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Resume strengths: Notre Dame is undefeated and their senior linebacker is the heart of one of the country's best defenses. They're tied with Alabama for the fewest points allowed per game at 10.1 and are at or near the top in nearly every other defensive category.
Te'o's best individual stats have come in Notre Dame's biggest games. His very best performance was his performance against Oklahoma on October 27, where he recorded 11 tackles, one sack and one interception.
The most improved aspect of Te'o's game has been the interceptions. Prior to this season, he had never intercepted a pass. Now his six picks on the season are the second-most in the nation; no other linebacker has more than four.
Manti Te'o's hardships have largely driven his Heisman bid as well. In early September, he endured the death of his grandmother and girlfriend within six hours of one another. He responded by having two of his best games this season.
Why he won't win: It's not impossible to win a Heisman as a defensive player, but it may be impossible to win without scoring a touchdown. Since 2000, only two defensive players have finished in the top five of Heisman voting.
What helps Te'o is that they were both recent (Ndamukong Suh in 2009 and Tyrann Mathieu last season). Suh finished in fourth, but with 161 first-place votes, in part because of his 4.5 sack destruction of Colt McCoy in the Big 12 Championship game. Tyrann Mathieu finished fifth in the voting, but scored four touchdowns (two punt returns, two fumble returns), with his last punt return coming in the SEC Championship game.
In short, defensive players must finish the season strong and be offensive just to have a chance at winning the Heisman.
Trending: Slightly downwards. Te'o has just 18 tackles, a half-sack and an interception in his last three games. Those are solid numbers, but they're not increasing his Heisman stock. So at this point, they're riding on the fumes of his resilience in the face of tragedy and Notre Dame's 11-0 record.
It's a strong foundation for Te'o (as Notre Dame is favored to win their finale and he likely won't commit any crimes between now and December 8), but he needs more.
Next game: In case you didn't know, Notre Dame will go into the Coliseum to face USC tomorrow night. Te'o needs a serious impact game to move to the front. Something to the tune of 10+ tackles and a sack/forced fumble/pick-six would do wonders.