Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o deserves this year’s Heisman trophy. The dilemma is that the award will probably end up in the hands of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel because he is a quarterback, while Te’o is a linebacker. When you look at the raw numbers alone, both candidates are very deserving of the award. The issue is that the typical stat sheet does not break down the most important factor. The Heisman is handed out every year to the player that is the most outstanding player, and the ability to step up in big situations should carry much weight in determining who should win the award. Hopefully these stats will be proof enough that the Heisman belongs in the hands of a defensive player for the first time in fifteen years.
Te’o has the raw numbers to support his case. In twelve games this season, he has amassed a total of over 100 total tackles (102 to be exact), and has also picked off seven passes. He is the only linebacker in the top twenty in the interception category. This stat shows that the guy makes big plays and he makes them often.
He also was undoubtedly the leader of the nation’s best defense. Notre Dame ranked 24th in opponent third down percentage, 8th in opponent fourth down percentage, and 2nd in opponent points per game. Not only was the defense solid overall, but they were also outstanding in the second half, and much of that has to do with him. This season, they ranked 2nd in opponent fourth quarter points per game, and 1st in opponent second half points per game. It can be argued that “Johnny Football” also was the leader for his offense, which ranked 4th in the FBS in points per game. They also ranked in the top 15 in both passing yards per game and rushing yards per game, and these rankings are mostly due to the quarterback, who accounts for sixty-nine percent of his team’s total offense.
Te’o starts to separate himself from Manziel when the clutch factor is considered. In Notre Dame’s five biggest games of the season (Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC) Te’o recorded forty seven tackles and four interceptions. His team also went 5-0 in those five games. A&M’s five biggest games were against Florida, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Mississippi State, and Alabama. In those games, Manziel had a quarterback rating almost twenty points lower than his season average. In those five games, A&M escaped with just a 3-2 record.
When the trophy is handed out on December 8th, I pray that the voters have taken into consideration everything that goes into being the nation’s most outstanding player. Manziel has impressive numbers, but Te’o has the intangibles of a true Heisman candidate. I sincerely hope that Te’o wins the award because he is just as great of a person as he is a player.