The Great Debate of the Heisman Trophy Finalists

By Curt Popejoy
Heisman Trophy
Andrew Weber, US Presswire

Here we are, just days away from a college football player being anointed the most outstanding in all the land. You can cut the tension with a knife. Okay, maybe not. The truth is we are just a few days away from awarding a young man an honor that has become so twisted and warped from what it’s supposed to mean that trying to debate who really “deserves” consideration is a fool’s errand. But that has never stopped me from a little conversation, so let’s take a look at what’s right and wrong about this threesome.

Only three, you say? Yep. The powers that be in the Heisman Shadow Government have decided that for this year’s presentation, there were three players worthy of voters’ consideration and there are no surprises on this list: Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein. These are the three players most people have had in their top five for most of the season. When I did my first projection back in early October, I had Te’o and Klein as my final two, so that’s what I know. But before we talk about who did get an invite, let’s talk a little about those who did not.

The first name I am seeing tossed around is quarterback Braxton Miller from the Ohio State Buckeyes. On paper, the statistical season Miller has had, along with his team going undefeated, has been impressive. However, as I wrote earlier in the season, being on a team that is in the midst of NCAA sanctions and essentially playing for nothing hurts him for two reasons: As a voter, do you want one of your Heisman finalists to be a player on a team that is on a bowl ban? Secondly, and more importantly to me, is that Miller has been able to play all season loose and free knowing that he and his teammates had nothing to lose. I’m sure a player like Manziel or Klein would have loved to play all season knowing that, win or lose, nothing about their season would be impacted because of it. The pressure was off and that made his season just a little less remarkable for me.

The next player is wide receiver Marqise Lee of the UCS Trojans. Lee is a phenomenal, physical freak who stood out on his team all season long. But I think  the Heisman decision makers had to figure in just how bad the Trojans folded this season. Not to mention that as great as Lee has been all year, a case could be made that he wasn’t even the best wide receiver in the country, much less the best player.

There are others, of course. Guys like Oregon Ducks running back Kenjon Barner and Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball are both solid candidates, but when it comes to running backs this season, there are a lot of good ones and a lot that are very close in terms of talent, but there is no elite player.

I have no qualms with the Heisman folks keeping it a three-man field. I personally think it was done to aid Te’o in garnering more votes. The more “fringe” type players that are added, the more it strengthens the case for a more mainstream pick like Manziel. As it stands now, you are going to have old school traditional voters who will go with Klein, more progressive but traditional voters who’ll vote Manziel and the non-traditional voters who will go Te’o. Add in a second non-traditional guy like linebacker Jarvis Jones from the University of Georgia and he steals votes from Te’o for sure.

One name that could have surfaced just to continue the trend of thumbing a nose at the BCS would be Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. If you love numbers, he has them and then some: more than 3,700 total yards of offense and 43 touchdowns are numbers that rival or surpass anything that Manziel or Klein did. Plus, he’s playing in a BCS Bowl game, which is more than can be said for Manziel. I think it would be fabulous irony if Lynch would serve as a Heisman buster.

The bottom line in all this debate is that the Heisman committee did their best to dress up the three prettiest girls they could find at the school dance, but the truth is there was no reason to add two or three more average players to the three average players they have already sent. I have always been critical of the Heisman Trophy, but I’ve always said it was at least interesting in the assembling of such elite players. This just isn’t a great class and that’s what opens the door up for so much conjecture and discussion.

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