College football’s top stars will be on display during the 2012 bowl games, but no three players will be scrutinized more than Heisman finalists Johnny Manziel, Manti Te’o and Colin Klein.
Manziel and Texas A&M will take on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and he is only one of the three players not in a BCS bowl. But he certainly will not be flying under the radar after becoming the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
Te’o and Notre Dame will go up against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, while Klein and Kansas State are facing Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Each senior’s respective teams will need one last standout performance in order to earn a victory.
Here is how each player will perform in his bowl game.
Johnny Manziel vs. Oklahoma
The legend of Johnny Football will continue to grow in the Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma’s defense has not been impressive against dynamic offenses this season. In November, both West Virginia and Oklahoma State gashed the Sooners defense for nearly 50 points.
With 3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards 43 total touchdowns this season, Manziel has been unstoppable. Elite defenses such as Florida and LSU were able to slow him own, but the Sooners have no chance to contain him.
Oklahoma will need to outscore the Aggies, because Manziel will pick apart the Sooners defense.
Prediction: 289 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception. 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Manti Te’o vs. Alabama
Notre Dame’s defense has allowed the fewest points per game in the nation this season, and Te’o has been the unquestioned leader of the unit.
But Alabama has allowed the second-fewest points per game this season, and the National Championship Game will be a physical, hard-fought defensive battle.
As Te’o proved with two interceptions in a 13-6 victory over Michigan earlier this season, this is exactly the type of game in which he thrives. But Alabama has a significantly more powerful and disciplined offense, and Te’o is facing his toughest test of the season.
Still, the senior linebacker will be in relentless pursuit of the ball through all 60 minutes, and regardless of how many blockers the Crimson Tide send his way, he will still make plays.
Prediction: Nine tackles, two passes defended and one forced fumble.
Collin Klein vs. Oregon
The Fiesta Bowl will be the exact opposite of the National Championship Game. This will be a fast-paced contest with a ton of scoring.
Oregon’s dynamic running game will cause a massive amount of problems for the Kansas State defense, and the only way for the Wildcats to win this game is for Klein and the offense to outscore the Ducks.
Klein’s powerful running will allow him to have success against the Ducks defense, and he will keep the pressure on Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas to continue racking up points.
With a favorable matchup, Klein will end his collegiate career with one more impressive performance.
Prediction: 194 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. 181 yards rushing and three touchdowns.