The 78th Heisman Trophy will be presented this Saturday night in New York City. The neck and neck race between the top three candidates will probably be decided by a close margin. This college football season, no candidate could hold the lead in the race for the Heisman. Disappointing individual seasons, underachieving teams and upset losses conspired to ruin a handful of Heisman hopefuls seasons.
Entering the season, quarterback Matt Barkley was seen as a prohibitive favorite. But a poor overall showing by the Trojans knocked him off his perch. Geno Smith of West Virginia vaulted into the lead with an insane five game stretch to begin the season, but a loss to Texas Tech in the Mountaineers sixth game led to a complete collapse of their season. The early worst ending for all the early season candidates was Marcus Lattimore’s gruesome knee injury, which hopefully did not end his career. DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner received some mid season buzz but their chances were undone by the lack of any big time moments in big games, their chances fizzling with Oregon’s season against Stanford. After the season played out we are left with a small number of candidates still standing.
Johnny Manziel: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel burst on the scene as Heisman front runner in the first quarter against Alabama. If the perceived front runner takes home the Heisman the specific play that launched him will be a scrambling dash were he eluded a bevy of snarling Alabama lineman, bobbled and regained possession of the ball and then lofted a pass to wide open Ryan Swope in the end zone. The Crimson Tide defense was stunned and a national T.V. audience was introduced to Johnny Football. Most Heisman Trophy winner have a specific moment or game that sticks in the voters mind, and this play and the subsequent upset was Manziel’s moment. He has thrown for 3419 yards with 24 TD’s and rushed for an astounding 1181 more with 19 TD’s on the ground. Manziel has had a terrific season, turning the defensive minded S.E.C. into his version of the Big 12 each Saturday afternoon. The only thing that may hurt his candidacy is some voters stubbornness considering freshman candidates.
Manti Teo: Leading Notre Dames miraculous ascension back into national championship contention is senior linebacker Manti Teo. If Teo is to overcome Manziel and win the Heisman he would be the first winner to pay exclusively on defense. Teo’s initial Heisman moments came early in the season. The five star recruit from Hawaii keyed wins with his emotional play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend. Twelve tackles against Michigan State and two interceptions against Michigan’s Denard Robinson put the Irish into the conversation as a potential top 10 team. Teo also had another big moment as Notre Dames defense kept the Irish undefeated by stuffing Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor twice from the goal line in front of a national T.V. audience.
Collin Klein: The Kansas State quarterback was having a dream season until his Wildcats were stunned by Baylor late in the season. It appeared that Kansas State’s first Heisman trophy and a date in the National Championship game were in Klein’s future. Unfortunately for Bill Snyder and his team, the Bears destroyed Kansas State’s national championship dreams and Klein’s Heisman candidacy in one fell swoop. Nevertheless, Klein enjoyed his second fine season in a row, passing for almost 2500 yards and 15 TD’s and amassing 892 yards and 15 TD’s on the ground. He is now considered a darkhorse candidate of the big three.
Manziel is the favorite coming into Saturday, but the projected results have been extremely close. Manziel has had a dominant year statistically, finished strong and had big moments in his teams biggest win, an upset over top ranked Alabama. Manti Teo could surprise if there are enough voters who won’t, for whatever reason, vote for a freshman. The quarterbacks could also split the ballot, leaving Teo making his Heisman speech on Saturday night. Anyone who follows college football knows that being the best player on a top ranked undefeated Notre Dame team automatically makes one a threat in the Heisman race.