NCAA

Your! Call: Who will take home the Heisman Trophy?

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Pat Lovgren, TSN.ca Staff
12/8/2012 11:36:13 AM
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When the Heisman Trophy is presented on Saturday night in New York City, one thing is certain: History will be made.

Whether the award is given to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, it will be the first time the trophy will be won by either a freshman (Manziel) or a full-time defensive player (Te'o).

You can catch the presentation live on TSN2 right now.

The cases for both players have only grown as the college football season reached its conclusion.

Manziel was thrust into the national spotlight after his standout performance in Tuscaloosa against then No. 1 ranked Alabama on Nov. 10, while Te'o's case gained steam after he led the Irish to a dominant road win over the favoured Oklahoma Sooners in late October.

Te'o's position was further bolstered on Thursday after being the first defensive player since 1980 to capture the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding player.

This was in addition to the Bednarik Award (given to college football's top defensive player) he won days earlier, which he took home on the strength of his 100-plus tackle, seven interception season.

But the senior linebacker's case goes beyond awards and numbers.

As the leader of the nation's No. 1 ranked defence and college football's only bowl-eligible undefeated team, whether the native Hawaiian makes history will likely depend on how much credit voters give him for his team's overall success.

Still, history will not be in his favour, as dominant defensive seasons have previously failed to leave the same mark on voters as those compiled by their offensive counterparts.

Although Michigan's Charles Woodson won the award in 1997, he was not solely a defensive player like Te'o is and gained significant recognition for his spectacular work on special teams and offence.

In terms of primary defenders, the closest to win the trophy was Pittsburgh linebacker Hugh Green, who finished second in 1980 and like Te'o, also won the Maxwell Award.

Recently Nebraska's dominant tackle Ndamukong Suh finished fourth in the voting following his 2009 season, marking the first time in 18 years that a defense-only player had cracked the top five.

The one difference between Green and Suh, however, is that their teams were not in the same position as Teo's – being undefeated and playing for a national championship.

If the senior is to win the award, the Irish's team success will have to be the determining factor.

As Te'o's primary opposition, Manziel provides an almost perfect contrast.

The upstart freshman QB provided everything on the offensive side of the ball that Te'o did so well defensively.

The first SEC player to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000, Manziel eclipsed former Heisman winner Cam Newton's total yards marks in two fewer games.

In addition to the record setting passing and rushing marks, the undersized quarterback performed his best in his team's biggest games, highlighted by his near perfect performance against the Crimson Tide.

Playing a formidable schedule, Manziel's only losses were by a total of eight points to fellow top-ten powerhouses Florida and LSU.

The combination of his win-loss record with his record-setting numbers makes it hard to argue Manziel is any less deserving of the trophy than Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton were in previous seasons as TSN's Monday morning quarterback, Jesse Palmer explained.

"Playing in the SEC – by far the best conference in college football – Manziel has had only one sub-par performance this year; that came against LSU," Palmer said. "But I think last year, RG III winning the Heisman Trophy, he had a bad game against Oklahoma State on Baylor's way to losing three games on the season. Johnny Manziel leads the SEC in rushing as a quarterback and he has more total yards of offence this year than Tim Tebow or Cam Netwon had when they won their respective Heisman Trophies."

And in Palmer's opinion it was that signature performance in Tuscaloosa that gives Manziel the advantage.

"I think Johnny Manziel has something that a lot of other Heisman candidates don't, and that's a Heisman Trophy moment, beating then no. 1 Alabama on the road, it was a remarkable performance," Palmer said. "I understand Johnny Manziel is only a freshman, but to me, he's been the most outstanding player this year in college football."

What may be working against Manziel though is whether voters are willing to give the award to a freshman, something that has never been done.

But after sophomores Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram took the trophy home in recent years, it appears voters stances on rewarding underclassmen is changing.

So what do you think will happen Saturday night in New York City?

Will a record-breaking quarterback named Johnny Football become the first freshman to win the trophy or will it go to the senior leader on the nation's No. 1 ranked team?

It's Your! Call!



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