Heisman Watch 2012: Notre Dame's Manti Te'o Is Johnny Manziel's Biggest Threat

Ian Berg@@ShugJordanPkwyCorrespondent INovember 27, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a third quarter touchdown during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Johnny Manziel has set the college football world on fire this year with his electric play and annoying nickname, “Johnny Football.”

The freshman is leading the late charge for the Heisman, but Notre Dame's Manti Te’o isn’t going down without a fight. 

Guys like Landry Jones and Collin Klein lost their shot weeks ago due to losses and a few bad weeks of football. 

Braxton Miller has been on the rise, but compared to Manziel, his season has been borderline mediocre. It has become a two-horse race with Manziel leading Te’o in the charge for the Heisman. 

Manziel exploded onto the scene in September with an amazing win against Arkansas 58-10.

The legend of “Johnny Football” had begun just seconds after the final seconds ticked off the game clock. 

By the end of September, Manti Te’o had already helped the Irish obtain close wins over Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan. If Te’o had not been on the field, the Irish wouldn't have won those games. 

The Irish picked up steam with a win over Miami and an overtime victory over Stanford, in which Te’o was a major role player. In a 30-13 win over Oklahoma, Te’o sealed the win with a late interception.

Every win that has come for the Irish has been pushed forward with the help of Te’o. The nation has taken notice and followed his rise with the Irish all season.

Despite his strong play, only one defensive player has ever stood on stage in front of the Heisman Trust and accepted college football’s most prestigious award—that player was Charles Woodson. 

A lot of favorable nods are leading in the direction of a second defensive winner, but voters love offense. 

As much as voters love offense, they also love a winner. Te’o has been a major part of Notre Dame’s success—without him the Irish are not undefeated. While Manziel has been explosive, he hasn’t kept his team out of the loss column. 

That could be a major factor for a number of voters.

As votes begin to receive their marks and make it into the Heisman Trust for tabulation, the voters have a lot to consider.

Does the most electric offensive player make history and win the award as a freshman, or is the country ready to see a defensive performer take home the top award?

This season, Johnny Manziel has set the record for the most total yards in a single season in the SEC, breaking Cam Newton’s 2010 record

It will be difficult for the voters not to honor Manziel for his unbelievable performance.

But Te’o is a senior and Manziel will return at least for one more season. Both players have put together Heisman worthy years with the vote coming down to preference. 

Will the voters give Te’o the favorable nod for being a senior leader on an undefeated national title contender, or will Manziel’s unbelievable year produce the first freshman Heisman winner?

Only two weeks separate us from the formal announcement that has the country on the edge of their seats waiting for the photo finish in New York.