2012 Heisman Watch: Let's say Johnny Manziel has clinched

Scott Halleran

Jadeveon Clowney wins the week, but yet another big performance by Johnny Manziel means the Heisman race might as well be over. He's already locked up our Heisman Horse Race, at least.

For a good portion of October and November, West Virginia's Geno Smith continued to lead the Heisman Horce Race standings below, even though conventional wisdom, and his team's long losing streak, had long since eliminated him from actual consideration. I began to feel like the Horse Race approach, then, was a bit of a dud. Or, at least, if I were to use this approach again next year, I would need to give September performances a lower weight than those of October or November.

But then Johnny Football November Heisman came and saved the day. With fellow contenders dropping like flies, Johnny Manziel continued to produce at a borderline silly level, even in Tuscaloosa, and now, with just one week remaining in the race, he has clinched the horse race, and the real Heisman, victory. All Manziel had to do was avoid landmines against Missouri, and he would likely become the first freshman to ever take home the Heisman. Not only did he escape disaster (in the form of a late-Q1 knee tweak), but he produced yet another Top 10 performance: 372 passing yards, 67 rushing yards, five total touchdowns. A&M got a little greedy in the second half of a blowout win -- a third-quarter throwback pass to Manziel was broken up, and Manziel continued to throw into the fourth quarter -- but it mattered not. Manziel had his stats by halftime, and he is virtually guaranteed of making an acceptance speech in New York next Saturday night.

Clinched titles or not, we still need to unveil this week's Top 10, don't we? As this column has become as much about celebrating great performances as it has predicting the Heisman, it is only fair.

The Top 10 from Week 13

1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney has basically been the Collin Klein of defensive players this year. For much of the year, Klein produced stellar stats but didn't have the kind of breakthrough performance that it takes to get you onto the Top 10 list. Midway through the season, then, he was on pace for 2,500 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards and had barely made a dent in the horse race. (A flaw of the design, I guess.) Clowney, meanwhile, had put together a solid season with 7.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, a couple of forced fumbles, a couple of passes broken up, et cetera. Considering the attention he gets from opposing offenses, and considering some lingering injury issues, that is stellar. But he hadn't ever really made a statement performance ... until Saturday, at least.

Let him eat!

Against Clemson, he said hello to quarterback Tajh Boyd early and often, logging a ridiculous 4.5 sacks in a 27-17 win. He got plenty of help from his fellow Gamecock linemen, but he got stronger, and more vicious, as the game went on.

2. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State

The season began with a statement performance from Bell -- 44 carries for 210 yards, six receptions for 55 yards against a still-solid Boise State defense -- but he had been marginalized as the year progressed. Michigan State's offense held the Spartans back considerably, and the lack of a downfield threat in the passing game meant that opponents could key on stopping Bell. In State's first seven Big Ten games, Bell was averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, and despite over 28 carries per game, he had scored just five touchdowns on the ground. He had a strong game against Nebraska two weeks ago (36 carries for 188 yards), but nothing Heisman worthy.

But in the bowl-clinching season finale versus Minnesota, Bell was once again a major force. He carried 35 times for 266 yards and a score, giving him 1,648 yards for the season and extending State's bowl streak to six years.

3. Robert Marve, Purdue

Twenty completions, 348 passing yards, four touchdowns, one ACL. Marve's 2012 story -- tore his ACL for the third time two weeks into the season, was playing again three games later, and helped to engineer a three-game winning streak to end the season and lug Purdue to bowl eligibility -- really is just incredible.

Thanks to the winning streak, and thanks to Marve's marvelous (sorry) performance against Indiana (20-for-29 passing, 12.0 yards per pass attempt), his extensive career could see one more game. Marve originally signed with Miami as part of the 2007 recruiting class, one that featured other big quarterback names like Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Mallett. When he was redshirting at Miami, Johnny Manziel was in the 10th grade. That he was able to not only limp through the season but produce at this level, at least briefly, is ridiculous. Kudos, Mr. Marve. I just hope you can walk when you're 30.

4. Aaron Murray, Georgia

Say hello to the most underrated quarterback in the country. Murray completed 14 of 17 passes for 215 yards, two scores, and an 11.6 yards per pass attempt average against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Yes, it came against Georgia Tech; but as with Marve's performance versus Indiana, these numbers would have been impressive against an FCS school. Georgia's pace and offensive balance have fatally damaged any sort of award campaign for Murray, and that's a shame. Not only has he dealt seamlessly with two key injuries in his receiving corps (Michael Bennett and Malcolm Brown were each lost for the season), but he has continuously produced devastating, efficient performances. 18-for-24 for 250 against a strong Vandy pass defense. 30-for-38 versus Kentucky. 21-for-28 versus Ole Miss. 18-for-24 versus Auburn.

