Johnny Manziel’s 372 passing yards, 67 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in Texas A&M’s 59-29 rout of Missouri puts him on the verge of a historic first.
Simply put, by virtue of his record-breaking performance this season, the fabulous dual-threat quarterback has all-but-clinched the 2012 Heisman Trophy, which means he’s set to become the first freshman in the 78 years of the award to be so honored.
Let’s look at the numbers: 3,419 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, 1,181 rushing yards, 19touchdown rushes. That’s exactly 4,600 yards of total offense (an SEC record) and a combined 43 touchdowns. He’s just the fifth FBS player to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a single season and the first freshman to do so. His team? It went 10-2 in its first season in the nation’s toughest league (A&M’s first 10-win regular season since 1998) and knocked off defending national champ Alabama in the process.
This is not to make the case for Manziel, it’s only to present the facts. The Heisman electorate does not, in general, wish to vote for a freshman. There are plenty of reasons why that is so. But it also abhors a vacuum and Manziel is the only one filling it right now with all the things Heisman voters generally look for in a candidate.
While there are plenty of Heisman-worthy players out there, there’s really no other contender left standing with the resume, the team success, the numbers and the flair of one Johnny Football. (Incidentally, Manziel would be the first freshman to win the award, but merely the second player born in Tyler, Texas, to do so).
How would the vote go if it was held today? I think the top five would look like this:
2. Manti Te’o
3. Collin Klein
4. Braxton Miller
5. Marqise Lee
What’s going to happen in one week to change this calculus? Te’o's season is done. So is Miller’s and Lee’s.
All that’s left is Klein against Texas next Saturday. With the SEC title game ready to determine the other half of the BCS equation, will voters care enough to tune in? Will Klein put up the kind of numbers that can create a late-breaking surge toward his candidacy?
It seems like a long shot at this point.
Monday, the national media will get its first crack at talking to Manziel, as Texas A&M has finally dropped its season-long ban on interviewing the freshman.
At long last, we’ll have a voice to go with all those crazy numbers.