is the worst part of his case as his QB’s own Heisman campaign withered rather quickly due to a number of untimely interceptions that resulted in losses and his defense was one of the worst in recent memory at USC being 64th in the nation in total defense. His team went 7-5 and barely avoided being below .500 in conference (5-4 record) which makes it hard for anyone to get too excited about anyone on that team. Also, while the defense was clearly the Achilles heel of the team, the offense was less dominant than advertised as they were only 37th in scoring offense despite numerous future first rounders (Barkley, Woods, Lee).

Worst argument I’ve heard in support of him: He joined the Heisman discussion late and never was a frontrunner so there has been very little chatter about him overall. I guess my best example of a dumb argument with him is when people discuss his future prospects in the NFL and transpose them into reasons for why he should be a Heisman Trophy finalist. Yes Collin Klein has a throwing motion that probably precludes him from playing QB in the NFL and yes Johnny Manziel is 6’0 (listed but likely 5’10) so his pro prospects are dubious as well but the Heisman is a COLLEGE award so you should only focus on COLLEGE achievements, stats, and impact.

Conclusion: He’s a spectacular athlete and a future Top 5 draft pick who will be a Pro Bowl receiver in the NFL someday yet the reality is his Heisman campaign is more about wow plays than stats, team achievements, or being the most valuable player. His team underachieved on both sides of the ball and a large portion of his stats came simply because his teammate Robert Woods struggled much of the year with a lingering ankle injury. His team at 7-5 has been out of contention for the BCS Championship or even the Pac-12 Championship for awhile now and it’s hard to make an argument that he deserves this award. Does he deserve to be a finalist? Maybe. Does he deserve to win it? Definitely not.

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Collin Klein

Team: Kansas St.

Record: 11-1

Stats: 2,495 yds passing, 66% accuracy, 15/7 TD/INT ratio, 156.28 QB Rating, 895 yds rushing, 4.6 ypc, 22 TDs (29 total TDs)

Case for him: It’s hard to argue that he isn’t the most valuable player in the nation as without him Kansas State would be a very different team. He led a well coached, overachieving team to a near undefeated record despite a mediocre team talent wise. He led his team to the Big 12 title and a BCS berth, with neither scenario appearing likely before the season began.

Case against him: Yes he’s a dual threat but he’s an inferior dual threat to Johnny Manziel and I think that is what’s hurting him the most right now. It’s hard to compare Manziel with Te’o or Marquise Lee but it’s very easy to compare him with Klein and in most categories Klein comes up short. Manziel passed for more yards (3,419 vs. 2,495), had a higher completion percentage (68% vs. 66%), threw for more TDs (24 vs. 15), rushed for more yards (1,181 vs. 895), had a higher yards per carry (6.4 vs. 4.6) and had more total TDs (43 vs. 29) all while doing it in a tougher conference against better defenses. The statistics to me are the nail in the coffin for Klein.

Worst argument I’ve heard in support of him: Without him, Kansas State is nothing. I agree that they would be a much inferior team but Klein in 3 games this year ATTEMPTED 14 or fewer pass attempts in a game. This team was built around a strong running game, a disciplined defense that rarely gave up the big play and almost never was penalized, and a multifaceted attack that was a credit to their coach Bill Snyder. Klein was a workhorse for them but next year I think people will once again focus less on the players at Kansas St. and more on the coach as he’s a genius and can make any player look elite. Just ask Michael Bishop who ended up 2nd in the Heisman vote in 1998 despite being a marginal talent.

Conclusion: He’s the rags to riches, devote Christian, consistent performer for an underdog type player who garners a lot of attention. He was my Heisman favorite for most of the year but the reality is that he looked really bad in the Baylor game, had his team often win games without him at times this year, and has inferior stats to Manziel across the board. I love Collin and think he could make an elite TE at the next level, his release is Byron Leftwich like in it’s atrociousness so QB isn’t an option in my opinion, yet he’s clearly not the best player in college football. His campaign centers on whether the Heisman is a best player award or a most valuable player award as he has no chance if voters base it on one criteria and should be considered the favorite if based on the other. Also working against him is that his “signature win” was early in the season against Oklahoma and was largely cancelled out by Notre Dame also beating Oklahoma in Norman at a later point this season. He’s a bit unlucky in that regard but is more than deserving of being at least a Heisman finalist.

