Heisman Candidates 2012: Ranking Contenders by Strength of Schedule

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 06:  Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish calls defensive signals against the Miami Hurricanes at Soldier Field on October 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Notre Dame defeated Miami 41-3.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Heisman race plays out as a subjective contest. Voters use the eye test over all else, whether it concerns play on the field or numbers on the stat sheet.

Some numbers, though, don’t get publicity when evaluating college’s most outstanding player. Strength of schedule has an elephant-sized impact on which team goes to the national championship.

In the BCS standings, who you play at times matters more than how you play.  So I asked myself if the Heisman standings were decided by each candidate's team’s strength of schedule.

I decided to take on the responsibility of ranking the contenders by purely strength of schedule. Let’s see who ends up on top.

Collin Klein

I don’t give Klein’s schedule as much credence as others, because while he may have played a few Top 25 opponents, none of them sport a daunting defense. In fact, Klein could only muster 24 points against a Baylor defense that once gave up 70 points to West Virginia.

It's safe to say the toughest defense Klein has faced has been in practice. That doesn’t help his Heisman resume.


What’s Next?

Texas has played their way to respectability, and a No. 15 ranking to boot, but Klein’s shoddy performance at Baylor likely would keep him behind the other Heisman candidates.

Unfortunately, wins and losses take a bit more precedence when evaluating the quarterback position—at least from a strength of schedule ranking, anyway.


Manti Te'o

Notre Dame’s undefeated record in their normally rough undefeated schedule serves as Te’o’s best argument for the trophy.

In addition,“grind it out” victories against Stanford, Oklahoma and Michigan State give Te’o more credibility, as his team is winning high-profile games with defense.

He may not produce the mind-blowing stats in the same caliber as Lee and Manziel, but being the heart and soul of the Irish defense helps with the eye test.


What’s Next?

The season finale with USC will thrust the Irish into the national championship, so a strong performance from the defense may do just enough to get Te’o into the top three.

If can have a “Heisman moment” or have a dominant game individually, he may become the first linebacker to win the award in the BCS era.


Marqise Lee

The Trojans have underwhelmed going through the Pac-12 gauntlet, but the conference’s improvement improves the perception of Lee.

Wide receivers don’t have an influence on a game’s result like a quarterback does, but Lee has threatened defenses even when his team has been behind.

Conversely, Lee hasn’t been able to provide that "Heisman moment" in so many big conference games, which may ultimately keep him from first-place votes.


What’s Next?

A prime-time game versus Notre Dame provides the stage for a “Heisman moment” and a late push from Lee. He has the most to gain from the remaining schedule in 2012.


Johnny Manziel

Going into Bryant-Denney Stadium and beating Alabama looks better by the day, as the Crimson Tide have the inside track to a national-championship berth.

Texas A&M may not get a National Title chance out of it, but their freshman quarterback brings one of the best resumes to Heisman voters.

He’s thrived in SEC play, putting up big numbers against the country’s best defenses in Alabama, Florida and LSU. In addition, the Aggies won a shootout against mighty mite Louisiana Tech and eviscerated Mississippi State in their stadium.


What’s Next?

Games against Sam Houston State and Missouri will not do much to persuade voters, but Manziel should light up the scoreboard to keep perception sky high.

While other contenders fall with ugly performances, Manziel’s resume may be just enough anyway.


Check out B/R's Full Analysis of the Heisman Race here.

Mike Shiekman is a Breaking New Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his college football musings and jokes about the BCS on Twitter.