As other top contenders stumble, Manziel on brink of Heisman history
An upset loss to Baylor knocked Kansas State's Collin Klein out of the No. 1 spot
Johnny Manziel has the momentum to become the first freshman to win Heisman
Manti Te'o can still benefit from playing on Saturday's biggest stage against USC
As the BCS title picture shifts gears, so too does the Heisman Trophy race.
No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both tumbled from atop the BCS standings after national-title-altering upsets in Week 12. The Heisman race experienced a corresponding shakeup, with longtime frontrunner Collin Klein putting up his worst performance of the season in the Wildcats' loss and Oregon's Kenjon Barner tripping up as his Ducks fell. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of college football, late-season trouble is the last thing a Heisman contender needs.
Not every contender disappointed this weekend, though. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel excelled once again, taking advantage of a bit of scheduling luck to rip through a hapless Sam Houston State squad.
And so, the Watchman has thrown Heisman history to the wind and anointed the Aggies' redshirt freshman as the new Heisman Watch leader. Manziel continues to generate the most buzz in the sport, and his momentum could make him the first freshman to take home the Heisman when the trophy is awarded Dec. 8.
Before we dive in to this week's rankings, which we've whittled down to three contenders, here's a look at how things stacked up last week.
Last week: 14-of-20 passing for 267 yards, three touchdowns and one interception; 16 rushes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in a 47-28 win over Sam Houston State.
Season (11 games): 241-of-356 passing for 3,047 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions; 172 rushes for 1,114 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Watchman's take: It's looking more and more like Johnny Football could make history in New York. Manziel put on a show against Sam Houston State, accounting for five touchdowns and becoming the first freshman and fifth player overall to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in one season. Coach Kevin Sumlin even trotted Manziel out to attempt an extra point in the third quarter with A&M holding a 40-0 lead. (Manziel missed.) With only a home date against Missouri left on the docket, A&M's star could have the résumé he needs to overcome the freshman stigma.
Next up: Saturday vs. Missouri
Last week: 27-of-50 passing for 286 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions; 17 rushes for 39 yards and one touchdown in a 52-24 loss at Baylor.
Season (11 games): 172-of-258 passing for 2,306 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions; 171 yards for 787 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Watchman's take: For weeks the Heisman was largely Klein's to lose -- and he might have done just that in an upset loss to pesky Baylor. After his streak of six consecutive games without an interception ended last week, Klein threw a season-high three picks against the Bears in his most inefficient outing (103.2) of the year. In his last two games, Klein has thrown four of his season's six interceptions while averaging a 104.4 passer rating. Klein just hasn't been the same since sustaining a reported concussion against Oklahoma State. K-State's senior will have a bye week to work out the kinks before taking on Texas in the Wildcats' season finale.
Next up: Dec. 1 vs. No. 15 Texas
Last week: Six tackles in a 38-0 win over Wake Forest.
Season (11 games): 98 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six interceptions, four pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Watchman's take: Te'o's chances of claiming the trophy are still slim, but while several other candidates stumbled, the Notre Dame linebacker maintained a hold on his Heisman hopes. Te'o registered only six tackles against Wake, but Notre Dame is now No. 1 in both the AP Poll and BCS standings and in prime position for a national title berth. The only remaining obstacle: the season finale against a USC team reeling from a jarring loss to UCLA and forced to play without injured senior quarterback Matt Barkley. Te'o is working at a disadvantage as a defensive player, but he tends to come alive on the biggest stages: The senior tallied 11 tackles and an interception in the Irish's last noteworthy victory against No. 8 Oklahoma in Week 9.
Next up: Saturday at USC
USC WR Marqise Lee, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller and Oregon RB Kenjon Barner all missed the cut this week.
SI's ballots mirror the shakeup in the Watchman's new-look rankings. Johnny Football received eight of the 10 first-place votes to take the top spot, with Te'o garnering two first-place nods. SI's staffers were harsher to Klein than the Watchman was, dropping the QB from office frontrunner to third place after the Baylor loss.
1. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel -- 10 (8 first-place votes)
2. Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o -- 10 (2)
3. Kansas State QB Collin Klein -- 5
4. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller -- 3
T5. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones -- 1
T5. USC WR Marqise Lee -- 1
SI's voters: Senior writers Thayer Evans, Stewart Mandel, Andy Staples, Phil Taylor; senior editors Mark Godich, Jim Gorant, Mallory Rubin, BJ Schecter; associate producers Zac Ellis and Ben Glicksman.
Manziel evaded the Sam Houston State defense at will, punching in five total scores in the win. (AP)
Manziel did his best place-kicker impression, but botched the extra-point attempt in A&M's blowout win.
Perhaps there's a reason for Collin Klein's recent struggles:
Poor Collin Klein. Hasn't been the same since that concussion vs. Ok State. Undeniable difference, before/after— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) November 18, 2012