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Manti Te’o

Team: Notre Dame

Record: 12-0

Stats: 103 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 7 interceptions

Case for him: He plays for Notre Dame. Anyone who says this isn’t a huge part of his appeal is fooling themselves as if he was a LB for Missouri he wouldn’t even be in the Top 10. Notre Dame’s resurgence this season has been one of the big storylines of the year and it ending with a national championship and a Heisman Trophy winner would be Hollywoodesque. He has 7 interceptions, 2nd in the country, and has been the heart and soul of the #1 team in the country. He played well in numerous games including the Michigan State game and Oklahoma game. He’s a well liked person, who was expected to be a high draft pick if he left school early yet still came back and many want him to have this award as a career achievement type award and not just for what he did this season. He’s the best player and leader of the #1 ranked team in the country and some voters go with that logic.

Case against him: The last time an inside linebacker was even in the Top 5 for Heisman voting was in 1994. There is no way anyone can convince me that a player who only plays defense has as much of an impact on their team as an offensive player does. Look around college football for a second. Is scoring going up or down? Are teams throwing more or less? The fact that teams regularly are playing games in the 40’s, 50s, and 60’s tells you all you need to know about the lack of impact defensive players have on the college football landscape. Not only that but he isn’t even a spectacular defensive player. Luke Kuechly played inside linebacker last year and had 191 tackles yet wasn’t in the Top 10 for Heisman voters. One year later Manti Te’o has 103 tackles and voters are tripping all over themselves to vote him into the Top 3. A player who is 56th in the nation in tackles this season shouldn’t be getting Heisman consideration. His campaign is best solely on the fact that he wears a golden helmet on Saturdays.

Worst argument I’ve heard in support of him: He’s 2nd in the nation in interceptions and therefore impacts the game more than any other defender. Last year David Amerson led the nation in interceptions with 13 yet wasn’t in the Top 10 in Heisman voting yet somehow a player with a little more than half that interception total deserves to win the trophy because of that statistic? It’s completely illogical yet I hear this argument on a regular basis. Not since Charles Woodson won the award in 1997 did interceptions have any relevance to a Heisman trophy winner’s campaign yet Notre Dame fans want you to believe it’s always been a huge factor in voting.

Conclusion: Manti Te’o’s campaign has been 100% about him being on an undefeated team and that undefeated team being Notre Dame. Purely on statistics it’s hard to argue he’s even a top 5 defender in college football this year as numerous interceptions were of the fluky type (one occurred with a QB falling out of bounds throwing it directly to him) and him providing no pass rush and no forced fumbles (strange considering he’s a linebacker known for big hits). It appears likely that Te’o will be the runner up to Johnny Manziel which in itself is disappointing as on my ballot he doesn’t make the cut into the Top 5. He is all hype and it will be a travesty if he wins this award.

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Johnny Manziel (Johnny Football, JFF)

Team: Texas A&M

Record: 10-2

Stats: 3,419 yds passing, 68% accuracy, 24 TDs passing, 1,181 yds rushing, 19 TDs rushing

Case for him: His statistics are beyond reproach as he broke Cam Newton’s single season yardage record, scored 43 total TDs, was 3rd in the SEC in rushing (as a quarterback!) with 1,181 yds, and was Top 16 in almost every single passing statistic (QB Rating, yards passing, completion %, etc.). He took a team that was expected to be in over their heads in their first season in the best conference in the nation and put them them 1 win away from winning the SEC West and possibly playing for the National Championship. He’s arguably the most dynamic player in the nation, he’s the best player on a team arguably playing the best football of anyone right now, and he’s clearly the best impactful player in the nation based on statistics.

