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Three for the Heisman

The Heisman Trust announced on Monday that the following players will be attending the 2012 Heisman ceremony as finalists:

Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel

Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o

Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein

The ceremony takes place at the Best Buy Theater in New York’s Times Square on Dec. 8.

Quick Notes:

– It’s the first time the Heisman ceremony has consisted of just three finalists since 2008, when Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow attended.

– Manziel is attempting to become the first freshman in history to win the Heisman. He could also join John David Crow (1957) as the only Aggie player to win the trophy. The last Texas A&M player to place in the top 10 of the vote was Bucky Richardson, who finished 10th in 1991.

– Te’o is the first Notre Dame player to be invited to the Heisman ceremony since Brady Quinn went in 2006. He’s trying to become the first pure defender to win the award. The highest finish by a pure defender came in 1980 when Pittsburgh defensive end Hugh Green placed second. The last Notre Dame defender to finish in the top 10 of the Heisman vote was Ross Browner, who was fifth in 1977.

– Klein is just the second Kansas State player to make it to New York as a finalist, joining Michael Bishop, who placed second in 1998. Darren Sproles was fifth in 2003, but you have to go all the way back to Lynn Dickey — 10th in 1970 — to find the next most recent Wildcat who placed in the vote.

– This is the first time since 2007 that two Heisman finalists won’t be facing off in the BCS national title game.

– I’m not surprised there are just three finalists this year. After these three, there really wasn’t a lot of consensus on who deserved to go to New York. There is likely a large gap in the point total between the third finalist and whoever placed fourth, and that’s why we didn’t get a fourth finalist.

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Johnny Manziel leads final HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is about to make history.

The redshirt freshman quarterback leads the final HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll of the season released on Tuesday. The poll has proven to be the most accurate of all the Heisman polls in the last five years.

If this year’s poll is correct, Manziel will become the first freshman winner in the 78-year history of the trophy.

The 11-member weekly panel of actual Heisman voters gave Manziel eight first-place votes and placed him on 10 of their ballots. He totaled 27 points, which was his same score the previous week. The results point to a comfortable win for Manziel when the Heisman is awarded on Dec. 8.

“He’s been the most outstanding player of the season,” said one voter. “It’s hard not to pick a guy who set the SEC total offense record and knocked off the No. 1 team.”

Coming in second behind Manziel was Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o, who appeared on nine ballots and tallied 18 points, with one first-place vote. He dropped a couple points from the previous poll, but looks poised to notch the highest finish by a pure defensive player since Hugh Green of Pittsburgh was the runner up in 1980.

Senior Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein bounced back from last week’s poll to move into third place with 10 points. He appeared on seven ballots.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and USC wide receiver Marqise Lee — both sophomores — tied for fourth with five points and one first-place vote apiece. They each appeared on three ballots.

Oregon running back Kenjon Barner picked up the remaining ballot slot, finishing with one point.

Heisman ballots are due by 5 p.m. ET on Monday. The finalists for the 2012 Heisman ceremony will be announced an hour later at 6 p.m.

Now in its seventh season, the former HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll has been reborn as the HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the last five seasons, with the final 2011 poll correctly picking the top seven finishers. It is made up of 11 Heisman voters from across the country. They vote for three players each week. Tabulations are made on a 3-2-1 basis (just like a real Heisman ballot) with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll is released on Tuesdays throughout the season at CBSSports.com and at HeismanPundit.com. Check out previous polls for this season here.

The HP/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll, 12-3-2012
Player, total points (first-place votes in parentheses)

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — 27 (8)

2. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame — 18 (1)

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State — 10

4. (tie) Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State — 5 (1)

Marqise Lee, WR, USC — 5 (1)

6. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon — 1

Total ballots appeared on: Manziel (10), Te’o (9), Klein (7), Miller and Lee (3), Barner (1)

About the Voting Panel

The 11 members of the panel include: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, Tom Dienhart of The Big Ten Network, Michael Lev of the Orange County Register, Bruce Feldman and Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, Bryan Fischer of the Pac-12 Network, Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, Lenn Robbins of the New York Post, Jenni Carlson of The Daily Oklahoman and Dave Hackenberg of the Toledo Blade. Chris Huston, CBSSports.com Heisman analyst and publisher of HeismanPundit.com, coordinates and also votes in the weekly poll.

