Deuces wild: Heisman battle down to unlikely pair - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Deuces wild: Heisman battle down to unlikely pair

The first battle between AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel went in favor of the freshman, and the Heisman race is an even more lopsided affair. (Source: University of Alabama Athletics Communications/Texas A&M Athletics) The first battle between AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel went in favor of the freshman, and the Heisman race is an even more lopsided affair. (Source: University of Alabama Athletics Communications/Texas A&M Athletics)
Manti Te'o is the most productive player on the No. 1 team in the nation, but he has Heisman voters' bias toward offensive players working against him. (Source: University of Notre Dame Athletics) Manti Te'o is the most productive player on the No. 1 team in the nation, but he has Heisman voters' bias toward offensive players working against him. (Source: University of Notre Dame Athletics)

(RNN) - The following is an exchange of ideas, thoughts and barbed compliments between SEC commentator George ‘Hot Reads' Jones and Matt Quillen, self-proclaimed ‘SEC Analysis-ist.' The two tried (unsuccessfully) to convince the other they had the right answer to the question of who will win the Heisman trophy.

Matt: To anyone who actually watches football, the Heisman choice this season is crystal clear: It's Geno Smith Collin Klein Johnny Manziel.

Remember how the race for the team sport's top individual showoff award was all but over after week 5? Geno had dropped 48 on Texas, and I couldn't sing his praises loudly enough (I apologize for all that singing in the office, by the way).

Then, "the Ghost of Auburn Coaches Past" showed up with his new squad and held Smith's West Virginia squad to 14 points. Fourteen! The Texas Tech Tommy T's usually spot teams three touchdowns just for lacing up their cleats.

It all went insanely wrong for the Mountaineers after that – so bad they just became bowl eligible last week after opening the year 5-0. I'll always remember those Days of Geno, though; it was a simpler, more innocent time.

George: Geno Smith? Who's that? Of course, I know who he is, but it just shows how cruel and fickle this game can be.

I think as far as skill goes, Smith has everything you want in an elite college quarterback. He was just the victim of an incomplete team in an unstable conference – a double whammy against both your on-field success and your chances at winning the Heisman.

If you want, you can copy and paste that last sentence and insert Klein. He has a better overall team, but that offense is built to play with a lead. The Kansas State defense let things get out of hand, Klein had to press and things fell apart.

Manti Te'o is the guy we need to be talking about. As a general rule, defensive players don't consistently win games for their teams. But if you're ever going to find a quarterback that tackles people, he is the guy.

Matt: Oh Hot Reads, I half-expected you to float a kicker as a viable option. Your love of fundamentals truly knows no bounds.

Defenders can only win the Heisman under two circumstances:

1. They do something else (return kicks, play some wideout or running back) to get their hands on the ball more – see Charles Woodson in 1997.

2. There is absolutely no one else standing out from the crowd – see Woodson in '97.

The defensive winners before that? Well, a quick check shows 1949 winner Leon Hart played "E." I don't know what E he played, or what he was the E of, but that could be defense.

Neither scenario applies this year, anyway. We have someone who embodies the traits needed to win.

You know that friend who always had the football video game every year, and you'd come over to play, and he'd use his "favorite guy" to run circles around you, laughing as you haphazardly mashed the buttons hoping for something good to happen and promised yourself you wouldn't hang out with him anymore? Well, Manziel is that favorite guy in real life!

Johnny Tecmo Bowl has torched the competition down the stretch, put up gaudy numbers and produced "moment" after "moment" of highlight-worthy plays.

George: The last time I saw someone listed as an "E," it was because a high school coach was too lazy to completely fill out the participation form for the state athletic association.

But for the record, the generic end position was given in those days because lineman usually played both ways. Hart was basically a defensive end and tight end, so you're right in saying no purely defensive player has won the award.

However, you overlooked Yale's Larry Kelley, the winner of the second Heisman, who also was a dominant two-way player.

With all this talk about the unlikelihood of Te'o winning you have overlooked one somewhat significant fact – no freshman has ever won the Heisman, either.

