Every Heisman Trophy winner has to have that one signature game that strengthens his resume and makes him worthy of joining the most illustrious class of players college football has to offer.
This year's crop of candidates is loaded with players who have had that singular game, not to mention the overall stats, that make them worthy of being included in the discussion for the award.
As we approach the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 8, we wanted to look at the top candidates' best single-game performances and rank them in order. The criteria used will be based on stats and competition faced in the game.
No. 3 Ohio State QB Braxton Miller vs. Nebraska
7-of-14, 127 yards, 1 TD; 16 carries, 186 yards, 1 TD
While Ohio State has to be punished for violations made by the previous regime, Miller absolutely deserves to be invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. He won't win the award, nor should he, but he had a masterful performance as a sophomore in a new offense.
Miller's best performance came in Ohio State's best game against Nebraska on Oct. 6. The Buckeyes put up a season-high 63 points against a team ranked in the Top 15 of the BCS.
Running back Carlos Hyde will get a lot of attention from this particular game because he scored four touchdowns, but it was Miller's playmaking ability in and out of the pocket, including a 72-yard run, that allowed the Buckeyes to keep racking up the points.
No. 2 Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o vs. Oklahoma
11 total tackles (6 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception
Which Was The Best Single-Game Performance For A Heisman Candidate?
The one game on the schedule that everyone not associated with the program expected them to lose, Notre Dame went into Norman, Okla. and dominated an Oklahoma team that has an outside shot at playing in a BCS game.
As was the case so often for the Irish this season, Te'o was the engine that drove the defensive effort. Notre Dame gave up 379 yards of offense, including just 15 rushing yards, to an Oklahoma team that averages 513 yards per game.
Te'o was all over the field making plays for the Irish, including a sack and an interception that helped Notre Dame preserve a lead in the fourth quarter before it pulled away for a 30-13 victory.
Heisman voters rarely award defensive players—Ndamukong Suh and Tyrann Mathieu were finalists for the award, but no one gave them a real shot to win—which is too bad, because there were a lot of dominant defenders in college football this season. None more than Te'o.
No. 1 Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama
24-of-31, 253 yards, 2 TD; 18 carries, 92 yards
If we are going to criticize Heisman voters for not understanding that defensive players can win the award, the stigma surrounding a freshman is even more insane. The purpose of the award is to reward the best player in college football. The rules say nothing about having to be a junior or senior.
Manziel had one of the most dominant seasons any SEC quarterback has ever had. He racked up 4,610 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.
His best performance, and the one that launched him into the Heisman stratosphere, came on the road against an Alabama team that was ranked No. 1 at the time.
Manziel's signature moment was in the first quarter, on a 3rd-and-goal, when Manziel started to scramble, lost the ball and caught it in the air, rolled to the other side of the pocket and threw a touchdown pass to put the Aggies up 14-0.
Voters need to get over their underclassmen stigma, because Manziel proved himself to be one of the most exciting players in the country this season, and his performance against Alabama is the stuff Heisman Trophies are made of.