With less than a week before the winner of the 2012 Heisman Trophy is announced, three candidates can still make a strong case for the top honor of the college football season. Manti Te’o, linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as well as quarterbacks Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies and Collin Klein of the Kansas State Wildcats. While Te’o or Manziel could make history by winning the award as either one of the only defensive players or the first ever freshman to take home the hardware, Klein cannot be counted out quite yet either.
Notre Dame is going to the BCS Championship to face the Alabama Crimson Tide, who are the top two teams that the fans surveyed in the latest Discover Fan Loyalty Poll gave the best chances to win the national title this season. And keep in mind, that was before the SEC Championship win for Alabama over the Georgia Bulldogs, as well as before the Irish were selected to play in the BCS Championship Game.
But while that could give an edge to Te’o, I believe it is for other reasons that he should win this year’s Heisman Trophy.
First off, I have absolutely nothing against either Klein or Manziel. I do not have a problem with a freshman winning the award either, although I do see this kid having more than a couple of chances at making Heisman history. Klein is a senior, like Te’o, although I just feel as if he missed out on his opportunity when the Wildcats suffered their only defeat of the season against the Baylor Bears.
As with many awards, the most valuable players come from the teams who play the best. It is often the case, and it does happen for a reason. The better a player can help his team, the more important he is seen to outsiders. It may not always seem fair to some folks, but there is a track record that may not be derailed any time soon.
Before we take a closer look at why Te’o should win this year’s Heisman, take a look at the complete results from the latest Discover Fan Loyalty Poll. Not only were college football fans across the country asked which teams were the best, as well as which ones stood the greatest chance of winning the BCS Championship, but they were also asked whether they would rather receive gifts this Holiday season or see their favorite team hoist the crystal ball trophy. Take a look at how they voted, and then feel free to weigh in with your own response below.
Like it or not, Notre Dame is No. 1 heading into the postseason. Kansas State is just No. 6, while Texas A&M is No. 9. That should mean something. But it is not just the ranking that should make people vote for Te’o. It is how he came up the biggest in the Fighting Irish’s biggest games this season.
Te’o not only came up with some big hist and tackles for losses against top teams, but also intercepted passes against the Michigan Wolverines, Oklahoma Sooners and USC Trojans, who were arguably three of Notre Dame’s toughest opponents this season. They were all just a game or two away from playing in a BCS Bowl this season. He never recorded less than five tackles per game and came up with some key stops at opportune times throughout the season. He finished an undefeated season for the Irish with 103 tackles, seven interceptions, 5.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and 1.5 sacks.
Te’o is also a senior captain who returned for his final year in South Bend in order to have a Senior Day moment at Notre Dame Stadium. In a day and age where players leave early for the NFL whether they are ready or not, it was refreshing to see a talented player want to finish what he started, especially considering the Fighting Irish were not only not expected to compete for a BCS Championship this season, but they started the season unranked. Te’o came back because he wanted to play his senior season for the school he loved.
Oh, and by the way, it was for a unit who was one of the stingiest defenses in the nation in 2012. Te’o was the biggest reason.
Now, I am not trying to take away anything from Manziel or Klein. Both had fantastic seasons. But in a few crucial situations with the game on the line, they did not always come up big. Yes, they led some great games that resulted in huge wins or monumental upsets, but neither could win every game. Manziel came up short against the LSU Tigers, while Klein could not get the job done against Baylor, and also struggled in a win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
I am not trying to take anything away from Manziel or Klein. I just feel as if this year’s Heisman Trophy most deserves to be awarded to Te’o. I know that many of you will not agree, which is what will make this an interesting race on Saturday night. Either way, a great player is walking away with college football’s top honor that can be bestowed.
I just hope that it goes to the best choice, not just the most popular.
As always, stay tuned to The Pigskin Report each and every day throughout the college football bowl season, as well have the most in depth, entertaining and extensive of everything bowl related, including the results of the 2012 Heisman Trophy presentation and the weekly Discover Fan Loyalty Poll. Make sure to Like Discover on Facebook and follow them on Twitter!
* The 15-week Discover Fan Loyalty Poll is conducted by Rasmussen Reports, a nationally recognized leader in polling, who gathers sentiment by phone from 800 college football fans who follow games at least once per week on television, radio, in person or online.
Discover launched the Fan Loyalty Poll to give die-hard fans a platform to showcase their dedication and love for their favorite college football team leading up to the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game and 2013 Discover Orange Bowl. Each week the poll will offer new questions about what college football fans are thinking this season.
Beyond title sponsorship of the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game and 2013 Discover Orange Bowl, Discover’s commitment to college football includes relationships with ESPN and Notre Dame Football on NBC.