Johnny Manziel: Why Freshman QB Is a Lock for 2012 Heisman Trophy
Being just a freshman and playing in the nation's toughest conference, Manziel's consistent production and impact have been unbelievably impressive. Texas A&M finished the regular season at 10-2 (6-2) and are quite appealing for a BCS at-large bid as well.
Considering that the Aggies' two losses are against LSU and Florida, it's not like Manziel's team suffered a bad loss. After all, the SEC remains dominant, and the season presents an opportunity for a greater finish.
With that, let's break down Manziel's Heismanology as December is just around the corner.
Strength of Schedule
Who will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy?
Manziel's greatest Heisman moments came against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Manziel and the Aggies went into arguably college football's toughest environment and came out on top, 29-24.
Excluding the then-No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide and defending BCS champions, Texas A&M logged wins over Louisiana Tech (9-2) and Mississippi State (8-4). And despite losing to the Gators and Bayou Bengals, those two drops came by a combined eight points.
Additionally, both LSU and Florida entered this weekend ranked inside the BCS Top 10.
Just based on previous seasons, Texas A&M joined the most difficult division within the most difficult conference college football has to offer. Well, the Aggies proved to be a worthy competitor after leaving the Big 12, and doing so with a freshman signal-caller only enhances Manziel's Heisman stature.
Johnny Football By the Numbers
Mind-blowing is really the only legitimate way to describe Manziel's production as a freshman in the SEC.
In A&M's first loss to Florida, Manziel went 23-of-30 for 173 yards, no picks and added 60 yards rushing with one score as well. For this being his college football debut against the then-No. 23 coaches' poll-ranked Gators isn't bad by any means.
Now, LSU did a fine job against Manziel by limiting him to 303 total yards, three picks and no scores. Unsurprisingly, the Aggies fell to the Tigers, and quick improvement was needed with Mississippi State and Alabama coming up.
Well, Manziel immediately got back on track by going 30-of-36 for 311 yards against then-No. 15 ranked Mississippi State. He also compiled 129 rushing yards with two scores as A&M smashed the Bulldogs, 38-13, in Starkville.
A week later, the upset of the season occurred as the freshman went 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns—no picks—in Tuscaloosa vs. then-No. 1 Alabama. And as usual, Manziel had an impact on the ground with 92 yards rushing and a 5.1 per-carry average against Nick Saban's defense.
As for the season, Manziel racked up 3,419 passing and 1,181 rushing yards and accounted for 43 total touchdowns. He finished with 4,600 total yards and broke the SEC record previously held by Cam Newton. Per Saturday Down South's Twitter feed:
Johnny Football just broke the SEC's total yards in a season record set by Cam Newton. Give him the #Heisman!— Saturday Down South (@SDS) November 25, 2012
So, move over Newton, and move over Tim Tebow—Johnny Football has already taken over your conference.
Other Heisman Candidates
The other two most notable Heisman Trophy candidates are Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and Kansas State's Collin Klein.
Te'o is a linebacker with the ability to defend the run and pass, as evidenced by his 98 tackles and 10 defended passes (six interceptions) entering the Irish's final contest against USC. Also, Te'o resides on a national title contender that entered late November as the only bowl-eligible perfect team.
One downside regarding Te'o and the Heisman, though; he's strictly a defensive player. Only Charles Woodson of Michigan has won the coveted award primarily as a defensive player, although he contributed on special teams and occasionally on offense as well.
Klein, on the other hand, has basically been Kansas State's entire offense.
With 3,093 total yards and 34 combined touchdowns, Klein had the Wildcats No. 1 and perfect through 10 games. Although Kansas State fell on the road to Baylor, Bill Snyder's team would not be in BCS and conference-championship position without him.
The downside to Klein is just that, however—not being in national title contention. Even though Manziel is not on a BCS title contender either, his strength of schedule and overall impact has been greater.
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