The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are set to move up to No. 1 in the Week 13 rankings, and Manti Te’o is about to start getting the Heisman Award buzz that he deserves.
After No. 1-ranked Kansas State (led by Heisman-favorite QB Collin Klein) fell to unranked Baylor and No. 2 Oregon (with candidate Kenjon Barner) dropped the ball in overtime against No. 13 Stanford, the No. 3 Irish are now the sole undefeated team left in college football.
If that factor doesn’t push Te’o’s Heisman campaign through the roof, nothing will.
Prior to the Week 12 slate of games, the LB was listed at 8/1 to win the award (courtesy of BankRollSports.com), behind Klein (3/1), Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel (1.5/1) and tied with Barner (8/1).
Since Manziel and the No. 8 Aggies dominated Sam Houston State 47-28—with the true freshman QB completing 14-of-20 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns, with just one interception—there is now likely a wide-open three-man race between Klein, Johnny Football and Te’o.
Te’o is vying to become the second defensive player to win the award and the only primary defender to ever earn the honor (Charles Woodson won back in 1997 as a defensive back, kick returner and wide receiver). While history may be against him (QBs have won 10 of the last 11 officially recognized Heisman Trophies), Te’o’s unrelenting heart and ridiculous stats will make him a serious candidate—not just a novel person to invite to the New York City-based ceremony.
Through 11 games, the senior has compiled 98 tackles and six interceptions. He's been on the field for almost every single defensive snap and found himself involved in almost every play.
If the Irish can get past the USC Trojans to end their season undefeated, it will likely be the exclamation point on an excellent campaign for Te’o. At that point, his credentials will go to the voters, and it would be a shame if they denied him his last chance at the award.
While Manziel and Klein have been excellent, they haven’t been perfect, and that should be the difference-maker.