Now, obviously pace and balance aren't the only reasons why Murray isn't a serious Heisman candidate. He did, after all, complete just 23 of 55 passes with four interceptions versus South Carolina and Florida. But he could completely erase those performances from memory with a strong game and a win over Alabama on Saturday. He could also still finish tied for second in the Horse Race. (Note that I said he "could," not that he "will.")

5. Theo Riddick, Notre Dame

For most of the season, I have shaken my head at the number of touches Theo Riddick has received in comparison to more explosive options like Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III. But despite a less-than-enormous frame (5'11, 200 pounds), he is more physical than those two runners combined. And wow, did he bring the wood against USC on Saturday night. In the biggest game of his life, Riddick carried 20 times for 146 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 33 yards. He touched the ball twice as much as Wood and Atkinson combined, and it was completely and completely justifiable. Riddick has proven himself to be the heart and soul of this offense, and he has come up big in big moments for the undefeated Irish in 2012. And I have very much proven why I am not a head coach.

6. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia

Welcome to 2012, Bacarri! Rambo played at an All-American level in 2011 but has struggled to get going this fall. He missed the first month of the season with a suspension and had, through his first seven games, managed just two interceptions and one pass break-up after logging eight of each last fall. But against Georgia Tech, he had one of the best games of his life. On Georgia Tech's first possession, Rambo pulled a strip-and-run, meeting Tech's Robert Godhigh at the Georgia 1, pilfering the ball, and taking it to midfield. He would force another fumble, pick off a pass, and log 6.0 tackles on the day. If this is the Rambo we can expect to see at the Georgia Dome on Saturday in the SEC title game, we could have a battle on our hands.

7. Derek Carr, Fresno State

Carr and Fresno State have quietly put together a lovely season out west. In Tim DeRuyter's first season as the Bulldogs' head coach, FSU has gone 9-3 with tight road losses to Tulsa and Boise State and a competitive loss at Oregon as the only blemishes on the resume. Carr, meanwhile, is seventh in the country in pass efficiency and 12th in total offense. He has had some stellar performances this year -- 42-for-55 for 536 and five scores versus San Diego State, 31-for-44 for 416 and four touchdowns versus New Mexico -- but his performance against Air Force was his most efficient to date: 28-for-32 for 452 yards and four touchdowns. Yards per pass attempt: an obscene 13.5. Like a lot of players on this week's list, he took advantage of a bad defense. But he took full advantage.

8. Mike Gillislee, Florida

In Florida's two biggest wins in 2012, a home win over LSU and last weekend's win at Florida State, the Gators have done two things: ride Mike Gillislee and surge late. Against a stellar FSU defense, Gillislee gained 140 yards on 24 carries and caught two passes for 22 yards, and his 37-yard explosion off left guard with 11 minutes left completely redefined the game. Florida State had seized control in the third quarter and taken a 20-13 lead, but following Antonio Morrison's and Dominique Easley's big hit on FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel (and the subsequent fumble), Gillislee gave the Gators a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Florida does not have what anybody would call an explosive offense, but all year Will Muschamp's squad has been able to keep games close and know that Gillislee will probably produce the winning margin, even if it takes a while.

9. Adam Muema, San Diego State

Two offensive players from the Mountain West on this week's list, huh? Yep. After all, how could you keep Muema out of the Top 10 after the week he had against Wyoming: 28 touches (26 carries, two catches), 277 yards, four touchdowns. Muema might lack former SDSU running back Ronnie Hillman's star power, but he has been wonderfully effective for the 9-3 Aztecs this year. His performance against Wyoming gave him 1,355 rushing yards, 113 receiving yards, and 17 total touchdowns for the year. And it only felt like those all came against the Cowboys.

10. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
Marion Grice, Arizona State
Cody Hoffman, BYU
Stephen Houston, Indiana
Duke Johnson, Miami
Eddie Lackey, Baylor
Akeem Shavers, Purdue

I've gotten generous at the end of the season. I couldn't decide which of these nine players deserved the No. 10 spot, so for the second straight week, I'm giving a point to all of them. Benwikere and Lackey combined for 11.0 tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble recovery, five interceptions and one touchdown in wins over rivals. Houston and Shavers combined for 69 touches, 458 yards and six touchdowns in the same game. Hoffman caught five touchdown passes (albeit against New Mexico State). Grice and Barner combined for 49 touches, 372 yards and five touchdowns against their chief rivals. Johnson wrapped up his freshman campaign by averaging 11.1 yards per touch and scoring three times in 17 touches versus Duke. And Manziel was Manziel. I can't choose one, so I'm not going to. Everybody gets participation ribbons in Week 13!

