It’s the hottest race of the year, blowing up the blogosphere and leaving even the king of pundits, Nate Silver, befuddled as to the final outcome.
The 2012 Heisman race combines anger, passion, pride, West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, Deep South, bias, raucous Internet commenting, and two of the most fascinating players in college football providing a stark dichotomy to one another.
This year’s Heisman still boils down to BCS school versus BCS school, but there is something different, a newness even, surrounding the award that will be presented next week.
Some of you may look at the last sentence and say, Wait what is actually new about the seventy-five year old Heisman Award?
Notre Dame and Texas A&M have both had players win the award, with Fighting Irish athletes winning the award seven times, the most in college football. A hotshot underclassman quarterback from a pass-oriented SEC school, haven’t we heard that before? A game-changing defensive player…. Does Ndamokung Suh come to mind?
My answer… you haven’t.
Take Manziel, or Johnny Football if you’re into nicknames. The little redshirt freshman quarterback has galvanized an Aggie fanbase and a football team who hadn’t been in any sort of BCS discussion since Hanson was popular.
Wait… the Aggies? Air Raid Offense? Who predicted SEC success in their FIRST year, including an upset of defending champion Alabama? With a quarterback who couldn’t talk to the media until THIS WEEK? That’s new.
A school whose offense is historically run-based, who underachieved in the Big 12, who had a pocket passer picked in the top 10 of the 2012 NFL Draft, who switched to a conference and an offense where no one thought it could succeed? That’s new.
What else is new? Notre Dame.
Wait… that Notre Dame? Is this the same school that’s home to 13 National Titles, Touchdown Jesus, and their own NBC TV contract? The same school that finally succumbed to their own independence and “joined” the ACC? The same school which, despite boasting such Heisman luminaries such as Paul Hornung and Tim Brown, hasn’t won a meaningful bowl game since the 1994 Cotton Bowl (which, incidentally was against Texas A&M)?
Hold on a second, are you telling me Notre Dame is led by a defensive player? Are you also telling me this player has a funny name, a Hawaiian background, and is a MORMON at a school known for its staunch Catholicism (heck, just look at their coach)?
Is this the same Notre Dame who last played for a National Title when “Back in the USSR” was not just a song, but a phrase describing life in the governmental “Evil Empire”?
This is one Heisman race that will come down to the final ballot, as college football pundits try to come up with daily excuses and historical precedents as to why Te’o and Manziel are both undeserving.
Will the Heisman electorate be so divided that we end up with a Tiesman?
All we know for sure is this will end up being the most interesting Heisman race of the past fifty years.
We have two dynamically different players playing on two different sides of the ball, each of whom proved to be gamechangers with two different teams that find themselves in two unfamiliar situations.
No matter who wins, we know one thing for sure: a new Heisman Trophy precedent will be set.