As much as Johnny Manziel may have won the Heisman Trophy when he led Texas A&M to a road upset of Alabama, many believe that one-time frontrunner Collin Klein lost his grip on the hardware when then-No. 1 Kansas State was shelled on the road against Baylor on November 17.
While Manziel's 4,600 total yards and 43 touchdowns are greater than Klein's numbers, the Kansas State dual-threat quarterback was able to lead his team to a better record as well as a conference championship. And he did so for a team that is less talented than its former Big 12 rivals.
There's no denying the impact that Johnny Football has had on his team and the college football world throughout the 2012 campaign. He has been a highlight-reel waiting to happen, with many citing the play below as the one most emblematic of his freelance-reliant playing style.
Besides the numerous ways in which he has made opposing defenders look silly and left defensive coordinators scratching their heads both on the run and through the air, Manziel's touchdown-saving tackle against Louisiana Tech also made headlines across the country.
Without question, Johnny Football would be very deserving if he became the first (redshirt) freshman to win the Heisman.
But I still believe that Klein continues to get picked apart too much because of his team's lone loss in Waco.
If we break down that loss against the Bears, K-State's defense put Klein in a 28-7 hole with 2:54 left in the first half. That essentially made Klein and the offense one-dimensional. The Wildcats were able to score 10 consecutive points before the break, but Klein threw his second interception of the contest on the opening drive of the second half. He would toss three picks against two touchdowns, and he was sacked twice while being harassed all night. He threw for 286 yards but had only 39 yards on 17 carries with a score. And on first-and-goal from the 6 in the fourth quarter, Klein had four straight carries and couldn't reach the end zone.
Without a doubt, Klein had a forgettable performance against the Bears.
But when looking at Manziel, the dual-threat redshirt freshman came up short in home losses to Florida and LSU this fall. In the loss to the Gators, he wasn't able to move the offense after halftime. And the same thing occured in the loss to the Tigers, as he threw 27 incompletions, connected on less than 52 percent of his throws and tossed three picks. In those games, he scored just one touchdown. Manziel also had a two-interception game against Ole Miss.
The other important thing to keep in mind is that Manziel was involved in 118 more plays this season than Klein, so it's no wonder why Klein's 3,390 total yards and 37 total touchdowns are much less than Manziel's numbers.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who is the other finalist for the award, had a magnificent season leading Notre Dame's dominant front seven, which helped give the Irish the country's No. 1-ranked scoring defense. He had 103 tackles and seven interceptions, and he had standout performances in marquee matchups. He is very deserving of being in New York. It's just incredibly difficult to compare him to an offensive player. In addition, defenders such as Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Jones also had fantastic seasons. In fact, I would argue that Jones' performance against Florida was the best defensive effort I have seen all season. But Te'o has the human interest story working for him as well as his dominant play. He certainly is deserving of his spot in New York.
Klein's Heisman campaign may be most comparable to that of former Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who won the 2001 award by relying on his legs (though Klein is a much better passer) and on the strength of his team's record. And while there wasn’t a specific play that stood out for Klein this year, his effort in the Wildcats' 55-14 victory over West Virginia was noteworthy in that it knocked Geno Smith out of the Heisman lead. And, oh, Klein just happened to account for seven touchdowns in the contest.
While his overall numbers may not stack up against those of Manziel, one bad game shouldn't overshadow Klein's magnificent run. I would argue that his body of work actually makes him the most outstanding player in America.
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