Manti Te’o: The Only Logical Heisman Choice

Yes, I’m not pulling any punches with that headline and for good reason. Somehow Manti Te’o, the leader of the best defense that has led the Irish to a 12-0 season against a gauntlet of a schedule, is somehow an after-thought to Johnny “Football” Manziel.

Many have called this race “wide open” with “no clear favorite”; however, if the Heisman voters are actually paying attention to what their award stands for the choice is simple: Manti Te’o in a landslide.

Now, I do truly recognize that Manziel has had an incredible season in his freshman campaign. I know he’s crushed SEC records. Truth be told, I really love watching the kid play and gladly stop down to watch him turn some plays into a video game.

However, the Heisman Trophy doesn’t go to the “offensive player that puts up big numbers and is fun to watch”. The Heisman Trophy, in the Heisman Trust’s own words, is meant for the following:

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award.

Please note that the Heisman Trust highlights integrity. Further, they state that great ability alone isn’t enough, but ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.

Quite frankly, Te’o soars above Johnny Football on all of these qualities.

Back in the offseason, before Johnny Football became Johnny Football, he was arrested. Now, the details of Johnny’s crime are admittedly light and I don’t want to paint the kid as some kind of degenerate. However, that is still a black mark on his record this season while Te’o has none.

If the Heisman Trophy is to reward integrity, how in the world can a voter justify giving the trophy to someone that found themselves on the wrong end of the law this past summer?

The sad fact is that the media has only focused on Manziel once he became “Johnny Football” and started giving opponents fits. The arrest has long since been forgotten.

It isn’t the end of his world, but it should be more than enough to disqualify from him on ballots alone for this year. Next year, clean slate. Hell, it would show diligence and perseverance that Manziel learned his lesson and stayed out of trouble after his slip up.

Speaking of perseverance…has anyone in college football come close to having to demonstrate the kind of perseverance that Te’o has and then played to the level that he has?

Spoiler alert: no.

The world was talking about Te’o overcoming the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend in September while turning in stellar performances against Michigan State and Michigan. Te’o never stopped excelling, despite the fact that opposing offenses did their damnedest to avoid him. All the way up until his final INT and leading a goal line stand against USC, Te’o has been simply dominant.

However, the media decided to move on and ignore all that. Collin Klein became the Heisman darling simply because he was the QB of an undefeated team that was putting up big numbers, mostly against soft Big XII defenses. Johnny Manziel then started to get some attention after leading Texas A&M to an upset of Alabama on the road. Once Klein fell to the terrifying 120th ranked defense in the nation, Manziel went to the front of the pack.

It’s almost as if the media and voters are determined to make the Heisman a glorified QB award. They and anyone in Aggieland will cite Johnny’s impressive numbers, compare them to previous QB Heisman winners and wonder why we are even bothering with Te’o’s campaign.

Why bother? It’s simple, Te’o has transcended his position.

There is only one player in the nation that has more INTs than Te’o and that’s Fresno safety Phillip Thomas. No LB in the past 13 years has ever recorded as many INTs has Te’o. No LB in the past 13 years has even found themselves ranked higher than sixth on the INT leaderboard. Yet here is Manti breaking the mold and excelling beyond even the nation’s best DBs.

Oh, and while he was doing that he also amassed 103 tackles, 5.5 tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks and 11 total passes defended (source) — and remember, this is with offenses actively avoiding him. And that is also not including things that the stats can’t track, like how many turnovers he caused just by creating pressure on opposing QBs (just ask Denard Robinson).

And as one of our Loyal Readers, Marko Pesce, pointed out, Manziel has benefited from padding his stats against simply awful teams. He compiled a full list of Manziel’s stats against each opponent and further broke it down into games against good opponents and bad ones.

He was even more generous than I would’ve been in his analysis, including now unranked Mississippi State in the “good opponent” category.

The results:

Good Opponents Bad Opponents
Passing Yards 1013 2406
Rushing Yards 308 873
Passing Yards/Game 253.25 300.75
Rushing Yards/Game 77 109.13
Total Yards 1341 3279
Total Yards/Game 335.25 409.875
Passing TD 2 22
Rushing TD 3 16
Total TD 5 38
Total TD/Game 1.25 4.75
INT 3 5
Wins 2 8
Losses 2 0

Further note that there are two FCS opponents in the “bad” category. One of these FCS games happened immediately after the Alabama game in which Manziel started to get some Heisman buzz (Sam Houston State). Hilariously enough, once Klein’s Heisman hopes bit the dust, A&M went all in against Mizzou in which he scored 5 total TDs — the same number he scored against Sam Houston State just the week prior. That should put Mizzou’s defensive “prowess” in perspective.

