Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has emerged as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He's accounted for 4,600 yards leading the Aggies offense and led his team to an upset victory over national title contender Alabama.
Now, his fellow Heisman hopefuls are hoping to upset him. Although "Johnny Football" is the popular pick, he's not a lock. Let's take a look at two players with at least a puncher's chance of beating out Manziel for the prestigious award.
Manti Te'o (Notre Dame LB)
There are two key debates in play between Manti Te'o and Manziel. It's a senior going up against a freshman and a defender going up against an offensive star. These are factors in play almost every year, but usually involving all the candidates, not just two.
Te'o led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season while racking up 103 tackles, seven interceptions and 1.5 sacks. His team will play for the national title. Texas A&M finished with two losses and will play in the Cotton Bowl.
So there are definitely a couple things working in his favor.
And while some fans might not like it, the fact he's a senior and Manziel is a freshman is going to weigh on voters. There's a reason no freshman has ever won the award before.
It also doesn't hurt that he plays for Notre Dame. Helping a storied program get back on top is something that shouldn't get taken lightly.
When you put all those things together, Te'o should make it a closer race than people are expecting.
Collin Klein (Kansas State QB)
Klein's numbers aren't quite on par with Manziel's, but they are still terrific. He totaled almost 3,400 offensive yards with 37 touchdowns, which keeps him within a reasonable range to consider him a strong candidate.
His advantages are similar to the one Te'o holds: He led his team to a BCS game—the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon—and holds the senior trump card if some voters were having trouble deciding between the two. His Wildcats also won the Big 12 title.
The other thing Klein has working in his favor is his value to the Kansas State offense. Manziel had several playmakers at his disposal, making him transition to the college game a bit easier. Klein didn't have that luxury. He was forced to make a lot of plays be himself simply because there was no other option.
Will it be enough to push him past Manziel? The chances aren't good, but it at least gave voters reason to strongly consider him. That's more than most players can say.