Johnny Manziel, and then the rest.
That's how the Heisman Trophy race is beginning to take shape as the 2012 college football season comes to an end. The kid has the numbers, the big win, and the perfect nickname.
"Johnny Football" put himself at the top of the list when he took his Aggies into Tuscaloosa and beat the then No. 1-ranked team in the country, Alabama. Racking up 345 total yards against the top-ranked defense in the nation, the myth of Johnny Football began to grow. There are still a couple more weeks left in the regular season, but Manziel has to be considered the top dog for the Heisman Trophy.
This past Saturday, the Aggie faithful held their breath as they saw their young star go down with what appeared to be a knee injury. Manziel was taken to the locker room, but returned minutes later to lead the Aggies to a 59-29 victory over Missouri. In the win over the Tigers, Manziel broke the SEC’s record for total yards in a season, previously held by Cam Newton.
With this past weekend’s game against Missouri being Texas A&M’s last game of the season, Manziel will not have another shot at impressing the nation with one last game before the votes are tallied. At this point, though, it shouldn’t matter. Johnny Football has put his name atop the list as the favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy.
While Manziel is the favorite at this point, there are a few other players that can make a case for the Heisman Trophy as the season dwindles to an end.
Let’s start with Marqise Lee. The 6’1" wideout from Inglewood, California has put up some monster numbers this season. Lee leads the nation with 112 catches and is second in the nation with 1,680 receiving yards. Other than racking up those numbers, Lee also became the Pac-12 record holder for receptions and receiving yards in a season. USC didn’t live up to its preseason hype, but Lane Kiffin has to be pleased with the production he’s received out of No. 9 this year.
Coming in at No. 3 is quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller has impressed in his first season under Urban Meyer, during which he averaged 275.82 total yards per game and led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record. Only two teams finished this regular season undefeated, and Ohio State was one of them.
With the Buckeyes facing a postseason ban, Braxton Miller won’t have a shot to make up ground in the conference championship game next week. Still, Miller’s performance this year has earned him the right to get an invite to New York on December 8th.
While my top three candidates are sitting pretty, there are also two more players worth mentioning who deserve an invite to New York.
Manti Te’o has been the heart and soul of a Notre Dame team that is expected to play for the National Championship after achieving perfection in the regular season. Te’o has recorded 103 tackles, but his seven interceptions is what really catches my eye. I know the Golden Domers think their man should be at the top, but defensive players haven’t had much success when it comes to winning the Heisman Trophy. Nonetheless, Te’o has cemented himself as one of the best linebackers in the nation.
Finally, we have Collin Klein. Klein lost the top spot after Kansas State's loss at Baylor, and people seem to have forgotten about the Wildcat’s star quarterback during their week off. Klein’s 34 total touchdowns are impressive, but there is still work to do. If Klein wants any shot at getting back into the thick of the race, he’ll need a record-setting performance against Texas in his final game on December 1st.