Of course, it definitely helps that Manziel doesn’t have to worry about opposing teams avoiding him as Te’o does. While this allows him to pad stats, it also means that losses can fall squarely on his shoulders…and the LSU game definitely qualifies as a Manziel INT led to what would become LSU’s game winning TD. In that game, he also failed to collect a single rushing or passing TD. And while he didn’t directly cause the Florida loss, his line certainly didn’t help the Aggies’ cause and was hardly Heisman-worthy in that game (23-30, 173 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 60 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD).

It seems voters have forgotten those games just as easily as they’ve forgotten Manti’s story.

In the end, you have a QB with two loses, one of which that can be blamed directly on him, in comparison to the leader of a defense that has iced wins with INTs and goal line stands. You have a kid making an unfortunate mistake next to a veteran with an impeccable record. You have a QB that has preformed phenomenally has his own position next to a LB that has transcended his. Finally, you have a player who hasn’t faced any kind of strife like someone that lost two people close to him and then turned that tragedy into fuel for success.

I again ask: how is this vote even close?


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  • Mike T


    I harp on the “integrity” aspect of the Heisman every year, and I think this year it will (should) be a difference maker. Also, well done pulling the numbers for Johnny’s record vs good/bad opponents.

    • NDtex

      Credit belongs to Marko on that. Saved me a ton of legwork and in all honesty, he was more fair than I would’ve been. I would’ve put Mississippi State in the bad opponent category which would’ve diluted the sample size of the good and made him look even worse.

      Very fair comparison that he put together.

  • Alan

    BK said it perfectly in his presser. If Te’o doesn’t win the award, then just acknowledge that the Heisman is now an offense only award. That’s fine, just admit it.

    They will essentially reward Johnny Football for beating Alabama and running up the score on some pretty bad teams. But whatever, it’s Te’o and the Irish that have the shot of winning a national title, not the Aggies.

  • David

    The first sign of a desperate attempt to win any election is to immediately discredit your opponent. I think our President said that plenty this year and ironically that was his strategy 4 years ago. go back and read your article. You initially start with what is wrong with JM instead of building a case for your own candidate. As a domer you should be familiar with the good book “before pointing out the splinter in another’s eye, you must first address the plank in yours.”

    • NDtex

      We’ve built Te’o up all season and well before Manziel received any Heisman buzz of any kind.

      The next logical step in that progression is to then compare. Manziel is only discredited next to Te’o’s resume. Not by my words.

      Edit: And by the way, where is the plank in my eye or in this case, Te’o? His resume is stellar and impeccable this season.

      • John

        Hey NDTex,

        I think the solution to this is to create a new award – the “Heismanatarian Award.”

        This criteria do not include any evaluation of on field performance or statistical comparisons.

        (1) You have to be on the #1 Team (Notice a team not individual evaluation)
        (2) Then the coach, fans, and players of the #1 Team evaluate who they think is their Team’s MVP
        (3)You get extra points if you have a great off field story (i.e. Family adversity, you cure cancer, create a longer lasting light bulb … whatever)

        Problem solved!

        Te’o is a shoe in for the new HEISMANATARIAN.

        • NDtex

          If you are going to troll try harder.

          The majority of the post deals specifically with on-field performance. And as I said to your previous comment below, Manti has excelled in the biggest moments. Manziel hasn’t.

          The off field stuff should be the cherry on top to make this decision a no-brainer for voters.

        • NDEddieMac

          Sounding like some kinda T-sip or something. Don’t worry, you will gag ’em next time John boy.

    • NDEddieMac

      Actually the first thing he did was praise Manziel, but cool story bro.

    • KyNDfan

      Are completely ignoring the stats Tex listed? JM played poorly against tough opponents and padded his stats against bad teams. Teo made key plays against OU, Stanford, UM, MSU, USC and is the captain of the best D in the land. Preach on Aggie troll!

  • Daniel

    I have read some arguments against Manziel and this is the worst. Te’o’s stats are average so you point to Manziel’s arrest for having a fake ID. Then you argue Manziel only did great against bad teams. Texas A&M had the second hardest strength of schedule (first on some charts) and Notre Dame was in the low 30’s in strength of schedule. Manziel has already broken Cam Newton and Time Tewbow’s single season records and he played 2 less games.

