Even though three will be in New York Saturday for this year’s presentation of the Heisman Trophy. Only two have a chance to win it.
Despite Collin Klein putting together an outstanding season to lead Kansas State to an 11-1 season and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon, the race is really down to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
Manziel turned the football world on its ear last month when the Aggies marched into Bryant-Denny Stadium and upset then No. 1 and defending national champion Alabama 29-24. Chants of Johnny Football for the Heisman could be heard throughout the country, especially in the South.
The redshirt freshman has not only matched the offensive firepower displayed by Cam Newton, he topped it. Manziel has 4,600 yards of total offense (3,419 passing and 1,181 running) which broke Newton’s mark of 4,327 set just two years ago.
Newton accomplished his feat in 14 games, which included the SEC and the BCS title contests. Manziel only needed 12 and still has another left, the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma.
With a great effort against the Sooners, Johnny Football could top the 5,000-yard barrier and have the type of season only people can dream about it or envision on EA Sports NCAA Football 2013.
Not only has Manziel rewritten the record books, he brought Texas A&M football back to life. Last season it was the best first-half team in the country, but failed to deliver in the final 30 minutes despite having a first-round selection quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) under center as the Aggies limped home with a 7-6 record.
This sent former coach Mike Sherman packing and brought in Kevin Sumlin. Oh yeah and Texas A&M joined the toughest football conference’s hardest division to boot. And still went 10-2 with its only losses coming to Florida (in their opener) and LSU by a combined eight points.
Yet, it might not be enough for Manziel to overcome Te’o.
Statistically Te’o doesn’t match up with Manziel. In fact, Te’o may not even be the best defender in the country, but he has the “it” factor and that could put him over the top.
He never appears to be the fastest or the strongest player on the field, yet he is always in the right position to either make a tackle or a timely interception.
Te’o is one of the rare players that seems to be a magnet for the ball, because wherever it is — he is sure to be close by. Granted the main reason for this is the many hours he spends in the film room studying his opponents, but it’s one thing to know it, it’s another actually doing it on the field.
And Te’o has all season, recording 103 total tackles, seven interceptions and recovering two fumbles.
Like Manziel, Te’o has reinvigorated a sleeping football giant. The Irish were a forgettable 8-5 last year, but now stand one win away from adding another national championship.
Tossing all of Te’o on-field accomplishments aside for a moment, this young man is already a champion for what he has been forced to endure earlier this season with the passing of his girlfriend and his grandmother within 24 hours of each other. Men twice his age would have wilted, not stood strong like Te’o.
When this year’s winner is announced, it should be clear what swayed the voting because if Manziel takes the trophy home, then voters went with their head. If Te’o grabs the Heisman, then voters went with their heart.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.