Does anyone remember Geno Smith?
Does anyone remember Geno Smith?
He was the first Heisman Trophy "can't miss" this season. The West Virginia quarterback put up amazing numbers through the season's first month. The pundits trumpeted that the Heisman was his to lose.
Denard Robinson could have wisely counseled Smith on the frailty of September Heismans.
Keeping with a wild, unpredictable season, Smith promptly lost it.
But this year is exactly why the Heisman Trophy remains the biggest of sports' individual coronations. It's an imperfect award for an imperfect sport. There's as much debate over the parameters of defining the sport's most outstanding player as there is for determining the teams for the BCS championship game.
This might be an incredibly close vote, historic either way it swings — the first freshman to win the award or the first exclusively defensive player.
The odds might have been slightly better winning a cut of the recent Powerball lottery sweepstakes than correctly predicting at the start of the season that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o eventually would emerge as the top Heisman candidates.
Manziel got my first-place Heisman vote because his was the closest to that mind-blowing season performance that distinguishes a Heisman winner. It isn't just because he became the first player in the long, storied history of the Southeastern Conference to amass 4,600 total yards in a single season. Or that he did it in the Aggies' first season in college football's annually toughest conference. Or that A&M had the season's biggest statement moment when it upset unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It's that he did all that as a redshirt freshman.
That no doubt will offend those screaming about the Heisman's historical offensive bias. How could you not select Te'o, arguably the best player on the No. 1 team in the country entering the BCS championship game?
Te'o had a fine season and certainly appears to be a young man of high character and commitment, values too often in short supply in today's more easily corruptible college football environment. His was a tale of restoration, overcoming the tragic losses of two loved ones within a cruelly short time.
But I don't even think Te'o was the most outstanding defensive player in the country. Georgia's Jarvis Jones and South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney were better players and more impactful against regularly better competition.
There are similarities between this year and 1997 when Michigan's Charles Woodson became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman. The Wolverines also used the defensive back at receiver and kick returner.
But Michigan's first shot at a national championship in 50 years ignited the push toward Woodson as much as any on-field theatrics.
There is a sentimentality regarding the older football brands that have collected dust over the years finally regaining a little luster, if only as a one-year aberration. The overriding emotion of Notre Dame possibly winning its first national championship in 25 years has tempered some objectivity and clouded some judgments.
Te'o might be a better narrative than he is a player.
My ballot read Manziel, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Nobody expected Miller to grow into the position that quickly, especially while learning Urban Meyer's new system in the first year. And how many outside of the plains had heard of Klein before the season?
There's no better way for an unpredictable football season to end. There's some actual drama approaching tonight's announcement because one deeply entrenched voting bias will end — either a freshman can't win the Heisman or a linebacker can't.