Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Image
(Guest post written by Jake Simons)
For several months leading up to the season, the Heisman trophy was Matt Barkley’s to lose … then he played Stanford…
A new stallion took over when Geno Smith put up video game-esque numbers … the clear-cut Heisman leader then lost 5 straight games.
Collin Klein, of Kansas State, outdueled Geno Smith in their matchup and quickly marched to the top of the Heisman race … then lost to a 4-win Baylor team.
With these quarterbacks, there has been a horde of other players to inch near the top this season, only to be tackled 1 yard shy of collegiate stardom.
And then, out of nowhere, this red-shirt freshman boy, beats Alabama with two weeks left in the season to solidify his spot at the top of most Heisman polls. Fortunately for Johnny Manziel, his team suffered its two losses earlier in the season. And Mr. Football himself was able to load his team on his back to finish the regular season with better statistics than Tim Tebow and Cam Newton could ever achieve.
That’s saying a lot. Especially as a red-shirt freshman.
But there has been one player lurking near the top of the water throughout the entire season; a player who has humbly put his team, his coaches, his school, his fan base, his country on his back, to bring a storied program out of two decades of despair; a leader who plays on the other side of the ball. That player, of course, is Manti Te’o.
So with the regular season of college football in the books, voters must decide between a quarterback with gaudy numbers or an inside linebacker with a resume just as impressive … between a country boy or a Hawaiian man … a freshman or a senior.
How do you even compare the two? Is it even possible to associate an offensive player with a defensive player? Is it fair to compare an upperclassman to a frosh? Is it morally acceptable to compare the best player on a 2-loss team to the best player on the only undefeated bowl-eligible team in the country?
The answer is yes. It is possible; it is fair; it is acceptable. Why? Because the Heisman trophy is about more than who can reach the end zone more times. It’s about more than who can hold the ball the longest. It’s about more than breaking records. It’s about which player can demonstrate diligence, perseverance, hard work, integrity, and excellence on a weekly and daily basis.
Not once a season. Not twice. But every single Saturday that player straps up. Every single day that student wakes up.
It’s no lie that Manti Te’o has been about as consistent a player as possible on Notre Dame’s roster. He is only the second player in Notre Dame history to record three straight 100-tackle seasons.
It’s also no secret that Johnny Football has put up ungodly numbers in his first season at the helm of the Aggies.
But again, how can you compare the two? How can you compare a team that has played the 8th hardest schedule in the country to a team that has played the 29th hardest?
Let’s look at consistency. Let’s look at how Manti and Johnny have stacked up against the best of the best. Let’s take out the outliers of the easy competition like Boston College and Sam Houston St. Because let’s be honest, anyone can put up a beautiful stat-line against weak competition (see Case Keenum’s 2011 campaign of 5631 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions against high school-caliber competition … and wasn’t even in the Heisman discussion).
After all, shouldn’t the award go to the player who performs the absolute best at the highest level?
The Aggies have played three teams (Florida, Alabama, and LSU) that still remain ranked in the latest BCS rankings. The Fighting Irish have also played three teams (Stanford, Oklahoma, and Michigan) that are still ranked. So, let’s take a look at how the two stacked up.
Johnny Manziel – QB
vs. Florida (loss) 173 PASS YDS – 0 TD – 0 INT 60 RUSH YDS – 1 TD
vs. LSU (loss) 276 PASS YDS – 0 TD – 3 INT 27 RUSH YDS – 0 TD
@ Alabama (win) 253 PASS YDS – 2 TD – 0 INT 92 RUSH YDS – 0 TD
Manti Te’o – ILB
vs. Michigan (win) 8 TKLS – 0 Sacks – 2 INT
vs. Stanford (win) 11 TKLS – 0 Sacks – 0 INT
@ Oklahoma (win) 11 TKLS – 1 Sack – 1 INT
Nothing really pops out at you … except for the fact that Manziel is 1-2 against stiff defenses and Te’o is 3-0 against explosive offenses … and that Manti can handle two preseason Heisman hopefuls (Denard Robinson and Landry Jones) and one current hopeful (Stephan Taylor) with ease … and, what the numbers don’t show, is that Manti has led his defense to the top spot in the country, and subsequently, his team to the #1 ranking.
I guess Johnny Football isn’t so football when he plays exclusive competition.
In fact, let’s take this a step further and pretend that these two players’ teams played elite competition every Saturday. Let’s just see what their projected season would be like against the best of the best. Consistency against the elite, remember?
After 12 games against top-tier talent, Johnny Manziel would project to finish the season with … 2808 PASS YDS – 8 TD – 12 INT and 716 RUSH YDS – 4 TD … really, mediocre at best.
After 12 games against similar top-tier talent, Manti Te’o would project to finish the season with … 120 TKLS – 4 Sacks – 12 INT … all that against explosive offenses … and as a linebacker.
This is based solely on statistics. Nothing else. No back stories. No grandmother or girlfriend passing away within a six-hour span (Manti). No arrests or misdemeanors (Johnny). None of that.
Back stories aside (though, integrity is a key component to the Heisman equation), who competes at the highest level against the highest level?
In most years, the Heisman trophy has been given to the best player on the best team. So, why is that suddenly any different this year? Is it because Notre Dame doesn’t have an elite offensive player? Why would Johnny Football suddenly ascend to the top of the polls as the leader of a 2-loss team, when Collin Klein’s team, whose resume is just as impressive, only has one?
Defense wins championships. Everyone can agree with that. So, why has there never been a true defensive player to win the Heisman? On December 8th, 2012, history will be made.
Congratulations, Manti Te’o, on your integrity and excellence on and off the field.
Thank you to Jake Simons for this piece. Jake Simons currently resides in South Bend, Ind. and is in his second year of teaching 5th grade. Aside from teaching Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lifeskills, Jake imposes his love for the Fighting Irish on young, impressionable minds. His wife often wonders about his devout passion for Notre Dame, to which he responds (in his best Lou Holtz impersonation), “no explanation will suffice.” You can reach Jake on Twitter at @G_Double_B