Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Heisman Goes To...

History will be made on Saturday when the Heisman Trophy is presented. We will either see the first freshman, first Kansas State player or 2nd defensive player take home the hardware. Three finalists were named yesterday and while I think they should always bring five just so the kids have the experience and honor of being named a finalist, they actually invited one too many this year.

Your 2012 finalists are Kansas State QB Collin Klein, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o. With all respect to Mr. Klein, this is a two-horse race between Manziel and Te'o. While K-State had a great year and Klein was in the driver's seat for weeks, he has faded just like the Wildcats's title hopes.

What this race comes down to is as pure as the game itself: offense vs. defense. Now sure, we are going to deal with the voter bias of not wanting a freshman to win the award, but in reality, Johnny Football is the best offensive player we had this year. Te'o is the best defensive player we had this year. So, who is the choice? I'll get to mine in minute. First, the case for both.

Why Manziel will win:

Johnny Football. This kid captured the attention of the nation as he led the Aggies to a highly successful first season in the SEC, with a new head coach and offense on top of it. His numbers are there: 4,600 total yards (more than Cam Newton), including 1,181 on the ground (more than Tebow) and 43 total touchdowns including 19 on the ground (more than RGIII). He has the signature victory, leading A&M to a huge win over then #1 Alabama and you can argue that A&M is one of the country's hottest teams right now, only missing a BCS Bowl because of their putrid rules (another blog for another day).

Why Manziel won't win:

Freshman bias. A freshman has never won the award and there are those in the voting process who feel that they should never win it. He also has 2 losses, more than Te'o or Klein's teams. While the losses were to top ten teams, they were at home and Johnny Football was just a frosh QB in both games.

Why Te'o will win:

He is the anchor of the nation's top scoring defense. We routinely see the "QB of the best team in the nation" argument, so why not the LB who is the glue on the best team in the nation? He has a signature victory as well: beating Michigan State with 12 tackles, 1 for a loss and a fumble recovery...oh, and by the way, this was 3 days after losing his Grandmother AND Girlfriend in a span of less than 24 hours. He owns South Bend: did you ever think you'd see 80,000 strong at Catholic U wearing leis in honor of a MORMON kid?! There should be an award just for this.

Why Te'o won't win:

He's a defender. Yes, technically a defender has won the award once, but I think Charles Woodson won it as much for special teams as he did for defense. A pure defender? Unheard of. His numbers are good, but are they great? His 7 picks as a linebacker are impressive, but there are those that will say he has nowhere near enough sacks to warrant the Heisman. Te'o will also face the bias of the media who also still won't give the Irish their due this season and believe their #1 ranking and BCS title spot are a fluke. Makes you wonder if he was at an SEC school if he'd have this wrapped up already.

Who Gets My Vote?

I've gone back and forth on these two for a few days. Even as I write this, I can see myself writing both names in the next sentence, its that close. But, for me, I'm giving the 2012 Heisman Trophy to Manti Te'o. There are plenty of reasons, several that I listed earlier, but the one that sealed the deal was reading the Heisman Trust Mission Statement:

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.

When I read that statement, it screams Manti Te'o. No knock on Johnny Football, but I can picture Te'o staying true to this honor well past his NFL days through the charitable endeavors mentioned here. I also think that the perseverance this kid showed in the wake of tragedy this season was truly impressive. Every big game, Manti showed up. I can't say that about Manziel. Plus, Te'o has helped lead his team to the National Championship. They aren't playing on January 7th without him.

Regardless of who wins, they will be a deserving member of the Heisman club. I think it will be the closest vote in years, maybe ever. But for what its worth, Manti Te'o is my pick. Don't agree? Let's hear your case below.

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