History could be made Saturday night, as the first freshman or the second defensive player could win the 2012 Heisman Trophy at the Best Buy Theater in New York City.
Linebacker Manti Te’o led Notre Dame in a resurgent year, earning their first No. 1 ranking in 20 years, while Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel had a breathtaking freshman debut.
Then there’s Collin Klein, whose seminal play lifted Kansas State atop the polls and the BCS, only to see their championship hopes dashed late in the year.
Each candidate has put up impressive numbers, and has a claim to the trophy all his own, but only one can win.
Below details the stats for all three, and the reasons they may or may not win.
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Notre Dame, Senior, Linebacker, Manti Te’o,
Key Stats: 103 tackles, 7 INTs, 1.5 sacks
Reason he should win: Te’o is the front runner after guiding the Irish to a 12-0 mark, and has them primed to face Alabama in the BCS National Championship.
The 21 year-old demonstrated huge playmaking abilities throughout the season and led Notre Dame in tackles and interceptions, as the Irish held opponents to 10.3 points per game.
Reason he may not win: While Notre Dame has the most Heisman winners in history with seven, one thing against Te’o is the skill player bias. Since the award’s inaugural year in 1935, only one primarily defensive player has won, Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.
Texas A&M, Freshman, Quarterback, Johnny Manziel
Key Stats: 3,419 passing yards, 24 TDs, 8 INTs, 155.9 passer rating, 1,181 rushing yards, 19 TDs
Reason he should win: Manziel electrified the college football stage with his rocket arm and quick feet, but his Heisman campaign didn’t really kick-off until he led the Aggies over then-No. 1 Alabama.
In that 29-24 win, Manziel went 24-for-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 92 yards against the Tide’s top ranked defense. As a freshman in the SEC.
Dubbed 'Johnny Football', Manziel was third in the SEC in passing and rushing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns, and first in rushing touchdowns.
Manziel could be the second Aggie to win the award. Running back John David Crow won the award for Texas A&M in 1957.
Reason he may not win: No freshman has ever won the Heisman, and only three sophomores have taken home the illustrious trophy: Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, and Mark Ingram.
Kansas State, Senior, Quarterback, Collin Klein
Key Stats: 2,490 passing yards 15 TDs, 7 INTs, 156. 1 passer rating, 890 rushing yards, 22 touchdowns
Reason he should win: Before an unfortunate loss to Baylor, Klein had the Wildcats on the cusp of their first Big-12 title since 2003, and their first BCS title game in history.
The nation took serious notice of Klein after his seven touchdown performance in Kansas State’s 55-14 drubbing of West Virginia. Klein threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for another 41 yards and four touchdowns.
Reason he may not win: Klein may have peaked too early. Voters do look at the whole season, but how finalists close out the year tends to weight more. In the loss to Baylor, Klein tossed three interceptions and the Wildcats held on to the No. 1 spot for just one week.
Prediction: This is a Notre Dame year. Aside from his position, Te’o’s resume fits perfectly with Heisman’s history. He’s a senior on the top ranked team, playing for the national title and for Notre Dame. Manziel clearly has the best stats, and years from now this vote may be considered a snub, but Te’o should win in a very close vote.