Heisman race all over the map

sports@macon.comDecember 3, 2012 

The 78th Heisman Trophy will be awarded in ceremonies Saturday in New York. And the road to this year’s Heisman ceremony has taken plenty of turns.

Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley was the early favorite before this year’s games ever started, but five losses during the season didn’t help his cause.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith became the frontrunner after an eight-touchdown performance in a 70-63 win over conference rival Baylor. The eight touchdown passes set a program record, as did his 645 yards passing and 45 completions. Smith’s stock, however, took a nosedive when the Mountaineers were blown out in back-to-back losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State, which came at the beginning of a five-game losing streak.

Kansas State’s rise to No. 1 propelled Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein to the front of the Heisman class. A subpar performance in a loss to Baylor on Nov. 17 might have hurt his chances, but he still appears to be among the favorites, especially after his effort against Texas on Saturday night when he had 287 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns.

Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, the brilliant redshirt freshman signal-caller from Texas A&M, put himself in the picture after leading the Aggies to an upset win over then-No. 1 Alabama. He is a phenomenal talent, but no freshman, including the incomparable Herschel Walker of Georgia, has won the award.

Manziel set the SEC record for total offense with 4,600 yards this season, besting the marks set by Florida’s Tim Tebow (4,181) and by Auburn’s Cam Newton (4,327) in both of those players’ Heisman-winning years.

Manziel had some legal problems last summer when he was arrested for possessing a fake driver’s license, failure to identify and disorderly conduct for fighting, but I don’t think that will hurt his Heisman chances.

Should Klein win the Heisman, most NFL experts don’t see him making it as a quarterback in the professional ranks. He might make it as a tight end, but that is speculative at best. Football experts compare Klein to 2001 Heisman Winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska. Crouch was a third-round draft choice of the St Louis Rams as a receiver, but he never played a down in the NFL.

In addition to Klein and Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is the other finalist. Te’o has been the leader for the top-ranked Irish all season long, but no defensive lineman has won the award, and only one defensive player, cornerback Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997, has claimed it.

A Klein Heisman would give the Big 12 back-to-back winners of the trophy to schools that have never been considered among college football’s elite. Robert Griffin III gave Baylor its only Heisman last year, and if Klein wins it would be the first for Kansas State.

If Manziel takes home the Heisman, he would become the second Texas A&M player to win the award. The first was John David Crow in 1957 while playing for head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Crow is the only Heisman winner ever coached by Bryant.

There are a lot of perennial college football powers that have never won one or have just one to their credit. Alabama claimed its first in 2009 when Mark Ingram was the top vote-getter, with LSU’s lone Heisman going to Billy Cannon in 1959. Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Oregon all have been shut out since the first Heisman was presented to Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago in 1935.

On the other hand, the U.S. service academies have secured five, but the last one came 49 years ago when Roger Staubach of the Naval Academy was the winner. Navy running back Joe Bellino won in 1960, with Army’s “Mr. Inside,” Felix “Doc” Blanchard, winning in 1945, teammate “Mr. Outside” Glenn Davis in 1946 and Pete Dawkins in 1958.

The Heisman was Klein’s to lose until the Wildcats’ loss at Baylor, but now look for Manziel to become the first freshman to capture the prized statue.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service