Johnny Manziel vs. Collin Klein: Comparing the Heisman Contenders

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How do the two great Heisman contenders stack up against each other this fall?

<p> Johnny Manziel vs. Collin Klein: Comparing the Heisman Contenders</p>

The 2012 Heisman winner will likely be debated and argued about for years to come. There are a half-a-dozen candidates any of whom would be extremely qualified to take home the stiff-armed trophy. The hodge-podge of contenders this year includes freshmen, defensive players, ineligible teams and a host of record-setting stars.

The most heated debate, however, appears to come between Kansas State’s Collin Klein and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. Both have been truly transcendent talents who have led their teams to unexpected seasons of greatness. Heisman beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. Do voters value stats, wins, championships, level of competition, wow factor or even age? Ideally, all factors are considered when making a decision on who is the “Most Outstanding College Football Player” in 2012.

Related: Athlon Sports Heisman Trophy Voting: Week 13

So how do Manziel and Klein stack up against each other?

Note: Keep in mind Kansas State still has one game to play before the Heisman Trophy will be awarded.

Statistical Production:
Johnny Manziel leads the SEC in rushing as a quarterback at 98.4 yards per game. He leads the SEC in total offense at 383.3 yards per game. He also leads the SEC in scoring at 9.5 points per game. He owns the SEC’s total offense single-season (4,600 yards) and single-game (576 yards) records. Collin Klein was fifth in the Big 12 in rushing (71.5 ypg) and averaged more points per game (10.9 ppg) than Manziel.

  G Comp. Att. % Yards TD INT QB Rat Att. Yards TD Pts/Gm
Johnny Manziel 10-2 273 400 68.3 3,419 24 8 155.85 184 1,181 19 9.5
Collin Klein 10-1 172 258 66.7 2,306 14 6 155.00 171 787 20 10.9

Heisman Edge: Manziel

In-Conference Production:
Klein was masterful in Big 12 play for the second straight season. He has scored 16 of his 20 rushing touchdowns in league play, including huge road performances at West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State and TCU. He avenged both losses to Oklahoma schools last fall with big showings against the Sooners and Cowboys. Manziel has been much more up and down in SEC play. He had a huge performance against Alabama and Mississippi State, struggled against Florida, LSU and somewhat against Ole Miss while torching bad teams like Arkansas, Auburn and Missouri. Manziel’s out-of-conference numbers are much more inflated than Klein’s. Of Manziel’s 43 total touchdowns, 22 came in four games against South Carolina State, Sam Houston State, SMU and Louisiana Tech. 

  G Comp. Att. % Yards TD INT QB Rat Att. Yards TD Pts/Gm
Johnny Manziel 6-2 200 284 70.4 2,289 11 6 146.67 128 698 10 7.5
Collin Klein 7-1 129 199 64.8 1,702 9 4 147.58 125 582 16 12.0

Heisman Edge: Tie

Level of Competition:
The SEC is better than the Big 12. At the top, in the middle and on defense, the SEC gets the nod over the Big 12. Manziel faced the No. 2, No. 4 and No. 7 teams in the nation as well as Mississippi State. But he went 2-2 in those games and gets plenty of credit for playing his first collegiate game against the Gators' defense despite his struggles and the loss. Klein has faced No. 11 and No. 23 and will face No. 18 Texas this weekend. His dominating performance over Miami (Fla.) deserves note, however, as the Canes won the ACC's Coastal Division this season.

Heisman Edge: Manziel

Offensive System:
Kevin Sumlin’s offense has been arguably the best passing attack to ever grace the college football gridiron. His Houston offense essentially owns every major passing NCAA record in the books. His Texas A&M offense ran 959 plays (11th nationally) for an average of 6.9 yards per play (5th nationally). Bill Snyder’s offense is totally different, ranking 120th nationally with only 712 plays. However, the Wildcats have been equally effective at 6.4 yards per play (19th nationally). Both offenses have produced at a similar rate all year, so that means Klein has produced his stats on 247 fewer offensive snaps. 

Heisman Edge: Klein

Supporting Cast:
This one is no contest. Manziel has an infinitely better supporting cast than Klein at Kansas State. Texas A&M has an average national team recruiting ranking of 20.3 over the last four classes and has finished no lower than 27th (2011) in the team rankings. Kansas State has an average national team ranking of 70.1 over the same span. The best class Manhattan has seen in four years was 2012’s 58th-rated class. With two potential first-round picks blocking for him, multiple five-star tailbacks, and a senior All-SEC wide receiver at his disposal, Manziel has by far the best supporting cast of the two. And it’s really not even close.

Heisman Edge: Klein

Highlight Moments:
Manziel is the more explosive player and had his Heisman moment by making clutch throws down the field in the road win over No. 1 Alabama. He finished with 253 yards passing and 92 yards rushing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That said, it was a goal-line stand by the Aggies defense that ultimately won the game for Texas A&M. Manziel also struggled mightily against LSU at home, throwing three interceptions in a loss that actually cost Texas A&M a shot at a national championship. Klein has been equally clutch against big-time competition. He was dominant on the road against West Virginia and Oklahoma and at home against Oklahoma State and Miami. Much like Manziel, however, Klein also has one big wart on his resume with three interceptions in the loss to Baylor. Klein is more workmanlike where Manziel has had more eye-opening plays that make voters' jaws drop. 

Heisman Edge: Manziel

Team Success:
Kevin Sumlin could be the SEC Coach of the Year and the Aggies won 10 game in their first trip through the best league in America. Bill Snyder could be the national coach of the year and is one win away from winning the Big 12 championship. Should Kansas State defeat Texas this weekend, Klein will have led his team to the Big 12 championship and a BCS Bowl berth. And had there been a four-team playoff, his team would have a great case to be included in that mix. With two losses, A&M cannot make those claims. This, due in large part to Manziel’s three interceptions against LSU. If Kansas State loses to the Longhorns, this argument goes out the window for Klein. Think about this: Had Texas A&M beaten LSU, they would have won the West and would be facing Georgia in Atlanta for a trip to the National Championship. But Manziel had his worst game of the season: 29-of-56, 276 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 17 carries for 27 yards, 0 TD. Klein did the same against Baylor: 286 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 39 yards rushing, TD.

Heisman Edge: Klein

Off The Field Character:
This is a small factor but Klein is one of the most respected, most upstanding young people this game has ever seen. He is Tim Tebow off of the field as well as Tebow in the huddle and locker room. Manziel was arrested this summer for getting into a fight with a 47-year old man and carrying multiple false IDs. Is Manziel simply a young kid enjoying the trappings of young fame (SEE: Halloween pictures)? Of course, but Klein would never get into a fight with someone nearly 30 years older than himself.

Heisman Edge: Klein

Nickname:
“Johnny Football” versus “Optimus Klein.” I am sorry, but this one isn’t even close. Johnny Football is one of the lamest, most unimaginative nicknames I have ever heard. And as a kid who grew up loving the Transformers, my vote goes to Klein. This one is easy and heavily in favor of the Kansas State Wildcat. It's a good thing a nickname has absolutely nothing to do with the Heisman.

Heisman Edge: Klein

Not counting the nickname, the race to New York is as follows: Manziel gets the nod on statistical production, level of competition and wow factor in big moments. Klein gets the edge as a champion with much less talent around him with relatively equal production and a Golden Boy image off of the field. Even after analyzing every possible angle of the Klein vs. Manziel Heisman debate, there is no clear-cut winner. That is what makes this particular race for the most coveted trophy in sports the most intriguing in decades. 

And it's why Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

Related: Klein, Manziel aren't only pieces of historic Heisman field

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