Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o
Updated: December 7, 2012 4:36PM
Texas A&M freshman QB
By the numbers: 273-of-400 for 3,419 yards, 24 TDs, 8 interceptions; 184 rushes for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs.
Record book: Broke Auburn QB Cam Newton’s SEC record for total offense in a season.
Signature game: It wasn’t even close to his most productive game, but Manziel threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards in A&M’s 29-24 upset of then-No. 1 Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, no less. That’s when Johnny Football became a national phenomenon.
The case for: The numbers speak for themselves. Against Arkansas, he threw for 453 yards and ran for 104. Against a nine-win Louisiana Tech team, he threw for 395 yards and ran for 181, totaling six touchdowns on the day. He threw for more than 300 yards four times, and ran for more than 100 yards six times. Five times, he had at least five total touchdowns. And he led the Aggies to a road victory over mighty Alabama. The snappy nickname only helped burnish the legend.
The case against: He’s a freshman. Well, a redshirt freshman. And no first-year player ever has won the Heisman. He also was arrested back in June, charged with misdemeanors of using a fake ID and fighting in College Station. But the biggest knocks on Manziel are his lesser efforts in the Aggies’ two losses, both at home. He totaled just 233 yards and one touchdown in his debut, a loss to Florida. And he threw three interceptions, scored no touchdowns and ran for just 27 yards in a loss to LSU.
Lazerus’ odds: 1-to-1.
Notre Dame senior LB
By the numbers: 103 tackles (52 solo), 7 interceptions, 1.5 sacks, 2 FR, 11 passes defended, 4 passes broken up.
Record book: Set the Notre Dame record for most interceptions by a linebacker.
Signature game: In the same week his grandmother and girlfriend died within hours of each other, Te’o led the Irish to a 20-3 upset at then-No. 10 Michigan State. Te’o had 12 tackles, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a sack.
The case for: Te’o is the best player on the No. 1 team in the country, leading the nation’s top-ranked defense. He twice spearheaded game-sealing goal-line stands, against Stanford in overtime and against USC in the fourth quarter. And his inspirational tragic-hero story earlier in the season is well known. The Heisman Trust uses the word “integrity” twice in its mission statement, and Te’o — an Eagle Scout who shines academically, works in the community, and earned a national sportsmanship award last week — embodies those ideals as well as anybody can.
The case against: He plays defense. And no strictly defensive player ever has won the Heisman. As important as a middle linebacker is, it’s not terribly glamorous, and other than his interception total, his numbers aren’t very gaudy. It’s much easier to quantify what a quarterback did by his stats. And even if voters did look at his stats, they’d see four consecutive games with seven or fewer tackles to close out the season, after his stretch of six of seven games with 10 or more launched him into the Heisman discussion.
Lazerus’ odds: 5-to-1.
Kansas State senior QB
By the numbers: 180-of-272 for 2,490 yards, 15 TDs and 7 interceptions; 194 rushes for 890 yards, 22 TDs
Record book: Rushed for an FBS quarterback record 27 TDs in 2011.
Signature game: Klein was about as perfect as a quarterback could be in a 55-14 road shellacking of West Virginia. Klein was 19-of-21 for 323 yards and three passing touchdowns, and ran for four touchdowns, too.
The case for: Klein was the front-runner for much of the season, leading Kansas State to a No. 1 ranking before a devastating loss to Baylor on Nov. 17. Klein was a star already last season, but became more of a polished passer this year, upping his completion percentage from 57 to 66, and his yards-per-attempt from 6.8 to 9.2. He led the surprising Wildcats to the Big 12 championship and the Fiesta Bowl. He’s another high-character player who was honored by the AFCA Good Works team for his positive impact in the community.
The case against: As great as Klein was this season, it’s difficult for any dual-threat quarterback to compare with the staggering numbers put up by Manziel. The stunning 52-24 loss to Baylor was perhaps a fatal blow to Klein’s candidacy. In that game, he threw for 286 yards and two scores, but also threw three interceptions, and ran for just 39 yards. All that came in a prime time game that drew plenty of viewers when the upset alert spread.
Lazerus’ odds: 75-to-1