Week 13 Heisman Watch: Calling the Race

The race for the 2012 Heisman Trophy has reached the moment of truth.

Anyone still entertaining notions of Heisman dark horses or late-breaking runs at the trophy is merely trolling for internet traffic at this point.

The race is over and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is going to win.

Yes, he is a freshman. Yes, he is still going to win.

Maybe we shouldn’t think twice about how radical this concept is on the surface. After all, college football is in an era of tumult, with conference realignment and the pending playoff changing the way we think about the game. Old traditions are being thrown out the window and the information age has given us social media tools to cover it in real time. The news cycle last minutes these days, not hours.

So, in this brave new world, why not a freshman for Heisman?

Especially when that freshman has done the things that Manziel has done. In any given season, a player who runs and throws for a combined 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns while leading his team to a 10-2 record in a major conferenceshould win the Heisman, shouldn’t he?

Of course it all depends on the circumstances. And Manziel is fortunate that the field arrayed against him this season couldn’t come through. Well-known players like Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Denard Robinson, Landry Jones and others never captured the imagination of the Heisman electorate. Upstarts like Geno Smith and Collin Klein couldn’t sustain themselves under the glare of the spotlight.

And so, a little-known first-year player from a small town in Texas has risen to the occasion, gaining notoriety by knocking off No. 1 Alabama and piling up record stats in the nation’s premier conference. That he’s been unavailable to media for the entire season makes his ascension to the top of the Heisman race all the more crazy.

But make no mistake. This is happening.

Time will tell what impact this will have on Manziel’s career going forward. The inclination by many will be to predict more Heismans for him in the future. He’ll have to deal with those lofty expectations and the resulting backlash that will arise when or if he never wins another. Many will say that he peaked early and try to denigrate him for that.

What they’ll forget is that it’s a remarkable accomplishment to win a Heisman even once. Forget that he’s a freshman for a moment. A lot of things have to go right to win it even as a fifth-year senior.

The Heisman winner is almost always the player who best captures the spirit of a particular season. Based on how 2012 has gone so far, it shouldn’t be that shocking that Manziel is poised to become the first freshman to take home the trophy.

Normally, this Heisman Watch would list the players with the best chance of winning. Since we’ve already called the race for Manziel, we’ll just list the order of how we think the vote will wind up.

1. Johnny Manziel

2. Manti Te’o

3. Collin Klein

4. Braxton Miller

5. Marqise Lee

6. AJ McCarron

7. Kenjon Barner

8. Marcus Mariota

9. Montee Ball

10. Jadeveon Clowney

About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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17 Responses to Week 13 Heisman Watch: Calling the Race

  1. HeI5Manti November 26, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    O ye of little faith!

    “The Heisman winner is almost always the player who best captures the spirit of a particular season.”

    If this true, then it should be the embodiment of toughness, grit, and “old man” football. Without a doubt, that is Manti Te’o, the heart and soul of a defensive unit that willed Notre Dame back to the top with goal line stands, a never-say-die attitude, and some self-made luck. 2 rushing TDs all year. The lowest red zone TD percentage in the past EIGHT seasons. All this for a team many thought would be lucky to win 8 this year.

    Manziel is an amazing athlete, indeed. But his stats are inflated by wins over two FCS teams, a .500 CUSA team, and a WAC team ranked 118th in scoring defense (not to mention SEC creampuffs like Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Mizzou, only one of whom finished with 6 wins). Furthermore, he was largely neutralized in TAMU’s two losses, throwing for 173 yards and no TDs in the Aggies’ 20-17 loss to Florida and throwing 3 picks and no TDs in their 24-19 loss to LSU.

    Manziel was great in A&M’s upset over Alabama, but this shocking defeat doesn’t compare to the consist, dominating body of work that Manti Te’o has compiled over the past four years (most INTs by a LB since 2001, anyone?). More importantly, his performance best embodies the spirit of the season, the criterion which you claim to place above all else.

    • Michael November 26, 2012 at 8:57 am #

      I wasnt aware that the Heisman Trophy was a 4 year award?

    • TxAg November 26, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      Or a team award.

      • HeI5Manti November 26, 2012 at 9:19 am #

        I wasn’t aware that the Heisman Trophy was an offense-only award? Please describe how you would quantify the impact of a star defensive player and compare accordingly.

        • Michael November 26, 2012 at 9:40 am #

          For a defensive player to win this award, he has to transcend beyond star player. Honestly man you have to understand that. Its the reason its only happened one time in the history of the award. Your boy is a beast, theres no denying that. But his stats just dont add up. Hes 51st in Tackles, and he doesnt even break the top 100 in TFL and Sacks. His team is undefeated due to the entire team defense not just Te’o. And oh by the way the one defensive player to win the award contributed on special teams and offense as well.