Past 2012 Poll Leaders

Date/Leader
Preseason, Matt Barkley
Sept. 4, Matt Barkley
Sept. 11, Matt Barkley
Sept. 18, Geno Smith
Sept. 25, Geno Smith
Oct. 2, Geno Smith
Oct. 9, Geno Smith
Oct. 16, Geno Smith
Oct. 23, Collin Klein
Oct. 30, Collin Klein
Nov. 6, Collin Klein
Nov. 13, Collin Klein
Nov. 20, Johnny Manziel
Nov. 27, Johnny Manziel

The Last Five Years of the Heismanpundit.com Straw Poll

Final 2011 HP Poll
1. Robert Griffin III
2. Andrew Luck
3. Trent Richardson
4. Montee Ball
5. Tyrann Mathieu
6. Matt Barkley
7. Case Keenum

Final 2010 HP Poll
1. Cameron Newton
2. Andrew Luck
3. (tie) LaMichael James
3. (tie) Kellen Moore
5. Justin Blackmon
6. Denard Robinson

Final 2009 HP Poll
1. Mark Ingram
2. Toby Gerhart
3. Colt McCoy
4. Ndamukong Suh
5. Kellen Moore
6. Tim Tebow

Final 2008 HP Poll
1. Sam Bradford
2. Tim Tebow
3. Colt McCoy
4. Graham Harrell
5. Michael Crabtree
6. Shon Greene

Final 2007 HP Poll
1. Tim Tebow
2. Darren McFadden
3. Colt Brennan
4. Chase Daniel
5. Pat White
6. Dennis Dixon

2011 Actual Results
1. Robert Griffin III
2. Andrew Luck
3. Trent Richardson
4. Montee Ball
5. Tyrann Mathieu
6. Matt Barkley
7. Case Keenum

2010 Actual Results
1. Cam Newton
2. Andrew Luck
3. LaMichael James
4. Kellen Moore
5. Justin Blackon
6. Denard Robinson

2009 Actual Results
1. Mark Ingram
2. Toby Gerhart
3. Colt McCoy
4. Ndamukong Suh
5. Tim Tebow
6. C.J. Spiller

2008 Actual Results
1. Sam Bradford
2. Colt McCoy
3. Tim Tebow
4. Graham Harrell
5. Michael Crabtree
6. Shon Greene

2007 Actual Results
1. Tim Tebow
2. Darren McFadden
3. Colt Brennan
4. Chase Daniel
5. Dennis Dixon
6. Pat White

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Coming tomorrow….

Approximately noon ET: The final Heismanpundit/CBS Straw Poll is released.

Approximately 6 p.m. ET: Heisman finalists are announced.

We’ll have it all here at HP. I know there’s been some issue with the site because of the massive surge in traffic. We’re doing our best to keep it going so our server can handle it all. Thanks for your patience.

HP

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Heisman Central 2012 is coming

For all you Aggies, Fighting Irish, Wildcats, etc. interested in the Heisman race, be sure to check back all week as we’ll once again have our ‘Heisman Central’ page.

The page will showcase all kinds of special features about the Heisman race, the candidates, the schools and the history surrounding the trophy.

On Friday, we’ll have live streaming video of the pre-Heisman press conference and on Saturday itself we’ll have exclusive analysis and breakdown of the Heisman vote.

HP

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The Final Heisman Watch of 2012

All the games have been played.

That means the outcome of the race for the 2012 Heisman Trophy is now in the hands of the voters.

All ballots must be in by 5 p.m. ET on Monday. One hour after that deadline passes, the Heisman Trust will announce the 2012 Heisman finalists.

If recent history is any guide, as much as 80 percent or more of the Heisman electorate waited until yesterday’s games were completed before making their selections.

It certainly has been a roller coaster ride.

USC’s Matt Barkley entered the season as the player with the best chance of winning the trophy. But his hopes died in Palo Alto as Stanford upset the No. 1 Trojans and tore away the compelling narrative underpinning Barkley’s candidacy.

Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, last year’s fourth-place finisher, got off to a rough start to the season and was out of contention by the end of September.

