The tagline for Heismanpundit.com is “Breaking down the politics of the most prestigious award in sports”.
With just one week to play before the regular season ends and four out of the five Heisman hopefuls done until the bowl season begins, the politics of this year’s race will stand front and center.
This year is truly unique in that the front runner is a freshman and close behind him is a defensive player from Notre Dame. Behind those two is a quarterback who led his team to an undefeated season but has been overshadowed by his school’s bowl ban and self imposed sanction, and a wide receiver from a school just finishing its bowl ban but having a down year.
The final candidate is a scrappy quarterback from a non-football factory who was having an undefeated cinderella season until a loss last week to Baylor.
Looking solely at the numbers, freshman Johhny Manziel has the best of the bunch. He ended his season with 3,419 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, a 155.85 passer rating and a 68.3 completion percentage to go along with 1181 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns and over 98 rushing yards a game. In terms of quarterbacks neither Braxton Miller nor Collin Klein come close on paper.
Miller threw for 2,039 yards 15 touchdowns, a 148.48 passer rating and a 58.3 completion percentage while rushing for 1,271 yards, 13 touchdowns and 106 rushing yards a game.
Klein has one game to go, on Saturday against Texas, but has so far put up 2,311 pass yards, 14 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 155.17 and a completion percentage of 66.7. He’s also rushed for 792 yards, 20 touchdowns and averages 72 yards per game on the ground.
For wide receiver Marqise Lee, his numbers are spectacular, 1,680 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, 140 yards a game and 15 yards per catch but his team finished the regular season at 7-5, far below its preseason expectations.
Then there is Manti Te’o. As a linebacker Te’o's numbers are hard to quantify. He has 103 total tackles, 52 of which were solo, seven interceptions and a forced fumble.
Based on numbers Manziel should walk away with the Heisman pretty easily (and he might) but when you add in the politics the race looks a little tighter.
First off, we’ll have to see if voters are willing to give a freshman the Heisman. A freshman who beat the no. 1 team in the country, but also suffered two conference losses.
If voters decide that Manziel will have plenty more opportunities to win the Heisman his alternative would be just as historic. Te’o would become the first solely defensive player to win the Heisman. Te’o has the Irish nation going in his favor and playing for a national title certainly won’t hurt either.
Miller remains in the Heisman talks but mainly in the conversation of who will make it to New York City. Miller won’t win the Heisman; not because of the sanctions but because he wasn’t the most outstanding player this year. Although he won every game this year, his production dipped significantly for a stretch in the middle of the season (partially due to injury).
Lee also will not win the Heisman. His numbers are very impressive especially because he is lining up with future NFL first rounder Robert Woods, and two future NFL tight ends. He won’t win because he’s not the best player in the nation, he’s not even this year’s most impressive wide receiver. Both Stedman Bailey of West Virginia and Terrance Williams had better statistical seasons, their teams just could’t find ways to win games when it mattered.
That leaves Klein. Optimus Klein was a front runner for five weeks in the middle of the season but a loss to Baylor last week sent him to second or third in most polls. Klein will have to have the game of his lifetime to bridge the gap that Manziel has created. Anything short of amazing on Saturday against Texas will all but ensure Klein will not win the Heisman.
–Bjoern Werner and Jadaveon Clowney both have 13 sacks on the season, more than six teams recorded all season and more than Boston College and Texas State combined.
–La Tech allowed over 526 yards per game for a total of 6,313 yards. By comparison Alabama allowed on 233 yards per game for a total of 2,804 yards.
–Just two kickers have been perfect on field goal attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts this season, San Jose State’s Austin Lopez is 15/15 while Tulane’s Cairo Santos is 21/21. Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley is 10/10.
–Fresno State is the only school in the nation to have two plays from scrimmage go for longer than 90 yards.