Week 7 Heisman Notes

 Johnny Manziel is the Heisman Player of the Week. (US Presswire)

Some Heisman thoughts at the halfway point of the season:

1. Freshmen and the Heisman

It's a central tenet of the 10 Heismandments that freshmen can't win the Heisman. The best a freshman has ever done in the Heisman race was Adrian Peterson finishing second in 2004 behind Matt Leinart. Even Herschel Walker's legendary freshman year in 1980 could only manage a third-place finish, though Walker out-dueled eventual winner George Rogers head to head.

Why can't freshmen break through? Well, remember the Heisman selection process is essentially an election. As with any election, name recognition is key. Upperclassmen have an advantage in this respect because, well, they've been playing college football longer. A senior like Geno Smith has 32 games as a starter under his belt, with many of those games coming on national television. Over time, voters have internalized the notion that Smith is an elite player. For a freshman to overcome that kind of advantage requires a season of epic proportions. That's a very rare occurrence for a first-year player.

There's also less urgency for voters to put freshmen on their ballots. There's only one chance to vote for a great senior player. A junior or a third-year sophomore star might go pro, so a voter has to take that into account. An outstanding freshman? A voter might think: I can vote for him next year, or the year after. 

Though I believe a freshman can't win in the current Heisman climate, I don't deny this dynamic could one day change. We've seen how social media has affected the race in recent seasons, so perhaps it's becoming easier for players to become known earlier in their careers. For instance, many freshmen enter college with plenty of hype due to the ever-increasing focus on high school recruiting. 

But I still think it would take a perfect storm for a freshman to win. We might be hearing some thunder in the distance.

2. The perils of defensive candidates

Consider last weekend a teachable moment as to why defensive players can't win the Heisman. The two names most bandied about in recent weeks have been Manti Te'o of Notre Dame and Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina.

First, read this recap of Notre Dame's win over Stanford. Te'o's name doesn't appear until three-quarters of the way down. Unless you watched the game closely, you really have no idea what impact Te'o had. The summary offers no solace.

And this recap of South Carolina's loss to LSU barely mentions Clowney.

Meanwhile, look at this recap of Kansas State's win over Iowa State. It starts: 

"Kansas State's offense is at its best when quarterback Collin Klein has the ball in his hands as much as possible.

The Wildcats defense doesn't mind it either.

Klein ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns and sixth-ranked Kansas State held off Iowa State 27-21 for its fifth straight win over the Cyclones."

The media has a propensity to highlight offensive players in news write-ups and game summaries. It's up to the columnists to remind us that defenders are people, too. 

That might get a defensive player to New York, but it won't win him the Heisman.

3. Horrible games by Heisman winners

OMG! Geno Smith had a bad day, and his team lost! He's out of the Heisman race!

Fortunately, Heisman voters are a lot more even-keeled than the fan bases that regularly spout this kind of stuff on Twitter.

I thought it'd be worthwhile to look back at some bad games from recent Heisman winners -- you know, just to keep things in perspective.

2002: Carson Palmer went 18-of-46 for 186 yards and one touchdown in USC's 27-20 early loss to Kansas State.

2003: Jason White went 27-of-50 for 298 yards with no touchdowns and two picks in Oklahoma's 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game.

2006: Troy Smith went 12-of-22 for 115 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in Ohio State's win over Penn State.

2007: Tim Tebow was 12-of-26 for 158 yards and two touchdowns with a pick in a mid-season loss to LSU.

2009: Mark Ingram had 30 yards and no touchdowns on 16 carries in a close win over Auburn in late November.

2011: Robert Griffin III threw for 425 yards and a score but also had two interceptions in a 59-24 loss to Oklahoma State.

These games were just small bumps in the road, as it turned out. Heisman voters know there are no perfect candidates. Just because you win the Heisman doesn't mean that you aren't going to struggle at times. But the Heisman winner is usually the guy who struggles the least.

HEISMAN PLAYER OF THE WEEK -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The redshirt freshman is all the rage in college football right now following his SEC-record 576 yards of total offense put up against Louisiana Tech on Saturday night.

Manziel threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 181 yards and three scores to lead his team to a thrilling 59-57 win over a pesky Bulldog squad.

For this, he is our Heisman Player of the Week.

It's not the first time that Manziel has gone crazy this season. Two weeks earlier, he had 557 yards of total offense against Arkansas. This season, he has 1,680 passing yards, 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions, 676 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Is he a serious Heisman candidate? I'm beginning to think so. If he leads an upset of LSU this weekend or of Alabama on Nov. 10, all hell might break loose.

It helps that he's on pace to have 3,360 passing yards, 28 touchdown passes, six picks, 1,352 rushing yards and 20 more scores on the ground by the time the Heisman vote is due.

A 3,000/1,000 season with 48 touchdowns against SEC competition would definitely send Manziel to New York. If all goes right, he might even come back with more than a T-shirt.

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