Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein are the finalists for the Heisman Trophy, it was announced Monday.
What chances does each player have Saturday? Here’s a look:
JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, TEXAS A&M
— The numbers: 3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards, 43 total TDs, 7.88 yards per play.
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Why he’ll win: Johnny Football is a phenomenon, with no shortage of highlight-reel plays showcasing absurd athleticism and creativity that are catnip for Heisman voters. His 4,600 yards of offense set an SEC record, and he led a stunning road upset of Alabama for the Crimson Tide’s lone loss. And the Aggies called off the media blackout on Manziel just in time for a flood of stories, features and radio appearances in the stretch run.
Why he won’t: The difference between a true freshman and a redshirt freshman such as Manziel is substantial, but he still would be classified as the first first-year player to take home the trophy. Voters might have been wary of that, as well as a three-interception day against LSU in one of the Aggies’ high-profile losses. Manziel’s numbers in a loss to Florida (173 passing yards, 60 rushing yards, one TD) weren’t spectacular, but it was his college debut Sept. 8.
MANTI TE’O, LB, NOTRE DAME
— The numbers: 103 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 7 INTs, 11 pass breakups.
Why he’ll win: Because he plays for Notre Dame, which is 12-0 and the No. 1 team in the nation and, most importantly, is Notre Dame. Te’o has benefited from the attention afforded the program’s high-profile return to prominence, leading the No. 1 scoring defense while battling through the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend early in the year. If the voters weighed the character part of the award, as the Irish’s unquestioned inspiration, Te’o got a boost.
Why he won’t: He plays defense, and that’s it. No pure defender has won the award. And Te’o might not even be the best defensive player in the country, let alone the most outstanding player overall, depending on how one views Georgia’s Jarvis Jones and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. While Te’o posted big numbers early on, he didn’t record a double-digit tackle game in November, even as the Irish pressed on to a BCS title game bid.
COLLIN KLEIN, QB, KANSAS STATE
— The numbers: 2,490 passing yards, 890 rushing yards, 37 total TDs, 7.25 yards per play.
Why he’ll win: In an offense less specifically geared toward running extraordinary numbers of plays — and therefore amassing extraordinary amounts of yardage — Klein’s numbers weren’t much off the pace of Manziel’s. And his team was more successful when very little was expected of it, winning the Big 12 title and earning a BCS spot against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Like Te’o, the devout Klein got a boost if voters examined his character and comportment.
Why he won’t: His numbers, while eye-catching, aren’t the most prolific in the country. (Klein is No. 30 in total offense.) And a three-interception night in Kansas State’s Nov. 17 meltdown at Baylor appeared to sidetrack Klein’s momentum completely. He was the longtime front-runner, but his candidacy seemed to take a shot when the Wildcats’ national title hopes fell apart. It may be that, without a catchy nickname or tradition behind him, Klein somewhat unfairly slipped out of voters’ minds.