Since defeating Alabama on November 10th, Johnny Manziel has been at or near the top of every Heisman list.
The last two weeks, he has crushed Sam Houston State and Missouri, all the while dazzling the country with his passing and running abilities.
The one big knock on Johnny football is pretty obvious: he’s a freshman. He appears to be the best freshman since Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson was the runner up in 2004, but does he have enough to shake the stigma of a freshman never winning the Heisman trophy?
In short, absolutely not.
Contrary to popular belief, there are serious faults with Johnny Manziel’s Heisman candidacy. Here are the five reasons that stand out:
1. Quarterback A: 66% completion, 3745 yards, 27 TD’s, 9 INT’s
Quarterback B: 68% completion, 3419 yards, 24 TD’s 8 INT’s
Yes, it’s that game again. For obsessive stat geeks like me, stumping people with one of these tricks is like Christmas. So take a few seconds to guess who you think each one is. If you said quarterback B was Johnny Football, you are correct. Quarterback A is Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Pretty even, right? Manziel’s rushing numbers are the big difference as he has rushed for over 1100 yards and 19 TD’s to this season, whereas Jones’ rushing numbers are well below average.
I’m not saying that Landry Jones should be in the Heisman trophy conversation. My argument is this: If you’re going to hand the Heisman trophy to a freshman QB, shouldn’t it be to someone who has clearly superior passing numbers? Especially superior over someone who isn’t even in the discussion? So the question that Heisman voters have to answer is, “Do his rushing numbers outweigh his lack of a clear advantage in the passing game?” I would submit that they do not.
2. Aside from Alabama, Johnny Manziel struggled in big games this season.
Texas A&M got to play Florida and LSU at home and they lost both games. Granted, Florida was Manziels first ever game at the collegiate level; I get that. But making the “freshman excuse” for Manziel would subsequently eliminate him from consideration for the award. Heisman voters will hold Manziel accountable for early season mistakes, a loss to Florida and a three interception performance against LSU included.
3. Trivia: In the BCS era, who is only Heisman winner, excluding Robert Griffin III, to not play in a BCS bowl game? If you said Ricky Williams (1998), I’m impressed.
Here is the bottom line: Texas A&M will not be playing in a BCS bowl game. Considering that they are behind Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and LSU in the SEC pecking order, it looks as if they might not even get a Cotton bowl bid. Historically, the Heisman voters like winners. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o will get the nod in this department after leading an undefeated Notre Dame team to a National Title appearance.
4. Does anyone know who Johnny Football really is?
Due to things that are completely out of Manziel’s control, his case for the Heisman is weakened. His main competitor, Manti Te’o, has a story that will make anyone with a heartbeat feel for him.
This isn’t as much an indictment on Manziel as it is a feat for Te’o that he has been able to play this well considering the circumstances. The other part to this story of course relates back to Manziel's status as a freshman: Texas A&M does not allow its freshman to speak to the media. Though Manziel did just recently have his first press conference with the media, I doubt Heisman voters would be willing to vote for a player they do not know.
5. All of the above.
The case against Johnny Manziel is not a solid one. It is far below that of the case that Manti Te’o has built for himself, which will be the real reason for the loss if Johnny Football does not win the award.
But in the end, he has too much to overcome. He has passing stats are well above average, though not Heisman-like. He lost two home games this season in which he recorded a total of one touchdown (rushing) and three interceptions. He will not lead the Aggies to a BCS bowl, potentially becoming just the third Heisman winner to not do so since 1998. And oh yeah, he’s a freshman.
Next year, Johnny Football, next year.