Manti, Manziel & The Heismandments

Nov 26, 2012

By Sean Stires: As a guy who writes for a web site, I don’t usually pimp other web sites, but considering Notre Dame has 43 days until its next game I have some time on my hands. If you have never visited Heismanpundit.com it is worth a look. However, as a presumed Notre Dame fan you are most likely not going to like what you see when you visit said site...

As of this morning Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit’, has called the race for the 2012 Heisman Trophy. Huston, a good guy whom I have talked to several times over the last few years, has Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, A.K.A. ‘Johnny Football’, winning this year’s Heisman.

“Anyone still entertaining notions of Heisman dark horses or late-breaking runs at the trophy is merely trolling for internet traffic at this point,” Huston said this morning on his site.

A death knell for Manti Te’o’s Heisman candidacy? Not so fast my friend.

In this crazy college football season that saw name brands like Matt Barkley and Denard Robinson go from top of the heap to the back alley quickly, redshirt freshman Manziel and senior linebacker Te’o are two of the more unlikely likely Heisman finalists set to set foot in the Downtown Athletic Club in less than two weeks.

Notre Dame fans will quickly dismiss Huston as a ‘hater’, because of his connection to that school Notre Dame dispatched over the weekend to finish its 12-0 regular season. Huston, who has been a Heisman voter since 2009, once ran the Heisman campaigns of both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart as a member of the USC sports information department. He currently works for CBSsports.com though and has worked for other “non-partisan” outlets in recent years.

Probably the most interesting information Huston has at Heisman Pundit are what he calls ‘The 10 Heismandments’ – “A set of unspoken, unofficial guidelines that ‘govern’ how the Heisman winner is selected. With the Heisman presentation less than two weeks away (Saturday, Dec. 8) let’s take a look at The 10 Heismandments and how they apply to both Manti and Manziel and see how this race should turn out when the winner is announced in New York.

1.The winner must be a quarterback, a running back or a multi-threat athlete.

This is the biggest case against Te’o and the biggest factor in Manziel’s favor. Only one defensive player has ever won the Heisman (Michigan’s Charles Woodson) and that was in large part due to the fact that he was also a punt returner (multi-threat).

Manziel is a quarterback for a 10-2 team, while Te’o is a linebacker for a 12-0 team who does nothing but play linebacker. Brian Kelly said last week that not even Louis Nix could have talked him into letting Te’o run the ball a little this season to boost his Heisman profile.

Advantage: Manziel

2.Juniors and seniors have the overwhelming advantage in the Heisman race and, as a general rule, will win over an underclassman. But a sophomore from a traditional power who puts up extraordinary single-season numbers can’t be discounted.

This is where the scale tips quickly in Te’o’s favor. Manti is a senior, while Manziel is just a redshirt freshman. Heisman voters have had a hard time punching their ballots for underclassmen over the years.

There is no doubting Manziel has the numbers (1,342 yards and 19 TD rushing / 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns passing), but he is still a pup in the eyes of traditionalist Heisman voters, like the ones who gave the 1980 Heisman to South Carolina senior George Rogers rather than Georgia freshman Herschel Walker.

Advantage: Te’o

3.The winner must put up good numbers in big games on TV.

Manziel’s tour de force was his performance in A&M’s Nov. 3 29-24 win over then No. 1 Alabama. He was nearly flawless while passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 92 net yards in the upset victory that vaulted him into the Heisman conversation.

As for Te’o – take your pick. Every Notre Dame game has been on national TV this season. He had two interceptions in Notre Dame’s win over Michigan, 11 tackles against Stanford, 11 tackles, an interception and a bone-jarring sack at Oklahoma, and added his seventh interception against USC over the weekend.

Notre Dame’s 10.3 rating in that victory over USC also made that game the most watched in college football this season and had a higher overnight rating than the 2011 Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl combined.

Te’o’s stat line for the season: 103 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, and four quarterback hurries against the 14th-toughest schedule in the nation were all on national television for all to see in 2012.

I couldn’t find the Texas A&M vs. Sam Houston State game on my dial last week.

Advantage: Te’o

4.The winner must have some prior name recognition.

This one won’t take long. Te’o was on preseason Nagurski, Butkus, Lombardi, and Bednarik Awards. Manziel did not have a career start prior to this season.

Advantage: Te’o

5.The winner must be one or more of the following three: (a) The top player on a national title contender. (b) A player who puts up good numbers for a traditional power that has a good record or (c) A player who puts up superlative single-season or career numbers on a good team, or has numbers that are way out ahead of his Heisman competitors.

