Whether it's fair or not is another question, but Texas A&M QB Johnny "Football" Manziel has to be considered the favorite in the 2012 Heisman Trophy race entering Week 14.
Manziel is simply the only quarterback among the top contenders who has what could be considered a "Heisman moment"—and he had several in the Aggies' 29-24 victory over No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa a little over two weeks ago.
I emphasize quarterback because five of the last six winners of the most distinguished individual award in college football have come from that position. It has emerged as the most fascinating position in all of major sports, and will likely only continue to take precedence over all others.
Since the signature win against the Crimson Tide, the superb freshman hasn't backed down.
In Missouri this past weekend, he gutted out another amazing performance, even with a banged up wheel. Despite briefly leaving the game in the first quarter, Manziel reemerged with a brace on his left knee, and proceeded to emaciate the Tigers defense, throwing for 372 yards and three touchdowns, and adding two rushing TDs to boot.
Does Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te'o deserve strong consideration? Of course, and he would even get my vote.
But considering the fact that no defensive player other than Michigan's Charles Woodson has ever won the award, it seems extremely unlikely that the Fighting Irish star will pull the upset.
No freshman has ever won the award, but let's be real: Manziel is no typical frosh.
In the insanely tough, physical SEC, Manziel has clearly been the standout signal-caller. What's scary is that he has at least two more years to improve—and perhaps wind up with multiple Heismans when his collegiate career is finished.
For Manziel's outstanding 2012 season, here are the numbers:
Passing: 273-of-400, 3490 yards, 68.7 completion percentage, 24 TDs, 8 INTs, 155.9 passer rating.
Rushing: 184 carries, 1181 yards, 6.4 YPC, 19 TDs
To put it into perspective, ESPN's Numbers Never Lie Twitter highlighted just how special Johnny Football has been:
Those type of all-around numbers don't come around too often, and both Tebow and Newton had some sort of tangible game experience before they posted their monster seasons. Manziel has weathered as tough of a schedule as you could ask any QB to do, much less for a 19-year-old getting his first taste of big-time college football consistently and on a national stage week in and week out.
It's easy to appreciate the prowess of Te'o, as he's led the Irish to the national championship game, or the outstanding play of Kansas State QB Collin Klein, who has had a phenomenal year despite the most recent loss at Baylor.
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee may be the best athlete in the country, but his Trojan team simply hasn't succeeded, contrary to the beliefs of preseason pundits who placed Southern Cal at No. 1.
The season is nearly drawing to a close, and it's clear who the man with the trophy should be at the presentation in New York City next month.
Give the hardware to Johnny Football, whose nickname fittingly gives off a certain mystique bound to distinguish him as the next legend in the select Heisman fraternity.
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