    Te’o is a great player and it is sad that he lost his girlfriend. But “dominant”? Not even close. He has average numbers on a team that played bad teams. Te’o is lucky that Manziel is a freshman because if he was a junior then there would not even be a discussion. Good luck to Te’o in the future. He seems like a good guy. He is just not a worthy Heisman candidate.

    • Mike T

      “Te’o’s stats are average”. This statement accurately sums up why Te’o is the candidate who should win. This is not about which offensive player had the most explosive stats.

      The award is about the most outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. 100+ tackles, 7 INT’s and being the leader (while being the epitome of integrity) of the nation’s stoutest defense is average??

      Come on, Daniel….

      p.s. Manziel was arrested for assault as well as possessing SEVERAL fake ID’s.

    • NDtex

      Hold up. A linebacker damn near leading the nation in a stat that defensive backs dominate is average? It’s average that he has done something that no linebacker has done in the past 13 years?!

      Ok, great Manziel broke a record that is only two years old. SUPERB!

      Feel free to link your source on the SOS rating that has the Aggies as the 2nd or 1st SOS in the nation because every BCS poll that uses it has both teams within a few spots of each other. Oh and most of them put ND’s SOS above the Aggies.

    • DrBravo2

      “…only did *greatly* against bad team…”

      “…and 2 *fewer* games”

      “..if he *were* a junior then…”

      I assume you must have graduated with an English degree from A&M.

      • Bardwell

        “Were” is correct…go look up the use of the subjunctive case in a grammar book. Greatly is an adverb that describes how something is was done greatly. Two fewer is absolutely correct…it’s the opposite of two more.

        #HeIsManti Go Irish!

    • KyNDfan

      Of A&M’s 5 non conference games, none are against BCS schools. They went 1-2 against the top 25 teams they played and your boy went 73/110 for 763 yds and 5 ints. Where’s the strength of schedule? Where’s the Heisman performance?

  • Wally

    This is ridiculous–where is A&Ms schedule the #2 toughest? Nd has consistently had a top 10 schedule. Pat Forde did a great article about how NDs schedule dominates Bama and UGA.

    • NDtex

      ND’s schedule is strong, but not top 10 anymore. However, it is consistently among the toughest 15-30ish in the nation across all rankings.

  •!/PootND PootND

    Roll Tide

    • NDtex

      I’m gonna hang up and listen PAWWWWWWWL

  • Fighting4Jesus

    Interesting thought about this conversation. Every one talks about the percentage of offense Johnny Manziel has, I don’t know the number but it is high. His position helps with that because he touches the ball on nearly every play. Manti is schemed around and teams actively avoid him. Plus unlike great offense great defense actually reduces the amount of opportunities these are two reasons that he doesn’t have more tackles because he has less opportunities by nature of the game. So I was interested in what percentage of plays Manti has stopped personally. Here is what I found. If we add tackles, Passes defended, Interceptions, and Fumble Recoveries. Manti has personally stopped 143 plays on defense this year. According to the NCAA the Irish opponents have combined for 757 plays. I am not sure if this number includes punts so take it for what it is. This means that Manti Te’o has stopped 19% of the opponents plays from scrimmage. He has 1/5 of the Irish defense and that is with teams intentionally trying to avoid him.

  • DR

    Nice try, but this is specious reasoning. Disclosure – I’m an Aggie. That said, I love T’eo and I’ve repeatedly told my son’s Domer Godfauther that I’d be okay if T’eo wins it, but that I’d have issues if another QB did.

    I would respect a good, sound argument. This is not one. The problem with complaining about Johnny “only” averaging 335 yrds/game against the teams you’ve decided to call “good”, is that this is still about 50 yards per game than OTHER TEAMS averaged against them.

    The other problem, you evidently fail to realize or note that Johnny sat out 5 full quarters and all but 1 play of 4 other quarters this year against those bad teams. You claim he padded stats against Sam Houston. Perhaps he did, but it was done in one half of football and ONE PLAY in the second half. No other person has had more than one 300/100 yard game, Johnny did it 3 times this year, but he would’ve done it 2-3 more times if they’d left him in to truly pad his stats.

    Also, A&M was 3-2 against ranked opponents. Not sure where some of you guys get your info.