          • HeI5Manti November 26, 2012 at 9:45 am #

            Of course I understand that. However, if we can challenge the conventional wisdom of a freshman winning the Heisman, why not do the same regarding defensive players?

            The stats comparison is the closest thing to a principled argument, but obviously the numbers don’t tell the whole story since offenses will play away from a star defender. Given that context, the 7 picks are even more amazing.

        • TxAg November 26, 2012 at 10:08 am #

          Sure he is second in interceptions which is not typically a stat you expect to see in a MLB. But you do expect to see forced fumbles from the best LB in the country and Te’o has none. When you compare Manti’s forced turnovers with other middle linebackers instead of just interceptions and his numbers really come down to earth.

          On plays where Te’o has made a tackle, the opposing team has gained 4.8 yards when the average first down is 8.8 yards away. Thats 54% of a first down on each of his tackles. Last year, teams were only able to get 45% of the yardage needed for a first on his 128 tackles.

          You could argue that Te’o isn’t even the best defensive player on his team, let alone in the country. Stephon Tuitt is having a fantastic year as is Prince Shembo. As Michael said, for a defensive player to take the Heisman, he would to be transcendent. Look at Ndamukong Suh in 2009. He was perhaps the most dominant defensive player we have seen in the last 10 years. He received 18% of the total 1st place votes.

          As an Aggie, lets compare him to Dat Nguyen in his senior year.

          Dat
          147 total tackles
          20 tackles for loss
          4 sacks
          4 forced fumbles
          2 fumbles recovered
          2 ints

          Teo
          98 total tackles
          5.5 for loss
          1.5 sacks
          0 forced fumbles
          2 fumbles recovered
          7 interceptions

          Dat Nguyen didn’t even make the top 10 in the Heisman voting.

          • Steve B November 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

            And Domontre Moore (A&M) has 80 tackles. 10.5 Sacks !! and several interceptions (5?).
            Te”o is good, but not much better than a lot of other players.
            Manziel is something we have pretty much never seen. At least I’ve never seen another player like him in my 65 years.

        • John November 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

          This response wreaks of intellectual dishonesty. The reason that star defensive players are so limited is because their ability to impact a game is lessened in relation to a player like a quarterback. Manti has had a good to be sure, but 7 interceptions amount to stopping 7 drives, of which only a few had any impact on the game. His relatively few tackles for a loss and sacks also prevent him from stalling too many drives. Therefore, when we consider the total number of points that Manti prevented, the number is low in comparison to what Manziel created for his team.

          At the end of the day, the types of transcendental defensive players that you can truly say changed a game are genuinely rare. Manti is not among them. This season alone, there have been numerous SEC defensive players that have had better seasons than Manti. See: Jarvis Jones, Sam Montgomery, Barkivious Mingo, Kevin Minter, JaDaveon Clowney, DaMontre Moore, Nico Johnson, CJ Mosley, and I could continue if you’d like.

      • TxAgToo November 27, 2012 at 9:34 am #

        Or a sob story award.

    • espn owner November 26, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Yeah, just don’t mention beating the number one team in the country in Alabama. Who will absolutely destroy ND in the national championship. Oh yeah, who has ND played? That’s right, nobody.

      • HeI5Manti November 26, 2012 at 9:22 am #

        Oklahoma, Stanford, and Michigan take exception with your ignorance. Sagarin also has BYU in his top 25 so there’s that. Pat Forde also has some stats for you to peruse. I did mention A&M’s defeat of Alabama. One game. vs. two games where Manziel produced ZERO touchdowns. Outstanding performances, indeed!

        Will Alabama destroy ND like they did that former Big 12 also-ran out of College Station? Might want to focus on the game at hand. See, e.g., Florida-Georgia.

        • Just Me November 26, 2012 at 10:03 am #

          “two games where Manziel produced ZERO touchdowns”

          I know of the LSU game, but which was the other? Florida? He ran one in during the second quarter.

          • The Truth November 28, 2012 at 11:16 am #

            In the LSU game there was also a screen pass TD taken off of the board because of a chop block, ad those 4 points and the 7 missed by the kicker and A&M wins the game and is playing Georgia for the SEC title this weekend and Manziel would win by a landslide. Also if A&M does not beat Bama, vaulting Manziel into the race, AJ McCarron would be leading the Heisman race (QB of undeafeated #1 team)

            I will give Manti all the respect he deserves on and off the field but “The Most Outstanding Player” he is not. Manti’s argument for the most inspirational player is legit but that doesnt win Heismans (see Mark Herzlich)

  2. Chris November 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    I can’t understand the ND fans trumpeting Ta’o. He’s not even the best Linebacker in the country (Jarvis Jones). Then how could he possibly be the best player in the country?

    It’s a joke that he’s on this list instead of guys like Jones or Clowney and above guys like Lee and Barner.

    Sure he’s got a good story and is the picture of hard work. Give him an inspiration award, not the Heisman.

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