COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Only weeks remain until college football's most prestigious individual award is bestowed upon the young man deemed to be college football's most outstanding player. As the race hits the homestretch, opinions run the gamut on who is leading the Heisman Trophy race and who should win.
Going into last weekend, it appeared that Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was the consensus No. 1 in the various Heisman projections, but Klein and the Wildcats suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of Baylor. So who leads the race now? Here are five reasons why it should be the player they call "Johnny Football," Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel:
1. He has the numbers
He's the first freshman in NCAA history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a season and the first SEC player to do that. Those totals have been tallied by just four other players in FBS history. He has broken the SEC single-game total-offense record twice. He's the first player in FBS history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a game three times in his career. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
2. His team is winning
Like it or not, Ws seem to be a prerequisite to be in Heisman Trophy contention. The No. 9 Aggies (9-2) aren't BCS championship contenders but they have performed well above preseason expectations (the Aggies were picked to finish fifth in the SEC West in the preseason media poll) and now they're on the verge of winning 10 games for the first time since 1998, finishined tied for second in the SEC West and they've gone toe-to-toe with every ranked team they've faced, including beating a few. They're a top-10 team and Manziel has led the charge. They may not be perfect, but only two other candidates' team are (Manti Te'o's Notre Dame squad and Braxton Miller's Ohio State Buckeyes).
3. He can claim something nobody else can
He led his team to a win over Alabama. When voters look for a "Heisman moment" on Manziel's resume, the win over a team that was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country at the time on its own home field is about as impressive a Heisman moment as it gets. That's the Crimson Tide's only loss to this point and Manziel played a marvelous game that day, throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 92 while not turning the ball over once.
4. He's a freshman -- there's a first time for everything
Of the 77 winners in award's history, none have been freshmen. Freshmen were historically prohibited from playing NCAA football until 1972 (except during World War II) but even since they've been allowed to play one hasn't won it. It wasn't until 2007 that a sophomore won it (Tim Tebow). A certain stigma was attached to freshmen receiving Heisman Trophy vote but it's time for that to come to an end. If Manziel is to lead the Aggies to a win over Missouri on Saturday and win the award on Dec. 8, it shouldn't be in spite of him being a freshman, it should be because of it. To accomplish what he has so early in his career should be taken into account. If he's the most outstanding player in college football, it's even more impressive earning that status as a freshman.
5. He has the respect of his opponents
Nick Saban said Manziel reminded him of Doug Flutie (interestingly enough, a Heisman winner). But perhaps the best endorsement comes from an All-American caliber defensive player whose team defeated Manziel and the Aggies: LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery. His effusive praise of Manziel spoke volumes. Those guys know more football than most, so who are we to argue?