Heisman Race 2012: Trophy Is Shockingly Johnny Manziel's to Lose

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Heisman Race 2012: Trophy Is Shockingly Johnny Manziel's to Lose
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

If anyone predicted this back in August, I sure can't find them. 

But here we are.

Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel—the guy who until very recently wasn't allowed to talk to the media, the guy who once dove to the floor to get the W in a critical game of four square—is now your favorite to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy

With his charismatic play on the field, Johnny Football has eclipsed far shinier candidates on the preseason watch list, from Matt Barkley to De'Anthony Thomas.

In doing so, Manziel is flouting the Heisman's unwritten no-freshmen convention. But as with Texas A&M's no-freshman-interview policy, exceptions are becoming the rule for Johnny Football.

He's becoming a legend out in football-crazy College Station.

I hear he once threw a football threw a mountainside. And perhaps one day, I'll catch a glimpse of Johnny Football as he traverses the countryside on his blue ox, whom he has named Babe. I think he also plants a lot of apple trees, and so on.

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But I want to focus on the football field.

When the Aggies wrapped up their season with a 59-29 smearing of Missouri last weekend, Manziel threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns to one interception. He also ran for 67 yards and two additional scores.

Five touchdowns to one turnover?

That's not so bad.

Good enough to break the SEC's single-season total-yardage record, previously held by a young man with the name of Cameron Newton.

On a national level, he's 15th in the nation in passing yards, tied for 25th in touchdowns and 18th in quarterback rating. On the ground, Manziel ranks 28th nationally in rushing yards and is tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns with 1,181 and 19, respectively.

Oh, and that's among all players, not just quarterbacks.

It's not just the numbers, though.

It's the way he's doing it.

The guy is always in fifth gear. Running 50 yards back and forth to move one yard forward on 2nd-and-6. Trying an extra point for fun. But doing it all under control, with a surprisingly low number of turnovers (relatively speaking).

Considered reckless as a redshirt, this year he listened to coaches and reined it in, to the tune of a 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.  

It should also be noted that he's not doing this in some tucked-away haven of play-trickery, either.

He's doing this as the leader of a major program in its first year in the nation's premier football conference. He led the Aggies, predicted by several sites and polls to finish about 10th overall in the 14-team SEC, to a 10-2 record.

This season, of course, has included that monstrous win over then-top-ranked Alabama.

Soon, it will include a major bowl game. 

It's now down to Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. Maybe the safe play is Te'o. But any fan of Johnny Football knows you don't get anywhere playing it safe. It defies convention. It may defy logic.

But that's Johnny Football. He doesn't recognize any other option. And as crazy as it is, neither should Heisman voters.  

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