Oh, boy, the propaganda machine is working overtime now.
It isn’t enough that Notre Dame is 12-0, bound for the BCS title game and any comment that questions the 2012 edition of Irish football’s greatness is deemed sacrilegious or conspiratorial, but now we get the overkill pretzel logic of pushing for college football’s top individual honor to fall under the same domain. Even the most recognized journalistic hack in ESPN’s arsenal is on board.
Oh, for the love of Touchdown Jesus …
OK, let’s get it out in the open. Manti Te’o has been a great player throughout his stay at South Bend, Ind. He’s a leader, a top-notch performer, a wonderful story and seemingly an even better guy.
What he isn’t is the nation’s best player in 2012.
Sorry, he isn’t. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is, and he has been dominant in proving that he is.
If this were a lifetime achievement award, Te’o could be, should be, would be the choice.
But the Heisman Trophy, each year, is said to be reserved for the most outstanding player in that season. Truth is, Te’o, save immeasurable intangibles that his proponents keep trying to measure, doesn’t match up – not with Manziel, at least.
The beauty of the case against Manziel is you have to ignore the intangibles he brings to the table and point out how he dropped the ball against Florida (not true) in his first college game and Louisiana State (true) – two teams that stand fourth and seventh, respectively, in the latest BCS standings.
Other than that, the Aggies freshman has put the entire sport on its ear and pinned it with impressive efforts one snap after the next. His one-man show detoured Alabama’s beeline to a second straight national crown. It also made A&M an immediate force in the country’s top conference by far, the SEC.
Along the way, he surpassed 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton’s total offense mark for the circuit and earned a spot among the nation’s top passers in every meaningful statistical category, including points responsible for – he ranks second behind Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who could be another Heisman candidate.
In short, Manziel has been in the spotlight and under the gun the entire time, and he has shined like no other on the college stage.
Te’o, as good as he is, can disappear at middle linebacker – and has – and not be called to the carpet for that. We rant and rave about the interception he makes, but then fail to comment on how he really wasn’t that active the rest of the evening.
His effort against five-loss Southern Cal has been trumpeted as the clinching debate to his candidacy. If so, it’s time to crank up the scrutiny on these candidacies. Te’o had exactly four tackles against the Trojans and was a general no-show when it came time to tracking down tailbacks Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal.
He made two plays – an interception thrown right to him by blinders-wearing freshman USC quarterback Max Wittek and the game-sealing stop at the goal line in the final minutes. They were big plays, no doubt.
They also were the kind of plays Manziel made by the handful every quarter he played.
By the numbers, you could argue that Te’o hasn’t even matched his own efforts of years past. With 103 tackles – his average of 8.6 per game ranks 58th in the country – he is not going to come close to his 133 in 2010 or 128 last season. His seven picks, without question, are phenomenal, and have him second in the country there.
But he’s not an impact performer on the level he is credited as being in 2012. He has 1.5 sacks in 12 games. He had five last year in 13. He only has 5.5 tackles for losses all season. He had 13.5 in 2011 and 9.5 the year before. He’s never been a guy to physically blow up an opposing ballcarrier and cause a change of possession. In 50 games – 48 of ’em starts – for ND, Te’o has two forced fumbles. Neither came this fall.
The shame is, this reads like a denigration of Te’o and his abilities and accomplishments. It isn’t. It is one aimed at those pushing for something that really shouldn’t happen. Not if the Heisman really is supposed to go to the nation’s most outstanding player.
In 2012, that player has been Johnny Manziel.
– Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, a legit Heisman candidate from the nation’s other 12-0 team, was honored as the Big Ten’s top quarterback and, yet, amazingly, was only accorded second-team honors by conference coaches behind Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez at the same time. Huh?
– In the same voting, the Big Ten coaches picked Wisconsin’s Chris Borland as a first-team LB and the Big Ten media selected the Badgers’ Mike Taylor as a first-team LB. Neither player could do any better than honorable mention in the other selections. Huh?
– Rutgers will be shooting for its first Big East title on Thursday night when it hosts Louisville. Just in time, too – since the Scarlet Knights will be bolting for the Big Ten in 2014.
– Wisconsin will square off against Nebraska in Saturday night’s Big Ten title game. The Badgers are 7-5, 4-4 conference. Woof …