Michigan’s Denard Robinson met the cold, hard reality of the Alabama defense and never gained traction in the race. Neither did the wildly inconsistent Landry Jones of Oklahoma.

Two players started out as mid-level candidates but exited the season’s first month as unlikely leaders in the quest for the trophy. West Virginia’s Geno Smith threw 25 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his team’s first six games and surged to the top of the pack. But the Mountaineers collapsed and so did Smith’s candidacy as his numbers fell back down to earth.

Stepping into the void was Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and, for a while, it looked like he would bulldoze his way to the Heisman. But, for the second year in a row, Baylor had an impact on the final outcome and destroyed Klein’s chances by whipping the Wildcats in the season’s 12th week.

With so many established candidates swept away, voters turned in a radically different direction.

Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel first pinged on the radar after a wild Saturday night game against Louisiana Tech in mid-October. The quarterback threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns as the Aggies won in dramatic fashion, 59-57. This SEC-record 576 yards of total offense came just a couple weeks after he went for 557 yards against Arkansas.

As a result, the concept of Manziel as a Heisman candidate started to take root. But while Manziel had the nickname (Johnny Football), the production and the exciting style of play, he had yet to put it all together against a high-level foe. A rough outing against No. 9 LSU seemed to put an end to his hopes, especially with Klein taking control of the race and the emergence of more palatable contenders like Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and USC’s Marqise Lee.

But everything changed starting on Nov. 10.

No. 1 Alabama, the elusive White Whale that no one seemed able to kill, was finally harpooned by the Aggie Ahab. Manziel threw for 253 and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards, at times making the vaunted Tide defense look silly, as Texas A&M beat Bama in Tuscaloosa, 29-24. Suddenly, the very impressive numbers put up by Manziel had context. If he could do that against Alabama, he could do it against any team.

One week later, Kansas State fell to Baylor and that left Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o as the only remaining viable alternatives.

Voters would prefer not to choose a freshman. After all, a freshman has never won the Heisman in the 78 years of the award. But given the choice between an electrifying freshman who has led his team to a 10-2 record while beating the No. 1 team and setting the SEC total offense record in the process and a defensive player on the No. 1 team whose value and impact is much harder to quantify, the voters will go with the record-setting, crazy-legged freshman with the catchy nickname every time.

And that’s where we are right now. Here’s how the race should end up:

The Winner

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – He’s about to become the first freshman to win the Heisman, a truly remarkable accomplishment. His 4,600 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns, combined with his landmark upset of Alabama, a whirling dervish style of play and A&M’s best record since 1998, are what put him over the top.

The Rest

2. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame – He made a good run at it, but Te’o is set to join Hugh Green of Pittsburgh in 1980 as the highest-finishing pure defender in Heisman history. His 103 tackles and seven interceptions are impressive, but not enough to overcome the record-setting numbers put up by Manziel.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State – If not for the debacle against Baylor, he’d be entering the ceremony as the favorite to win. Kansas State needed every one of his 2,495 passing yards, 895 rushing yards and combined 37 touchdowns to win the Big 12 title for the first time since 2003.

4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State – He led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season, setting himself up to perhaps be the Heisman front runner for 2013. If Ohio State was not on probation, he might’ve been able to make more of a case for himself by playing in the Big Ten title game.

5. Marqise Lee, WR, USC – The probable winner of the Biletnikoff Award proved to be one of the best all-purpose players in the country and was the bright spot for an otherwise disappointing team.

6. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon – He rushed for 1,624 yards and scored 21 touchdowns and, if not for a late-season slump and a loss to Stanford, he might’ve been a Heisman finalist.

7. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama – The nation’s pass efficiency leader has the Tide on the brink of its second-straight national title. More than a few voters will take notice.

8. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois – He set the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback and led the nation with 4,733 yards of total offense (to go with 43 touchdowns). Truly a remarkable player who should be more of a factor in next year’s race.

9. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – The future NFL top pick tied for the lead nationally in sacks (13) and was second in tackles for loss (21.5).

10. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia – The one-time Heisman leader still finished with a pretty good season, throwing a nation-best 40 touchdown passes against just six interceptions.

