Johnny Manziel: Texas A&M QB's Surge Gives Heisman Race Much-Needed Boost

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to pass 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

Think about where this year's Heisman Trophy race would be without Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, then remind yourself about just how great he was down the stretch for an Aggies team that ranks in the Top 10 in all three of the major polls (BCS, USA Today and AP). 

College football in 2012 has been wild and unpredictable, which makes each week that much more exciting. But there has not been a lot of dominance, either from teams or individual players. 

Think about it: The best team in the country right now, based on records and rankings, is Notre Dame. That team is built on a dominant defense, but there aren't a lot of people who are going to say that the Fighting Irish are a dominant team.

Players have had great moments, but has anyone really sustained it for an entire season? Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was the presumptive Heisman favorite for most of the year before getting hurt against Oklahoma State on Nov. 3, then playing terribly against TCU and Baylor.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has the best case for the Heisman outside of Manziel, but for reasons not entirely clear to me, it appears that the voters have a hard time quantifying the impact that a defensive player can have on a team. 

Other players have the pedigree to be in the Heisman discussion, but their teams will prevent them from garnering serious consideration. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller had a terrific season for an undefeated team, but because the Buckeyes are banned from a bowl, he won't get much recognition. 

Even though the mission statement for the award says that it "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity," voters, for reasons known only to them, need to give the award to a team with a great record. 

Therefore, players like USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who is probably the best football player in the country, and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who completed 70 percent of his passes with an incredible 37-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio for a 6-5 team with a terrible defense, will get overlooked. 

All of this brings us back to Manziel, who is far from a perfect candidate based on the voting criteria that has been used for years. He struggled against Florida and LSU, the two games that the Aggies lost. 

In those two games, Manziel went 52-for-86 with 449 passing yards, 87 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown and three interceptions. 

It wasn't until Nov. 10, when Manziel had 345 yards of offense and completed 77 percent of his passes with two touchdowns in Texas A&M's 29-24 win at Alabama, that people really started talking about him as a contender for the Heisman. 

There are a lot of players who have been in the Heisman discussion this season, but it took a late surge from a freshman, which is another stigma that the voters seem to have trouble getting past, to give some fire to this race. 

I can't tell you if Manziel is the best player in the country or not. A quarterback who throws for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and runs for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns in the SEC has a compelling argument. 

At the very least, Manziel has given us a lot more to think about in this Heisman Trophy race. In an unpredictable season, that is all we can really ask for.