2012 Heisman Horse Race Totals (Through 13 Weeks)

Week 13 Honorable Mention

  • David Amerson, N.C. State (4.5 tackles, one interception returned for a 55-yard touchdown, two passes broken up)
  • Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky (27 touches, 236 yards, one touchdown versus North Texas)
  • Tavon Austin, West Virginia (20 touches, 173 yards, one touchdown versus Iowa State)
  • Luke Batton, Kent State (14.0 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble versus Ohio)
  • Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (33 touches, 195 yards, one touchdown versus Maryland)
  • Blake Bortles, UCF (17-for-23 passing, 225 yards, two touchdowns, 9.2 yards per pass attempt; five carries, 26 yards versus UAB)
  • Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee (5.0 tackles, two interceptions returned for 99 yards -- including a game-winning 77-yarder in the fourth quarter -- one forced fumble, one pass broken up versus Troy)
  • Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona (26 touches, 171 yards, one touchdown versus Arizona State)
  • Jamison Crowder, Duke (13 targets, eight catches, 203 yards, two touchdowns versus Miami)
  • Everett Daniels, Houston (7.0 tackles, five passes broken up versus Tulane)
  • Ja'Gared Davis, SMU (5.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception, one blocked kick versus Tulsa)
  • Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (seven solo tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry versus Rutgers)
  • De'Leon Eskridge, San Jose State (32 touches, 219 yards, three touchdowns versus Louisiana Tech)
  • Nate Fakahafua, Utah (seven solo tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry versus Colorado)
  • David Fales, San Jose State (25-for-37 passing, 367 yards, three touchdowns, one interception versus Louisiana Tech)
  • Nick Florence, Baylor (22-for-37 passing, 396 yards, three touchdowns, 10.2 yards per pass attempt; 13 carries, 58 yards versus Texas Tech)
  • DaCorris Ford, UL-Monroe (5.0 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry versus Florida International)
  • John Hardy-Tuliau, Hawaii (5.5 tackles, two interceptions returned for 54 yards -- including a touchdown -- and two passes broken up versus UNLV)
  • Justin Hardy, East Carolina (18 targets, 16 catches, 171 yards versus Marshall)
  • Patrick Hearn, UAB (11 targets, eight catches, 201 yards, one touchdown versus UCF)
  • Jordan Hill, Penn State (10.0 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks versus Wisconsin)
  • Carlos Hyde, Ohio State (27 touches, 154 yards, one touchdown versus Michigan)
  • Ryan Jackson, Houston (20 touches, 174 yards, two touchdowns versus Tulane)
  • Landry Jones (46-for-71 passing, 500 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, 6.9 yards per pass attempt versus Oklahoma State)
  • James Lark, BYU (34-for-50 passing, 386 yards, six touchdowns, 7.4 yards per pass attempt versus New Mexico State)
  • Rob Lohr, Vanderbilt (six solo tackles, three tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry versus Wake Forest)
  • Will Lucas, Purdue (nine solo tackles, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery versus Indiana)
  • Brandon Magee, Arizona State (15.5 tackles, three tackles for loss versus Arizona)
  • Eric Martin, Nebraska (5.5 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, two quarterback hurries versus Iowa)
  • A.J. McCarron, Alabama (15-for-21 passing, 216 yards, four touchdowns versus Auburn)
  • Rashaan Melvin (Northern Illinois): 2.5 tackles, four passes broken up versus Eastern Michigan
  • Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss (eight targets, seven catches, 173 yards, three touchdowns versus Mississippi State)
  • Darrin Moore, Texas Tech (15 targets, 13 catches, 186 yards, two touchdowns versus Baylor)
  • Stephen Morris, Miami (15-for-25 passing, 369 yards, three touchdowns, 13.3 yards per pass attempt versus Duke)
  • Robert Nelson, Arizona State (3.5 tackles, one interception returned for 66 yards, three passes broken up)
  • Harry Peoples, UL-Lafayette (10 touches, 183 yards, one touchdown versus South Alabama)
  • Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (6.0 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one pass broken up versus Maryland)
  • Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma (11 targets, 10 catches, 162 yards, one touchdown versus Oklahoma State)
  • Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (21 carries, 180 yards, two touchdowns versus Wake Forest)
  • Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (23 touches, 169 yards, two touchdowns versus UCLA)
  • Zurlon Tipton, Central Michigan (29 touches, 216 yards, four touchdowns versus UMass)
  • Kyle Van Noy, BYU (4.5 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks versus New Mexico State)
  • Trent Vos, Toledo (9.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, one interception, two passes broken up versus Akron)
  • Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (15-for-22 passing, 294 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions; 12 carries, 44 yards versus Mississippi State)
  • Bjoern Werner, Florida State (5.0 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery versus Florida)
  • Frankie Williams, Purdue (five solo tackles, one interception returned 33 yards, three passes broken up versus Indiana)
  • Dwayne Woods, Bowling Green (5.0 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one pass broken up versus Buffalo)
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson, UConn (4.5 tackles, one interception, four passes broken up versus Louisville)
  • Zach Zwinak, Penn State (41 touches, 186 yards, one touchdown versus Wisconsin)

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