With the emergence of Johnny Manziel on the Heisman scene these last couple weeks, a battle over statistics has begun to rage. In the Manziel camp the loudest supporters are touting his superior stats (as JUST a freshman!) for why he should be the Heisman frontrunner. In the Klein camp, the words like leader, toughness, and MVP are being thrown around to make voters look first at the man and then the statistics. Both groups are actually selling themselves short. Heres why:
For Johnny Football, yes, his raw stats are better than Collin Klein’s, but only marginally. Manziel has accounted for 3,794 total yards to Klein’s 2,578, the largest disparate statistic between the two. Manziel has 33 total touchdowns to Klein’s 31. Klein actually has a better completion percentage 69.7% to Manziel’s 67.6% and a significantly better passer rating, 167.65 to 151.7. Klein has also only thrown three interceptions this year to Manziel’s six.
Outside of the total yardage, Manziel’s statistics do nothing to prove that he deserves the Heisman more than Klein. In actuality statistics matter less if you win games and Klein has won all of his this year while Manziel and Texas A&M have lost two of their first 10. Plus, their yards per play is basically equal at 7.7 yards per play. Manziel has run 130 more plays than Klein and that explains why his yardage total is higher.
What HeisManziel fans should be touting is his narrative instead. Texas A&M was supposed to struggle its first year in the SEC, but has been rescued by a freshman phenom who broke SEC passing records, became the best offensive player in the league and knocked off the No. 1 team in the country who oh-by-the-way was the defending national champion. That is what will carry Johnny Football (and maybe a little bit of the nickname), not similar statistics to players on national championship contending teams.
Lastly for Manziel, let him get in front of a microphone. His story this year is too good to not hear it from the creator. Unless the kid has a mouthful of marbles, his soundbites are going to be gold. If he’s articulate and charming he could swing the race. College football fans love a great story and that could be Manziel’s calling card.
For Klein the character stuff is all well and good but his marketing team needs to lean on his stats a bit more. It’s a fact in this race that no one yet has outlandish stats that are going to completely separate them from the rest of the pack. For Klein this is an advantage because while his raw numbers are on par with the field, certain Klein statistics portray an anomaly that tells the story of the (potentially) best player in college football.
The first number Kansas State needs to point to is zero, the number of losses Klein has suffered this year. Assuming the Wildcats win out, the zero will be the most important number of all. Kansas State isn’t supposed to be playing for a national championship this year, at least not according to the preseason pundits. It took an exemplary player with a unique skill set to turn a 7-6 team two years ago into a national contender this year.
The next two statistics that Klein’s camp should be leaning on are his passer efficiency ratings and the number of rushing touchdowns. Klein is second in the nation in rushing touchdowns and currently eighth in passer efficiency. To be so high in both categories indicates that Klein is both one of the elite passers and runners in the country.
Klein looks like a linebacker, but he isn’t a physical specimen like Cam Newton and he doesn’t have Sam Bradford’s prototypical arm. Even without his physical prowess he is about to become the first player in FBS history to have 20 rushing and 10 passing touchdowns in multiple seasons. Sound like an anomaly to me.
Games to Watch
In the Big 12 Kansas State plays Baylor in what is sure to be a shootout and Texas Tech plays Oklahoma State in a battle of ranked opponents.
In the SEC this is the schedule (also known as games not to watch):
Alabama vs Western Carolina
Florida vs Jacksonville State
South Carolina vs Wofford
Georgia vs Georgia Southern
Auburn vs Alabama A&M
Texas A&M vs Sam Houston State (great way to follow up your Heisman contender’s break out game)
Kentucky vs Samford
Stay classy SEC.