Case against him: He’s a freshman and he played poorly in the team’s loss to LSU. Those are the only two things that can be held against him as otherwise he has everything a player needs to win the Heisman. The freshman argument is in my opinion more rumor than fact as I didn’t see it impacting Tim Tebow in 2007 and I think it was a much bigger barrier to break then than it is now. Looking around the college landscape it’s evident that college football is a sport that doesn’t have seniority as Oregon almost went undefeated while using a freshman QB in Marcus Mariota, the best wide receiver in the nation (Marquise Lee) was a sophomore, the player who led the SEC in rushing was a freshman (Todd Gurley), the player who led the Pac-12 in rushing (Ka’Deem Carey) was a sophomore, and countless other younger players dominated the college football landscape. I don’t see this as being a huge issue despite everyone talking about it. The other case against him is the LSU game in which Texas A&M lost a close game due to numerous turnovers with Johnny having 3 interceptions in that game. While 3 interceptions in a loss is definitely noticeable a closer inspection makes them less difficult to get past as a voter as one occurred on a deflection off a pass that hit his wide receiver in the numbers and another came late in the game when they were doing everything they could to come back from a 2 score deficit. The LSU game was his worst game but in my opinion it wasn’t bad enough to warrant dropping him from the Heisman Trophy contest.

Worst argument I’ve heard in support of him: He had more total yards than Cam Newton and Tim Tebow in their Heisman seasons so therefore he deserves it as well. The record was a nice cherry on top for Manziel and got a lot of recognition for him but I’m not a fan of using any record as the sole means for deciding an award. By that logic Montee Ball should have won the Heisman last year as he broke Barry Sanders record for most touchdowns in a season. Thankfully he didn’t as anyone who watched the Badgers last year saw that they had a stacked offensive line and much of his stats could have been done by anyone. The record Manziel broke was a significant record but in my opinion it’s how he singlehandedly made plays on a regular basis that makes him the Heisman winner and not because he broke a record that was only 2 years old.

Conclusion: Johnny in my opinion  is the obvious Heisman winner this season as he has the stats, has the wow plays, has the “signature game,” and can be argued as both the best player in college football and the most valuable player in college football. It’s rare to be able to make both of those cases and shows just how special this season has been for him. I know I’m biased due to being an A&M alumni but I think Manziel deserves this award for numerous reasons and is the most complete candidate for the 2012 Heisman.

Final Thoughts: It’s been a fun season to be an A&M fan as I’ve been able to watch every single game of the most exciting player in the country. Johnny has become a cult hero down in College Station with his Johnny Football nickname and the mystery behind him due to freshman being not allowed to speak to the media. It’s also been a unique season for A&M in general as the best player they’ve had in decades just happened to join them for their first season in the SEC. It was a season to remember for sure and quite a few Aggies continue to wonder if one play here or there vs. LSU or Florida would have A&M in the BCS Championship Game and probably favored against Notre Dame. Many analysts made it known that they thought A&M was one of the 3 best teams in the country down the stretch and this wouldn’t have occurred without Johnny. His elusiveness and ability to make positive plays out of nothing consistently kept the offense on the move (#3 scoring offense in the country this year) and unstoppable on 3rd down (#1 in the country in conversion rate). His stats are elite and it can’t be argued that he stuffed his stats late in games as 3 of his 4 highest yardage totals occurred in SEC games and in quite a few games he left the game in the 3rd or 4th quarter when the game was well in hand. His signature game was arguably the biggest upset of the year and certainly would have been the most important if Oregon or Kansas State had stayed undefeated as it would have ended any chance that Alabama had to defend their national title. Overall he is the most deserving candidate so I’m glad to see the survey team @ http://www.stiffarmtrophy.com publish earlier today their prognosis that Johnny Football won’t just win the Heisman but will win in a landslide. The website is to be trusted as they are 10 for 10 in previous years predicting the Heisman winner and they published their prediction earlier than they’ve ever done it. They think it’s a near lock as, “he’ll likely finish somewhere in the top six or seven biggest Heisman winners ever-somewhere between Desmond Howard and Cam Newton.” It’s a fitting end to a magical season for Johnny Manziel and only one question remains: What is he going to do for an encore?

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