The Heisman race should be competitive in 2013.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been in the spotlight this offseason for his various off-the-field activities. While the sophomore has garnered some bad publicity since the Cotton Bowl, the season opener is just a few days away, and he is one of the frontrunners to claim the Heisman Trophy.
Although it’s uncertain if Manziel will be forced to miss any games due to the recent autograph scandal, he will have his hands full repeating as the Heisman Trophy winner. This is one of the deepest groups of contenders for the award in recent memory, and Manziel will have a difficult task repeating last year’s numbers.
Athlon’s editors debate Manziel's Heisman chances, along with the frontrunner for the ward in 2013.
Will Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel Repeat as the Heisman Winner in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even before the ongoing investigation into the autograph scandal, I thought it was going to be very difficult for Johnny Manziel to repeat as the Heisman winner. Manziel simply set the bar too high as a true freshman, throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, while adding 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Repeating those numbers without receiver Ryan Swope and left tackle Luke Joeckel wasn’t going to be easy. And after entering 2012 with low expectations, Texas A&M was going into 2013 with a bullseye on its back. Also, plenty of SEC coaches spent the offseason trying to figure out a way to stop Manziel, and the rest of the SEC will be more prepared for the Aggies in 2013. Even if Manziel doesn’t repeat as the Heisman winner, he should still have an outstanding year and will be in the mix for first-team All-SEC honors once again.
As for my frontrunner, I have to go with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. In the first season under coach Urban Meyer last year, Miller threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,271 yards and 13 scores. With a better supporting cast in place, look for the junior to see a significant increase in his passing yards. Miller should benefit from another offseason to grasp Meyer’s offense, and his Heisman campaign will certainly be helped by the Buckeyes’ run at a national title. But let’s not forget about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The junior is college football’s best player, but will he get enough support as a defensive player to win the Heisman?
Even if Manziel had not been the subject of so many headlines, scrutiny and criticism during the spring and summer, I would not pick him to win the Heisman again. The not-so positive media coverage aside, the odds are pretty much stacked against Manziel to repeat. For starters, only one man has ever done so, and Archie Griffin accomplished this feat nearly 40 years ago. More recently, Tim Tebow had a shot at the rare repeat in 2008, and while he didn't have a horrible season by any means (42 total touchdowns), he still finished third in the Heisman voting.
Just like Tebow in 2008, this season Manziel not only has to, in essence, beat every other FBS player to win another Heisman, he also has to beat himself. Regardless of how gaudy the Texas A&M quarterback's statistics are this fall, if he doesn't top last year's record-breaking numbers (5,116 total yards of offense, responsible for 47 touchdowns), then it's hard for me to see him generating the same level of support from the Heisman voters. And unlike last year when be burst on the scene as a redshirt freshman, every one knows who Johnny Football is, which makes his job as a starting quarterback in the SEC — also known as the nation's toughest conference — that much harder.
Just because we won't see Manziel win back-to-back Heismans, that doesn't mean a dual-threat sophomore quarterback won't claim the famous stiff-armed trophy in 2013. Come December, I am picking Oregon's Marcus Mariota to finish ahead of Alabama's AJ McCarron and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Manziel doesn't even finish in the top five.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The odds are stacked heavily against Johnathan Manziel's favor. Sam Bradford, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram couldn't repeat, leaving just one winner in nearly 80 years as a two-timer. There is a reason Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner and that is because it is virtually and literally impossible. Defenses have more film to study and are focused more on stopping No. 2 and his supporting cast isn't nearly as experienced and capable. Johnny Football is wired to handle distractions and will be a pleasure to watch once again in 2013, but his off-the-field issues have to impact the rest of team somehow. The bottom line is Manziel produced one of, if not the, greatest statistical season in college football history. By definition, he won't be able to replicate that this fall. He will have a big season and maybe get back to New York. Give me Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to win the stiff-armed trophy in 2013.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If Tim Tebow couldn’t become the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin, I doubt many players could. Reigning Heisman winners not only have to be better than the field in a give season, they have to be demonstrably better than they were a season earlier. Johnny Manziel’s season was historic in 2012, nearly 90 yards of total offense better than Cam Newton’s 2010 season. And even if Manziel approaches his 400 yards of total offense per game and 47 total touchdowns, his offseason behavior and so-what demeanor will cause some voters to look for plausible alternatives — I don’t agree with this, but it’s a sentiment that’s out there. And plausible alternatives will be out there, unlike they were last season. Imagine if the Heisman vote were taken after the bowl games last season: How many would be voting for Manti Te’o and Collin Klein then? So that brings me to this season’s Heisman pick. The field is simply too crowded to feel strongly about anyone, especially how the last few Heisman winners were far from the preseason favorites. Braxton Miller is an easy preseason pick, though. Like recent Heisman winners, Miller is the clear focal point of his offense in the air and on the ground. He’ll play for a title contender and a name team, and he’ll have a chance for a late-season push against Michigan and probably a Big Ten title game.
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