Don't look now, but a pure defensive player and a freshman are the favorites to win the 78th Heisman Trophy.
Johnny Manziel, the exciting freshman quarterback from Texas A&M, and Manti Te'o, the dominant linebacker from Notre Dame, are the two favorites, and if either wins, he will be a precedent setter for this prestigious award.
The Heisman has never been won by a freshman or a defensive player that also didn't add something on offense or the return game.
These two standouts will also be joined in New York for this ceremony by Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, as Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel tweeted out the finalists:
Heisman finalists announced: Collin Klein, Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 3, 2012
So, the finalists are in. Now let's give them some odds at winning the most famous individual award in sports.
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Klein had his moment in the sun as the front-runner for this prestigious award. Then he was hurt and missed most of the second half against Oklahoma State on Nov. 3, and the injury derailed his season.
He had his worst performance, at that point of the season, in terms of passer rating, in Kansas State's win over TCU the following week.
He then followed that up with a worse performance in his next game as the Wildcats fell to Baylor. That two-week stretch doomed his Heisman chances.
Still, Klein had an outstanding season as he led the 11-1 Wildcats to an outstanding season. He threw for 2,490 yards and chucked 15 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He also rushed for 890 yards and added another 22 touchdowns with his feet.
As the Baltimore Sun shared, Klein's season earned him the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, but that is far different from the Heisman; the former is for college quarterbacks that are completing their college eligibility or are fourth-year juniors ready to graduate with their class. It also combines academics.
So, Klein had a remarkable year, and he is a deserving finalist, but he has no shot at winning the Heisman. You have to end the season with momentum to win the Heisman, and Klein did not do that.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
This is the perfect storm for Te'o. As a linebacker, he is supposed to have no chance at winning the Heisman.
However, without an offensive player putting up mind-blowing numbers on a highly visible team, the door has been opened for a pure defensive player to win this award. Te'o has been the heart and soul of the nation's No. 1 team and the highest-ranked scoring defense.
Who will lift the Heisman?
As the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton reported, Te'o was named the Butkus Award winner, which goes to the top linebacker in the nation. Now he has his sights set on an even bigger honor.
Te'o is a heady and athletic linebacker. He used these skills to rack up 107 tackles and an impressive seven interceptions.
He also has a knack for coming up with big plays in the biggest moments. The Irish, while undefeated, have had numerous close calls, and were it not for the clutch play of Te'o, this team would not be anywhere near the top of the BCS standings.
Te'o has an excellent shot at this winning this award, but the smart money is still on the next guy on this list.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Johnny Football catapulted into the public consciousness with his amazing performance in an upset victory over Alabama.
Manziel had been playing outstanding all year. It's just that the freshman needed something huge, like that upset, to get people talking.
They are talking now, and as the Associated Press reports (via the Washington Post), he has been named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
That is a remarkable accomplishment for a freshman playing for a team that was in its first season in the toughest conference in the land.
Manziel passed for 3,419 yards, 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,181 yards and added another 19 touchdowns on the ground while leading the Aggies to a 10-2 record.
The consistency he showed, especially considering he is a freshman playing in a defensive-heavy conference, was outstanding.
He had one bad game against LSU on Oct. 20 as he had no touchdowns, three interceptions and just 27 yards rushing. But he has been stellar since, while putting an excellent close to his freshman year.
It's not just about the numbers, either. Manziel often succeeds in remarkable and captivating ways, and he is a charismatic leader of one of the nation's best teams.
He will be the first freshman to win this prestigious award.