Manti Te’o for Heisman: Why The Numbers Don’t Add Up

Manti Te'o/US Presswire

All praise/blame for this post should go to Jordy Pujol, the anti-Bayless.

ESPN carnival barker/used car salesman/white devil Skip Bayless pissed in the wind Tuesday to the contrived, shit-starting tune of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o for Heisman. Bayless is famous for taking contrarian viewpoints, and generally being a pompous, arrogant, spineless piece of shit. His latest piece, I must admit, floored me. He is capable of talking about someone besides LeBron James or Tim Tebow, I learned.

Other than this revelation, Bayless’s Te’o piece followed the same cookie-cutter theme as all his arguments – a lot of bluster and precious little substance. Bayless proclaimed Te’o a deserving Heisman winner but also anointed himself head of the Johnny Football fan club. Johnny Football, for the uninitiated, is Texas A&M Johnny Manziel, believed to be Teo’s chief competition for the Heisman.

Truth is, talk of a Te’o Heisman is laughable – whether or not it comes from Bayless’s well-manicured fingers or anyone else. Te’o Heisman talk has gathered steam for two reasons: A) Te’o plays for Notre Dame, a traditional power in the midst of a national championship run; and B) Notre Dame is 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Some would argue the Heisman should be awarded to the best player on the best team. I am not one of those people. If anything, talk of Te’o, as Heisman winner, reflects on the dearth of quality candidates this season, Manziel excluded.

As the quarterback of the Irish defense, Te’o (101 tackles, seven interceptions) deserves praise for Notre Dame being ranked No. 6 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense. The middle linebacker has a myriad of responsibilities – ensuring the defense is properly aligned, making tackles in the run game, and covering tight ends and running backs on passing downs. Te’o performed each task admirably this season.

Does that mean he is the nation’s best player? Far from it.

Te’o is ranked No. 58 nationally in tackles per game, according to ncaa.com. Heisman Trophy winners are supposed to save their best for last. Te’o failed to record more than seven tackles in his team’s last four games. By contrast, he recorded 10 or more tackles in six of his team’s first eight games.

Te’o is not ranked in the top 95 nationally in solo tackles per game (3.8 per). Nor is he ranked in the top 95 in tackles for loss (5.5 total) or forced fumbles or fumble recoveries. Teo’s one superlative stat is his seven interceptions – tied for second in the country. Six of these went for seven yards or fewer.

I will give Te’o this: He starred in his team’s biggest games. Witness his 11-tackle, one-sack, one-interception performance against Oklahoma or his eight-tackle, two-interception outing against Michigan. Do these qualify as Heisman moments though? I don’t think so.

Let me throw one more statistic out: Te’o and the Irish faced three top 50 offenses (Oklahoma, USC, and Miami), according to ncaa.com. By comparison, they faced three bottom 30 offenses (Michigan State, Boston College, and Wake Forest). Te’o and his defensive mates were exceptional, but they also benefited from healthy serving of Big 10 and ACC teams to go with Stanford, USC, and Oklahoma.

Remove the numbers 12 and 0 from the debate and it becomes clear Te’o is not the nation’s best defensive player, or the best linebacker.

The Butkus Award should go to Georgia’s Jarvis Jones.

The junior linebacker tied for fourth in sacks per game and finished second in tackles for loss per game. Despite missing two games, he tallied 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He dominated against Florida, recording 13 tackles (12 solo), three sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The All-American’s singular performance is a major reason between Georgia or Florida playing for the right to go to the BCS title game this Saturday.

As for the Heisman?

Manziel should win in a landslide.

The redshirt freshman Aggies quarterback shattered the SEC’s total yardage mark once held by Cam Newton and Tim Tebow before him. Both won the Heisman during their record-breaking season. Tebow did it with three losses.

The main criticism of Manziel is he lost to LSU and Florida. So what? The Aggies lost those two games by a total of eight points. Perhaps in a year where an undefeated team featured a player who had a transcendent year that would matter. This year that player doesn’t exist. (NOTE: It might have had Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein not been injured and then laid an egg the following week against Baylor.)

Manziel shepherded a team picked to finish fifth in the SEC West to a 10-2 record that included a road win over defending national champion Alabama, the No. 1 defense in the country. He placed second nationally in total offense (383 yards per game) and led the SEC with 98 yards rushing per game. He also accounted for 43 touchdowns.

Johnny Football’s numbers speak for themselves. He deserves to become the first freshman Heisman winner.

PS: Want to know how defensive players on Heisman ballots have fared in the past? Click here. No linebacker has finished in the top five since Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth did it more than a quarter century ago.

PPS: The 2011 Butkus Award winner – Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly – had 191 tackles, plus 12 tackles for loss and three interceptions. Granted, Kuechly played on a 4-8 team.

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