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Heisman Weekend Preview: The end of the road

It’s been a while since the last weekend of college football promised so little drama with regards to the Heisman race.

On 2011′s last weekend, Robert Griffin III went 15 of 22 for 320 yards and two touchdowns, with two more scores on the ground, in Baylor’s 48-24 win over Texas. Griffin III’s performance against the highly-rated Longhorns defense served as the capper to his campaign and helped him hold on to a slim Heisman victory over Andrew Luck.

In 2010, Cameron Newton threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns and added two more touchdowns rushing, to lead Auburn over South Carolina, 56-17, in the SEC title game. The dominant performance on the season’s final Saturday put the Tigers into the BCS title game and helped make Newton’s Heisman win a fait accompli.

In 2009, Mark Ingram rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns to lead Alabama to a 32-13 win over Florida, helping him clinch his school’s first-ever Heisman in what turned out to be the closest vote in the history of the award.

And Sam Bradford’s 384 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri in 2008′s Big 12 title game boosted the Oklahoma sophomore’s hard-fought Heisman win over Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow.

You’d have to go all the way back to 2007 to find a final college football weekend that didn’t have much of a bearing on the final result of the Heisman race. That was the year Tim Tebow won the trophy and, with his Gators knocked out of contention for the SEC title game, he essentially wrapped up the honor by November 24.

This year feels pretty much the same. Front runner Johnny Manziel won’t play on Saturday, nor will Manti Te’o, Braxton Miller, Marqise Lee, Kenjon Barner and a bunch of other players who have been bandied about in this year’s Heisman conversation.

So while this final weekend of the 2012 season may be a glorious one for college football and have a lasting impact on which team wins the BCS title, it is highly unlikely that it will make much of a difference to the outcome of this year’s Heisman race.

That said, here are the games you should keep an eye on if you care about the Heisman:

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia – No one who plays in this very important game is going to win the Heisman, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have any bearing on the final vote. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray leads the nation in passing efficiency and has an outside chance at making it to New York if he comes up big while carrying the Bulldogs to a win over the Tide. A huge performance by linebacker Jarvis Jones could make Manti Te’o's case as the nation’s best defender seem a bit spurious. And AJ McCarron could once again remind voters that he’s the glue that holds the defending national champions together. Using a little bit of logic, it stands to reason that the player who comes out of this shining the brightest is most likely to take votes away from Johnny Manziel, since some voters in the South region of the Heisman electorate might drop him down a peg or two as a result. But the more likely result is that the player emerging the strongest from this encounter will hurt candidates from outside the region more. A Southern voter with a current ballot of (1) Manziel (2) Te’o (3) Klein might be more inclined to put, say, a triumphant Murray in the second or third spot before it’s all said and done. Another factor to take note is the set up for next season. Murray (if he returns), McCarron, TJ Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Todd Gurley or Keith Marshall could all use this game as a springboard for a run at the Heisman in 2013.

HEISMAN GAME OF THE WEEK — No. 23 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State

But for Kansas State’s debacle in Waco a couple Saturdays ago, this game would have served as the informal coronation of Collin Klein as the 2012 Heisman winner. As it stands, he’ll need to play well and lead the Wildcats to a win just to assure his journey to New York as a finalist. I can’t foresee any likely circumstance by which Klein can use this game to vault over Manziel in the final voting calculus. It might require that Klein produce 300-plus passing yards and a combined seven touchdowns, with the final one being a dramatic last-second game winner, for voters to be shaken from their Johnny Football-induced stupor. Perhaps leading K-State to an unexpected Big 12 title and a top five finish will be enough to sway a large chunk of voters, but I doubt it. Klein will have to be satisfied with becoming a Heisman finalist. Of course, a loss by K-State would further jumble the race down the ballot. It might open the door for Braxton Miller, Marqise Lee, Aaron Murray or AJ McCarron to sneak their way to an invite. Whatever the case, I don’t expect either outcome to prevent Manziel from making history on Dec. 8.

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USC’s final case for Marqise Lee

I sent out a Tweet this week asking schools to send me their final case on behalf of their Heisman candidates to be featured here at HP.

Here is what USC sent me regarding Marqise Lee:

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