Heisman Finalists 2012: Each Candidate's Strongest Case for Winning Award

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to pass 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

There's no question that college football doesn't have a clear candidate to take home this year's Heisman Trophy. Throughout the season, we've seen various players come and go as the award's front-runner, and few have stuck.

This year, the trophy will be awarded to one of three players: Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Kansas State's Collin Klein or Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

So what is each player's strongest case for winning? What distinguishes him and puts him above the competition? What do they offer that can't be matched by the other candidates?

Let's find out.


Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

Te'o has a few things going for him. He was the best player on the nation's best team (or, at least, the highest-ranked team) during the regular season. He won both the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker and the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player.

He wasn't just a stat guy or a one-dimensional player; he was a true difference-maker and Notre Dame's leader.

Te'o finished with 103 tackles, seven interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 1.5 sacks—all excellent marks. However, his perseverance and character are even more impressive. He lost both his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day this year but soldiered on.

He's been a true ambassador for the game and one of its finest, most upstanding citizens—a fact that won't escape voters.


Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State

Klein had one bad game all season, throwing three interceptions against Baylor. Of course, that was the one game Kansas State lost, 52-24.

Such was life for Klein this year.

His supporters will argue he was more instrumental to his team's success than any other player in college football. He led Kansas State to an 11-1 record, a No. 5 ranking, a Big 12 title and the second-most anticipated BCS matchup against No. 4 Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Klein finished the year with 2,490 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, completing 66.2 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 890 yards and 22 touchdowns.

I know Klein was instrumental in making Bill Snyder's single-wing offense run so smoothly this year, but I can't help but look at Klein's numbers and think they pale somewhat compared to the man I'll break down next. Klein only lost one game this season, but will that be enough to push him ahead of Te'o or Johnny Football?


Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

In my opinion, Manziel has three main things going for him: His stats are the most impressive, he compiled them as a freshman and, oh yeah, he played in the SEC, once again the strongest conference in football.

Yes, some folks might actually dock him for being a freshman (archaic thinking is the worst) or having two losses on the year, but that shouldn't take away from what is an incredibly strong resume.

Manziel threw for 3,419 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 68.3 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 1,181 yards and another 18 touchdowns, and led the Aggies to a shocking upset of Alabama, then the No. 1 team in the nation.

Texas A&M finished the season 10-2, ranked No. 9 and are headed to the AT&T Cotton Bowl against No. 11 Oklahoma in one of the most intriguing games of the bowl season.

For my money, Johnny Football should win this year's Heisman Trophy.


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