Heisman Watch 2012: Johnny Manziel the favorite, would be first freshman to win

USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel has the numbers, the nickname and the defining moment that every Heisman winner needs, but will voters overlook his being a freshman?

Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Collin Klein will all be in New York on Saturday for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and one of them will walk away with the most coveted individual award in college football. What will be the determining factor in who wins, though? It might be whether voters can stomach voting for a freshman.

A freshman has never won the Heisman Trophy before, mostly because the best players are usually upperclassmen. But this season, most think that Manziel was the nation's best and he is a freshman. Will the older voters who have insisted before on players "paying their dues" vote for the Texas A&M quarterback?

Numbers-wise, it is tough to argue against Manziel. He threw for 3,419 yards, 24 touchdowns and was picked off just eight times this season, but that is just part of the story. Manziel added 1,181 yards on the ground and a mind-boggling 19 touchdowns. Toss in a dominating performance on the road against then-No. 1 Alabama and you have a prototypical Heisman candidate, except that he's a freshman.

If Manziel doesn't take home the Heisman then it will probably be Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker who helped lead the Irish to a perfect 12-0 season and the National Championship Game. He has already won the Maxwell Award, awarded to the nation's most outstanding player, which ended a nine-year streak of quarterbacks winning the award.

Klein is longshot, having gone from frontrunner to out of the race with a three interception game against Baylor. Klein is still the leader and star of 11-1 and No. 5 Kansas St., though, where he completed 66% of his passes for 2,490 yards this season

This is still Manziel's award to lose. That is, if voters are okay with him becoming the first freshman to ever win the Heisman.

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