    • KyNDfan

      Current rankings have the aggies with 3 top 25 opponents this year. I get my stats from ESPN. Last I checked they were pretty reliable. Mich st. was #10 when they played the Irish but we aren’t counting them as a ranked opponent anymore.

      • NDtex

        When ND plays a ranked team and they finished unranked, it doesn’t count. When any other team beats a ranked team, it is held in time forever. Ridiculous.

    • NDtex

      I didn’t fail to realize that, I just completely discount games against FCS schools altogether. The damage any decent FBS team can do to a FCS school is just laughable.

  • Moons

    I’m firmly on the Te’o side of this, though I do think the vote should be close. It’s rightly criticized that there’s a bias towards offensive players, and a lot of that has to do with what’s on the stat sheet. I don’t like dissecting Manziel between “good” opponents and “bad” opponents though…A player’s stats are what they are, and save the LSU game, Manziel versus the “good” teams was actually pretty impressive. Plus, if we’re upset that offensive stats are given too much weight, then what do we do for defensive stats versus “bad” teams? Versus Navy, Boston College, and Wake Forrest, Te’o had a combined 17 tackles, 0 sacks, and 2 INT’s. Were those bad performances? I don’t think we can say one way or another. In other words, Manziel had one ugly performance (LSU), but can we even really say whether Te’o had a “bad” game? 5 tackles versus the worst offense we played doesn’t seem particularly impressive, but that’s the issue in trying to compare stat lines between offense and defense. And truthfully, how many “great” offenses did ND face? 2? Te’o played great in those games, but it could certainly be argued that he padded most of his stats versus bad QB’s and inept offenses as well. Manziel has earned the right to be at the top of the discussion, but I’ll still stick with ND’s boy (not that I’m biased or anything).

    • NDtex

      While I agree it’s hard to compare offensive to defensive stats, the issue I have is that Manziel’s stats seem to be the primary reason he has the edge. This just doesn’t make sense considering he had an awful performance against LSU and a pedestrian performance against Florida.

      Basically, he beat Alabama and racked up a lot of stats. I don’t understand how that seals it in the mind of many voters.

      Te’o on the other hand has risen to the occasion on the largest stages and has led the defensive unit responsible for an undefeated season. To me, that trumps what Manziel has done this year.

      • Moons

        Agreed on most points, though, calling the Florida game “pedestrian” probably isn’t fair. First off, that was Manziel’s first ever start (not that that should matter for Heisman consideration. It isn’t a “progress” award). However, the A&M game was 1 of only 3 on the season that Florida did NOT record an INT. Versus Florida’s defense, Manziel recorded the second highest QB Rating versus Florida ALL year (LA-Lafeyette was first), and it was one of only 3 games where a QB recorded a a completion percentage of 57% or better (LA-Lafeyette and Jacksonville St. being the other two). Aaron Murray is the highest rated passer in ALL of college football. Versus the Gators, he completed 50% of his passes and threw 3 interceptions. If we’re to give Te’o credit for his performances versus the stiffest tests, then it’s equally important to give Manziel his due versus a great passing defense. No, he didn’t record a TD, but it was much better than a pedestrian performance. And again, I’m on the Te’o side of this equation overall. Manziel had one game where he wasn’t brilliant, but I think there’s at least an argument to be made that Te’o had at least one game without brilliance as well.

        • NDtex

          That’s a fair point. I’m probably dinging him a bit harder since he lost the game.

  • [email protected]

    Aggie fans are all hyped up on my Facebook feed about Manziel being on ESPN2 and ESPN3 at 2:00pm, on a Tuesday afternoon.

    Cool story bros.

    Teo was on ABC, on a Saturday night, 54 seconds after he led the #1 ranked defense of the #1 team in the country to a perfect 12 – 0 record.

    #HeIsManti #12andOHHHHHHH

  • vegasmark

    One of the major problems is that the mothership is not even bothering to acknowledge Te’o. I’ve seen two “Johnny Football” highlight reels just this morning, but what about Te’o? Nada. It’s pretty lazy and borderline shady not to even mention Te’o. Strangely enough, those highlight reels and the “analysis” doesn’t mention the LSU or Florida games.
    Te’o has been rock solid all season, no let downs, nothing but GREAT linebacker play. Sorry “Johnny Footbal,” wait your turn, it should be Manti’s year. If not, just call it an offensive award and be done with it.

