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National Columnist

Johnny Heisman? Freshman or not, Aggies' scintillating star QB deserves the trophy

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Heisman voters, you know what to do. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel is the best player in college football this season, a large statement to make about any freshman, any year, but an enormous one to make about a freshman this season -- when there are so many viable candidates.

But Heisman voters, you saw what Manziel did to Alabama on Saturday, and you know that was no fluke. He's been doing it all season, to almost everyone, in the country's most brutal defensive conference. So do the right thing. Give Manziel the trophy he has earned.

Kansas State fans, you know what to do. Accept that your guy, your wonderful and wondrous Collin Klein, isn't going to win the Heisman Trophy. Accept it without malice or myopia, because you also saw what Manziel did to Alabama.

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Hell, embrace what you saw Saturday. Embrace what Manziel did, because even if he did wrestle the Heisman Trophy away from Kansas State, he gave the school something precious in return: inside track to the national championship game. Without Manziel on Saturday, the BCS title game was going to be Alabama and ... Oregon? Probably Oregon, yes. Now, if Kansas State takes care of its business, the national championship game will include the Wildcats. It has to. Because of Johnny Manziel.

Notre Dame, you know what to do. Keep winning, and hope Oregon or Kansas State falters before bowl bids go out. But you can do the math as well as anyone, and you know that all three undefeated teams cannot play for the national title.

Notre Dame has something special, an ability to make the plays it has to make at the exact time it has to make them -- and the ability to watch Pittsburgh miss an easy field goal that would have beaten the Irish -- but Notre Dame is struggling with bad teams like Pittsburgh and Boston College, while Kansas State and Oregon are demolishing much better competition. Only two teams can play for the national title, and Notre Dame won't get there unless Kansas State or Oregon loses. But already Notre Dame has more hope this week than it did last week, because one of the three teams ahead of it, Alabama, is ahead of it no longer.

Because of Johnny Manziel.

Football is a team sport and all that jazz, but Texas A&M doesn't beat Alabama without Manziel. Take away any other player on its roster, and you'd probably plunk down money on the Aggies in a rematch. Take away Manziel, and your money stays in your pocket. He was that good on Saturday. He has been that good all year.

Comparison makers, you know what to do. Find a Johnny Manziel comparison that does justice to Manziel and to the truth -- not to the color of his skin. Please, stop with the Doug Flutie comparisons. Yes, they are both small and quick. Yes, they play quarterback. Yes, they are white. Comparison's over. Flutie was an NFL passer with a cannon for an arm. Manziel is not.

Nor is he Fran Tarkenton, who scrambled quite a bit and was small and was, yes, white -- but who ran for 85 yards, all year, as a senior at Georgia in 1960. Manziel attacks teams with his legs as much as his arm, throwing the ball with accuracy, yes, but gouging out large chunks of yardage by running into the teeth of the defense and somehow emerging on the other side.

You know who else did that in college football? Michael Vick did that at Virginia Tech. Woodrow Dantzler did that at Clemson.

College football historians, you know what to do. The story of the 2012 season will start with whoever wins the national championship, as it must in any season without something as shocking as the Marshall plane crash of 1970 or the Jerry Sandusky malevolence of 2011, but the individual who owns this season, who already has defined it, is Johnny Manziel.

He has defined it without uttering a word for public consumption, which is pretty cool. Tim Tebow won over the country with his play, yes, but also with his words. He talked, and people swooned. Manziel talks and people ... oh, that's right. Manziel doesn't talk. At least, not to the media. And I'm fine with that. Couldn't be finer. Texas A&M doesn't let freshmen talk to the media, which doesn't bother me even a little bit. I don't care what Johnny Manziel has to say. I don't care who his heroes are, how much of the Bible he does or doesn't read, what he has for breakfast on game days. I don't care to know why he committed to Oregon but changed his mind, knocking over the first domino of this fabulous 2012 season by ensuring that freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota would lead Oregon to the cusp of the BCS title game while Manziel and Texas A&M would knock Alabama off that same perch.

Manziel has dominated this season in a way we've always wanted, but almost never get: He has dominated it without any preseason wind in his sails. This Heisman wasn't given to him in August, given to him on the condition that he doesn't do anything to lose it over the next four months. In August most of us didn't know who Johnny Manziel was. It wasn't until about a month ago that I figured out how to pronounce his last name. He has won this season the old-fashioned way, the way seasons were won before the media became a monster and decided who the Heisman winner would be before the games even started.

Almost any other year, Collin Klein would win the Heisman. Take his individual statistics -- he's on pace to finish the regular season with 2,400 yards passing, 900 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns -- add Kansas State's national ranking and multiply it by his damn pleasing persona, and he'd be a lock. Most years.

This is not most years.

Johnny Manziel is on pace to finish the regular season with 3,300 yards passing, 1,200 yards rushing and 40 touchdowns, something that has never been done in his conference -- no, not even by Tebow -- and that conference is the SEC.

Some of the worst defenses in the country are in the Big 12, a fact I don't love mentioning -- really, I do not -- because it feels like an attempt to knock down Collin Klein, and that's a bad feeling. Collin Klein should be lifted up, because he's that good on the field and that impressive off it.

But to be fair to Manziel, he hasn't had the opportunity to make mincemeat of the awful defenses littering the Big 12. He has done it in the SEC, where some teams have bitten a chunk out of him -- LSU intercepted him three times -- but where he has eaten mostly like a king.

So all hail the best player in college football. There can only be one, and his name is Johnny Manziel.

He's a freshman. Get over it.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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