In the past, the Heisman Trophy is normally reserved for some of the top offensive players in college football, but in 2012, Manti Te'o is breaking the mold.
An argument can certainly be made for some of the other top candidates in the race for the top award in college football. There are plenty of offensive players who have put up some gaudy numbers throughout the year, but few have had the kind of impact that Te'o has had for Notre Dame.
For starters, the Irish made an incredible improvement from just a season ago. Notre Dame went from an 8-5 record in 2011 to a 12-0 record in 2012 in what was about as improbable a season as you can get.
The reason for such an improvement has little to do with solid offensive play but rather great defense, and that is the reason why the Irish are where they are today and in position to win a national championship.
In a single season, Notre Dame went from a decent defensive team to an elite one. Make no mistake about it: There is no coincidence that the Irish are a great defensive team and have the best defensive player in the nation on their side.
So, with the vast majority of the credit going to Notre Dame's defense, you have to give a ton of credit to its defensive leader, which is the title that Te'o holds. The Irish linebacker is the emotional leader of this football team, but it isn't only emotion that he leads with.
Te'o also leads by example with his great play and the stats prove it.
Notre Dame's top defensive player notched a sensational 101 total tackles during the 2012 campaign, 46 of which were of the solo variety. Some of his best games of the season in the tackle category have come against some of the toughest opponents on Notre Dame's schedule.
Te'o had 10 or more tackles against teams like Purdue, Michigan State, Miami (FL), Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma. Clearly, Te'o brings his very best to the field when his team needs it most and doesn't fear the big game.
Te'o has also proven to have an uncanny ability to force turnovers during a game and we all know how important forcing turnovers is to being successful in this sport. Te'o picked off seven passes this season and even had two in one game against Michigan in what was a showdown of field position.
When a big play is being made on the defensive end, Te'o normally has his hands all over it. Without Te'o's incredible production this season, Notre Dame's defense doesn't become what it has and thus, the Irish are on the outside looking in as far as national championship hopes are concerned.
It can't be denied that the biggest reason for the turnaround that the Irish have experienced this season is a result of great leadership on the defensive end to go along with great play.
Te'o is responsible for both of those things and considering it has translated into a national championship opportunity and a season that nobody in their right mind expected for the Irish, it only makes sense to give Te'o the Heisman Trophy.