Te'o has no less than eight tackles and/or at least one impact play (interception, sack, forced fumble) in almost every game. The only exceptions were Pitt, whose offense was only on the field for 25 minutes, and a 38-0 beatdown of Wake Forest where everybody except the water boys got playing time.

If the human element plays any part, he got 12 tackles and broke up two passes against then-No. 10 Michigan State the same week his grandmother and girlfriend died six hours apart.

We all know that a strong quarterback is pivotal to a team's chances of winning, which actually makes the year Te'o had that much more impressive. Irish QB Everett Golson is a redshirt freshman, and Golson's backup can only be trusted with the ball every once in a while.

Notre Dame countered that with Te'o as the anchor of the fifth-best defense in the nation, and they have come up big every single game.

But enough with the history and statistics lesson. Who else has a shot, used to have a shot or is otherwise worthy of mention?

Matt: I feel a little bad for Montee Ball of Wisconsin. His 2011 season – 2,229 total yards, 39 touchdowns – would have won the Heisman in so many other years, had it not been for RGIII throwing for 950 touchdowns and only six incompletions (approximate numbers) the whole season.

And there was no way he was going to win this year; anything less than that was going to be seen as a letdown. He also broke the NCAA career touchdown record, which didn't get nearly the coverage it should have. I think he should get an invite to New York in the Lifetime Achievement Award category.

At least there's little chance of the race getting Wuerffel'd (Toretta'd? Crouch'd? Take your pick) in 2012.

Can someone explain to me how A.J. McCarron was ever considered a Heisman candidate? I realize everybody was drinking the Crimson Kool-Aid all year long, but there's no way you should win the most prestigious player award for simply being the quarterback of the top team.

Before Bama Nation calls for my head, I'm not saying he's a bad QB. He was just never asked to do anything other than throw 5-yard crossing routes over the middle, so of course his interception totals were down.

I think the most important factor to consider in any MVP-type discussion is, "Where would his team be without him?" Alabama wouldn't miss a beat.

One last note on the Manziel-Te'o discussion: The only thing keeping the vote from becoming a complete landslide for Manziel is, he's a redshirt freshman … that should make his season more impressive, not less.

I'm all for breaking down "tradition for the sake of tradition" barriers – We'll knock out the freshman one this year and get to the defensive guys another time. Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) has at least one more year, right?

George: If the Heisman criteria were based purely on football acumen, McCarron would be a no-brainer finalist. A quarterback who doesn't hurt your team and allows the players around him to excel is more valuable than a stud with a cannon (a serving of Tyler Bray, anyone?) who tries to win a game by himself.

But since most people with a vote read plays about as well as they read Chinese, we'll just stick with the relevant candidates.

I'm shocked that no one has mentioned Georgia's Aaron Murray as a contender. He is the nation's top-rated passer and has 3,200 yards and 30 touchdowns for a team playing in the unofficial semifinal of the BCS championship.

Jarvis Jones (10.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss) is actually the most impactful defensive player in the country, but his game is not as complete (Te'o has seven interceptions) and the Georgia defense's Lost in Space act against South Carolina hurt any chances he had.

If Tajh Boyd is not invited to New York, I think I'll stop watching the Heisman presentation. He has more than 3,500 passing yards, 700 rushing yards, 43 touchdowns and one of the nation's best passer ratings for a Clemson team that only lost to Florida State and South Carolina.

I love USC's Marqise Lee (in a totally platonic, dude punch in the arm sort of way) for his 2,400 yards and 15 touchdowns, including receptions and returns. But the only thing voters will think about when they see his name is "most talented player on the most talented 7-5 team ever."

And, of course, we have the player that falls into the "really good stats on a really good team, but plays in a conference we don't care about" category. That would be Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has been in beast mode all season with nearly 2,800 passing yards and 1,700 rushing yards. I repeat, he is a quarterback for an 11-1 team.

We could rattle off more names (Kenjon Barner, Stepfan Taylor), but it still comes back to Te'o.

When I look at a guy and think "this is what college football is about," it's written all over the grass-stained jersey of Notre Dame's inside linebacker. He played through adversity, he produced at all the right times and his team is a winner.

And not for nothing, Hart played the "E" position for some team that has stuff about waking up echoes and thunder from the sky in its fight song.

Just thought I'd mention that.

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