With the presentation of college football's most prestigious award just hours away, it's time to take a final look at the chances each of the three finalists for the 2012 Heisman Trophy has at taking home the hardware.
Collin Klein, Manti Te'o and Johnny Manziel all had seasons to remember by any standard, and in what should be one of the closest Heisman races we've seen in recent years, all three have a reasonably realistic chance at walking away with the trophy.
Heading into tonight's trophy presentation in New York City, here's a late roundup of each of the three finalists' chances at joining college football's most elite fraternity.
As easily the most valuable player on a Kansas State team that finished the regular season No. 5 in the BCS rankings, Collin Klein put together a strong case for himself to be a worthy contender for the Heisman.
His 2,490 passing yards don't stack up favorably against gunslingers like Matt Barkley or Landry Jones, but the fact that he added another 890 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground is downright impressive.
Klein came out of nowhere to lead the Wildcats to national prominence, and emerged as a front-runner for the Heisman, but given his six games with under 200 yards passing, his statistics may not be gaudy enough to win him the trophy.
Likely Outcome: Third. Statistics aren't everything, as Klein's already won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, but when pitted against a quarterback with far superior numbers like Manziel, they mean something. He might squeak into second place, but it'll be a shock if the senior wins.
Like his team, Manti Te'o took the college football world by surprise in 2012, and lead Notre Dame to an undefeated season, a No. 1 ranking and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
The best player on the most dominant defense in the country, Te'o was a force for the Fighting Irish all year long, and has already claimed a number of college ball's top honors such as the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, the Maxwell Award and the Dick Butkus Award, to name a few.
His stats speak volumes about his impact, as he tallied seven interceptions and 103 tackles for the Irish, but they don't tell the full story.
Even when the offense didn't show up to play, Te'o picked up the slack and willed the team to victory, as was the case during the Notre Dame-Michigan game, when the senior linebacker picked off two Denard Robinson passes and helped the Irish to a critical 13-6 win early in the season.
If Notre Dame goes on to win the national title, Te'o may well go down as the most dominant defensive player on a championship team in college football history, because the Irish offense is average at best.
Likely Outcome: 2nd. Unfortunately for Te'o, the Heisman is simply an offensive player's award. He has all the credentials to make a convincing case for himself to win, but it more than likely won't be enough. Fortunately, even if he doesn't win, he's got the chance to win something that both Manziel and Klein would trade a Heisman for in a heartbeat: the 2012 BCS National Championship.
And then there was one.
This season, no player has taken the nation by surprise as suddenly as Johnny Manziel, as the freshman quarterback led the previously unranked Texas A&M Aggies to a No. 9 spot in the BCS rankings and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Like Klein, Manziel's brilliance on the field wasn't limited to his arm, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and ran for 19 touchdowns, while passing for another 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Manziel's first collegiate season was complete with signature victories over then-No. 1 Alabama, No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 23 Louisiana Tech, and the singular impact he had on the Aggies' season is the biggest factor working in his favor in the Heisman.
No, a first-year player has never walked away with the Heisman, but Manziel isn't your average freshman.
There's a reason he was a unanimous choice for SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the nation's toughest conference, and he had to be viewed as the clear favorite to take home the Heisman this evening.
Likely Outcome: Winner. It may not be by a big margin, but Manziel will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy. He's got the numbers and was the most valuable player to his team in the country, and unless voters suddenly warmed up to the idea of a defensive player winning the award, the trophy will be his.
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