Admittedly, I am not the biggest college football fan in the world. On Saturdays, I'll watch a game that features two big schools but I wouldn't mind spending time doing other things. I root for LSU (woot) and my favorite team is UVA (woot?), but I neither live nor die based on how they play each and every week.
When it comes to college football discussions, I typically leave the arguments for people with more knowledge of the subject. However, after hearing all the talk about Manti Te'o for Heisman over Johnny Manziel, it's impossible for me to stay silent.
Skip Bayless wrote a piece yesterday touting Te'o as the next Heisman Trophy winner, citing his leadership and captaincy of Notre Dame's defense, a unit Bayless feels was the best in football. He criticizes the media for creating hype around a two-loss quarterback while there's a perfectly good linebacker playing on a perfect team.
And he's not the only one.
Pundits and college football fans alike believe Te'o is a Heisman Trophy winner because of Notre Dame's success. After all, many believed the Fighting Irish would be good but few thought they would be playing for a national title. The problem is, that's a team accomplishment, not an individual one. The Heisman Trophy goes to the best college football player, not the captain of the best college football team. Obviously the team's record and performance should factor in, but it should not be THE reason why a player wins that honor.
No matter how much hyperbole people put into Te'o's season (like Skip Bayless saying Te'o sacked Landry Jones into "oblivion" when Te'o only had one sack against Oklahoma) it shouldn't take away from the fact that he was not the essential MVP of Division 1 football.
That honor should belong to Johnny "Football" Manziel, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback who broke Cam Newton's single-season yard record. Manziel finished with 3419 yards passing, 1181 yards rushing, and 43 total touchdowns. He outscored Louisiana Tech, the highest scoring team in college football, 59-57 to give them their first loss of the season. At Manziel's hand, the Aggies destroyed SMU, SC State, Auburn, Arkansas, #15 Mississippi St., Sam Houston St., and Missouri.
And, oh yeah, he led them to victory over #1 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a venue where the Crimson Tide have only lost three times in the last four years.
While the Aggies did lose two games, both were against top ten teams, LSU and Florida. Technically, the Fighting Irish went 4-0 against ranked opponents while the Aggies went 3-2. But, the Aggies play in the SEC which is basically minor-league football. They don't have the benefit of playing Navy, Pitt (no offense), Wake Forest and Miami (FL) like Notre Dame does. And, when they do play cupcake teams, Manziel and the Aggies don't need three overtimes to win, especially at home.
Under Manziel, the Aggies scored the 4th most points in college football. According to Bayless and others, the Fighting Irish gave up the 2nd fewest points in football because of Te'o.
But how much is that true? We know Manziel is 24th in passing touchdowns and 6th in rushing touchdowns. That directly contributes to the amount of points Texas A&M has scored this season. Manti Te'o is second in the NCAA in interceptions and that's about it. The supposed tackling machine isn't even in the top 50 in tackles. Obviously, he has been the linchpin in one of the stingiest defenses this season, but his numbers don't show that he has been the biggest reason for his team's success.
In fact, as far as sacks go, Te'o is ranked sixth on his own team. Maybe it isn't part of Notre Dame's defense to have him rush the quarterback, but if Te'o was truly a Heisman winning, all around player, he would have a little more production in that area.
If you want a fair comparison, just look at the last defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. Charles Woodson not only picked off passes, he ran back punts and played wide receiver. Te'o is a hell of a linebacker, but his leadership qualities are more pronounced than his actual play on the field.
My vote -which doesn't count- goes to "Johnny Football." It's very boring to pick a quarterback since so many of them have won the Heisman over the years but, at the same time, it is the most important position in the sport. Te'o is the leader of an excellent defense, one that will play for a national title. But Manziel broke records and won 10 game and he did this in the toughest conference in football, in his first year as a college football player.