    • vegasmark

      One more thing. Only one of these players also hasn’t lost a game this year. #HeIsManti #12aND0 #uNDefeated

  • Vairish84

    I think Te’o should win it. He has three problems though, all of which you touch on tangentially. Te’o, like Klein, was the story arc of the early season. Manziel is the story arc late in the season. Thus, he benefits from a late season push. As ridiculous as it is to say this, if Te’o’s tragedies had occurred later in the year, he would probably be getting better odds. I doubt he could get more play.

    The other is that Manziel is a highlight reel because he touches the ball on every play and he is exciting to watch. Te’o does not have the same exciting highlight reel. Now, if he had broken earlier on the fourth down pass at the end of USC and gotten a pick 6, this would all be academic. In many of our games, Te’o did not make the ESPN highlight reel. Thus, many voters did not see him make the plays he did.

    The last issue is that teams can spot Te’o and play away from him. This meant that effectively teams were not running toward his side or passing over the middle. think about it a little. This is the first year where teams did not kill us with short crossing routes to running backs. How many great games did TEs have against us over the middle? Did the USC TE even have a catch? Teams had been making their living there in the past. They did not try much this year. Thus, his tackle stats are lower because he changed the game plan. That makes him dominant as much as his play on the field.

  • KyNDfan

    When people aren’t looking, Johnny Manziel is mean to old people, small children, and dogs. – Unconfirmed fact.

  • jack

    HEISMANTI! Love it! Manziel certainly doesn’t deserve the heisman its the most outstanding player in college football award not the qb flavor of the month. Comon voters do the right thing!

  • John

    I guess Manti only played “good” teams this year. Otherwise I’m sure all of his honorable fans would be discounting all of his tackles, sacks, and ints against “bad” teams. Am I right?

    • NDtex

      Manti vs. currently ranked top 25:

      Michigan – 8 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 passes defended (and he also created pressure that caused another one)

      Stanford – 11 tackles, anchored goal line stand to win game

      OU – 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 pass defended

      Total: 30 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 3 passes defended and most importantly ZERO LOSSES


      • Mike T

        Well. Ask and ye shall receive.


      • Brian

        Manti’s stats up to date…compared to all FBS linebackers

        ranks 48th in solo tackles
        ranks 55th in assisted tackles
        ranks 174th in tackles for loss
        and yes his interception stats are the only ones that are impressive, I understand his leadership abilities, I understand his team is undefeated, but I’ve always thought of the Heisman as an individual award for the best player in the country…

        • KyNDfan

          Going in circles now. See above comments. Manti has 20% of the tackles on the #1 ranked D. When you force the opposing team to 3 and out there are fewer opportunities to make tackles.

          • Brian

            My point is there are players with comparable and even better stats, they just don’t have the intangibles or the tear jerking story to merit all the press he gets. Granted he is the anchor and emotional leader of an amazing defense. I’m just not buying that he is the best college player in the country. The stats are pretty straightforward, no circles needed.

          • NDtex


            Here’s a straight-forward stat: ZERO LOSES.

            Tackles aren’t a straight-forward stat themselves. In fact, having too many might highlight issues. For instance:

            Plus, opponents consistently attack our edge, attempt to test our young secondary. Unlike Manziel, Te’o can’t have every play run through him.

            On top of all that, QB doesn’t do everything on his own. The skill players around him help him with this stats. But Te’o gets punished because he has good defenders around him making plays as well? That makes sense.

            Best player on the best defense. Without him, ND isn’t undefeated. Period.

  • Brian

    According to the NCAA Notre Dame is #6 in total defense statistically.

    I would more than likely vomit if Manziel won the Heisman, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make a case for him. And every team with a percieved weaker secondary than linebackers gets attacked at the edge, that is called football. And you can apply what you said about Manziel not doing everything on his own to Te’o, last time I looked Shembo had some pretty good stats himself.

    There was also a point made in an earlier comment that Notre Dame forced a lot 3 and outs and it was difficult to get tackle stats up when the opposing team’s offense was on the bench. Of the five defenses ranked ahead of ND, three of them have defended the same amount or fewer plays than Notre Dame’s defense, and they each have a linebacker with comparable stats. What they don’t have is a personal tragedy and an undefeated team.

    I think saying he is the only logical choice is a bit strong.

  • solo

    Well done Tex and Marko. I think that this should be the year that clearly separates the award into an offensive only award if Johnny wins. I get that there is no clear favorite one thing that has been consistent is HeisManti has been in the mix from the beginning. Johnny? Only since he beat Bama was his mane mentioned. Good player and he wil have his time, but that time should not be now.