Heisman Watch 2012: Predicting Finalists After Epic Championship Weekend

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 celebrates a first 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

Conference championship weekend put a ribbon on all the Heisman Trophy resumes, as the finalists are set to be announced this week. There wasn't a lot of movement left to take place during the last full weekend of action, but we have a much clearer sense of where things will fall. 

Using recent history, Championship Saturday has been a huge deciding factor in the Heisman race. According to HeismanPundit.com, this will, in all likelihood, be the first time since 2007, when Tim Tebow won the award, that the last full weekend of the season did not factor in to who wins. 

Just because there does not appear to be a lot of drama in the nominees, there will be a lot said and written about who is up for the award once they are officially announced. Here are our bets for who will be in New York for the ceremony, as well as their case for winning the award. 


Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

2012 Stats: 273-for-400 (68.3 percent), 3,419 Yards, 24 TD, 8 INT; 184 carries, 1,181 yards, 19 TD

Why Manziel Is Here: Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel became the toast of college football after a 29-24 upset victory over then-undefeated Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

But when you look past Manziel's brilliance in that game, when he had 253 passing yards, 92 rushing yards and two touchdowns, there is so much more to his resume than that. He set an SEC record with 4,610 yards of total offense. 

Considering how revered the SEC is in the mainstream, not to mention the fact that Texas A&M went 10-2 and finished in both polls' top 10, Manziel is the heavy favorite to capture the first Heisman Trophy for the Aggies since John David Crow in 1957. 


Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o

2012 Stats: 103 Total Tackles (52 Solo), 7 INT, 5.5 Tackles For Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 4 Passes Defended

Why Te'o Is Here: It is a sad state of affairs when you really needed a few offensive players to dip in order for the best defensive player in the country on the No. 1 team in the country to get a lot more Heisman hype. 

Te'o doesn't need the hype machine to build him up—he has done that on his own with his outstanding play on the field. Wherever the ball goes, it always seems like No. 5 is there to wrap someone up and drive them to the ground, or create a turnover, or make a game-saving play. 

It is so hard for the voters to quantify the impact that a defensive player makes on the field. That's why you rarely see players who are exclusively defenders up for the award—Charles Woodson won it in part because of his ability on special teams. Tyrann Mathieu was up last year because of his special teams play, as well as being one of the best cornerbacks in the country. 

Te'o has the misfortune of being "just" a defensive player. He doesn't have any special gimmicks, but what he does on the field, he does better than anyone else. Te'o's performance against Oklahoma in Norman (11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT) was his Heisman moment. 


Kansas State QB Collin Klein

2012 Stats: 180-for-272 (66.2 percent), 2,490 passing yards, 15 TD, 7 INT; 194 carries, 890 yards, 22 TD

Why Klein Is Here: For most of the season, Klein was at the top of the Heisman Watch list. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a headline proclaiming him 'The Best Player on the Nation's Best Team."

Obviously, a few things have changed since that issue was released. Klein was injured on Nov. 3 against Oklahoma State and hasn't been as effective since. He did have two rushing touchdowns against TCU, but only managed 195 yards of total offense and threw an interception.

The following week against Baylor, the Wildcats were blown out 52-24. Klein threw two touchdowns, ran for another and threw three interceptions. His stock plummeted after that loss. 

However, there is something to be said for the way Klein performed in the eight games before the injury, as well as his performance against a good Texas team in the finale on Saturday night. 

Klein had 184 yards passing, 103 yards rushing, three touchdowns and led the Wildcats to the Big 12 championship. I don't believe team record should factor into an individual awards race, but I am not naive enough to believe voters will look at a lot of things before getting to that when making their decisions. 

There is something to be said for what Klein did this season for a team that defeated five teams who were ranked at the time the Wildcats played them.