The case can be made for Te’o on all three counts on this one. Notre Dame has, arguably, the best defense in the nation and Te’o is, unquestionably, the leader of the Irish defense and Notre Dame has a spot locked-up in the national title game. That gives him a check for “a”.

Te’o’s numbers alone make him a fit for “b” as well, while Manziel has the “good numbers”, but Texas A&M is not necessarily a “traditional power”. He would be more a fit there if he played for Texas.

“c” is a bit of a draw. Manziel has the “superlative single-season numbers on a good team” and has the traditional numbers that outweigh say a Collin Klein of Kansas State (787 rushing yards and 20 TDs with 2,306 yard and 14 passing TDs). Te’o gets “superlative” credit for his seven INTs, which are the most of any linebacker in the nation in 2012. He also gets “career numbers” credit for being just the second ND player to record at least 100 tackles in three consecutive seasons.

Advantage: Te’o

6.The winner cannot be considered an obvious product of his team’s system.

There are not too many defensive players who are ever going to fit into this category, so Te’o does not apply.

Here’s what could hurt Manziel though. Remember Case Keenum? His 5,631 passing yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior at Houston while playing in current Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin’s system last year were good enough to get him signed to the Houston Texans’ practice squad this season.

Manziel has brought a new dimension to Sumlin’s offense with his feet, but everything else screams “system”. Sumlin and Manziel are both new to A&M and A&M is new to the SEC. Will they both be as successful next year when defenses have a second shot at them?

Advantage: Te’o

7.If you are a quarterback, running back or multi-purpose athlete at one of the following schools- Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Florida and Florida State – you have a good chance to win if you have a very good statistical season, are an upperclassmen and your team wins at least 9 games.

Te’o has Notre Dame on his resume, but Manziel is a quarterback. Nothing else here applies to either of them.

Advantage: Push

8.Statistical benchmarks exist for each position to help voters gauge a player’s ‘Heisman worthiness’.

(This part gets a little wordy on the Heisman Pundit site, so I’ll paraphrase a bit here.)

a. Running backs need to run for a lot of yards.

b. Quarterbacks need to pass for a lot of yards and not throw interceptions.

c. Running quarterbacks need to rush for at least 1,000 yards.

d. Multi-purpose athletes need to make big plays on special teams.

Te’o, being the defensive player that he is, meets none of these criteria. Manziel, who has both great passing and rushing numbers, meets both “b” and “c”.

Advantage: Manziel

9.There will never be another two-time Heisman winner.

Since there are no active Heisman Trophy winners playing in 2012, this will not come into play as a factor in this year’s voting.

Advantage: Push

10.The winner must be likeable.

If there is a more “likeable” college football player in the game in 2012 than Manti Te’o I would like to meet him. Just ask those Notre Dame students who have donned leis for their hero every Saturday since his grandmother and girlfriend pass away within hours of one another in September.

Te’o stands for what is good in college football. He could have gone to the NFL last year, but instead he returned for his senior season and has helped lead the Irish to a place they have not stood in 24 years.

“Every once in a while a player comes around whose value transcends his numbers,” NBC analyst Mike Mayock said of Te’o last week. “It’s his ability to elevate an entire program that sets this young man apart.”

Te’o has been the face of the Irish program all season long, answering questions at his own weekly press conferences along the way.

“If you don’t do things to be the best at it why are you doing it,” Te’o recently asked aloud at one of those gatherings. “I’m just trying to be the best. Once I leave here (Notre Dame) I hope that the impact I’ve made not only on the football field, but in people’s lives will forever be remembered.”

Want more? Here’s a Tweet from Te’o (@MTeo_5) just this morning:

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do! It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t!”

It’s ten-fold (Or No. 5 times two-fold) likeable, and it is in all honesty impossible for Manziel to overcome. The freshman may or may not be as eloquent with his words, but we won’t know – at least this year. Manziel has been on media lockdown all season at Sumlin’s order.

Advantage: Te’o

The Heismandment breakdown goes Te’o: 6, Manziel: 2, Push: 2.

The biggest and possibly most important factor, working against Te’o is tradition. He is a defensive player who does not return kicks or take handoffs in goal line situations. In recent years the Heisman has boiled down to the “best player on the best team” argument and that, along with six of the 10 Heismandments, is what he has working for him right now.

If all of that is not enough, here are the first two sentences from the Heisman Trust statement:

“The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work.”

Sound like anyone you know?

Manti, Manziel & The Heismandments, 11/26/12


Other news