November 10, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Texas A

Twining's Take on the Heisman: Breaking down the Heisman Pundit Straw Poll

Tonight, Collin Klein, Manti Te’o and Johnny Manziel will be on hand in New York as finalists for college football’s most-prestigiuos award. After all took home hardware at Thursday night’s College Football Awards ceremony, each will be looking to add to his total.

Each week throughout the season, including the preseason, releases a Heisman straw poll, voted on by 11 different writers/analysts. This year, a total of 32 different college football players appeared in the poll at least one time.

I charted the rankings in a line-graph, which you can see below, and wanted to briefly run through each finalists chances of winning, as well as those players who were ranked No. 1 at some point of the season, but ultimate didn’t do enough to win the award.

  • From the preseason top-10, only one player was still ranked in the poll by season’s end: Collin Klein, who was originally ranked tied-for-fifth with EJ Manuel, and De’Anthony Thomas.
  • Surprisingly, the player who was ranked for the most-consecutive number of weeks was Marqise Lee, who entered the Poll in week one at No. 6 and ascended as high as No. 3 for three weeks (weeks nine through 11). With the exception of not being in the preseason poll, Lee was ranked for 14 consecutive weeks and was the only player to be ranked every single week of the regular season. And yet, he’s still not a “finalist.”
  • 11 players were ranked for only one week and then exited the poll as fast as the Washington Huskies drop out of the AP Poll: Robert Woods (8 – preseason), Logan Thomas (10 – preseason), Le’Veon Bell (3 – week 1), Jarvis Jones (6 – week 2), Stepfan Taylor (5 – week 3), Landry Jones (11 – week 3), Kain Colter (7 – week 5), David Ash (10 – week 5), Kevin Minter (6 – week 6), Barret Jones (7 – week 7), and Jordan Lynch (7 – week 13).
  • Every single week the number one spot was occupied by a quarterback. First it was Matt Barkley for three weeks, then Geno Smith for five; Collin Klein led for four weeks and now Johnny Manziel has topped the list for the past three.
  • Matt Barkley
    • Barkley was the preseason favorite and after big wins against Hawai’i (372 yards, 4 TD’s 0 INT’s) and Syracuse (187 yards, 6 TD’s 0 INT’s) he maintained his No. 1 ranking. It’s worth noting that during those first two games, Marqise Lee accounted for 263 of Barkley’s 559 yards passing and four of Barkley’s 10 passing TD’s.
    • USC’s loss to Stanford was Barkley’s undoing. He threw for only 254 yards and no touchdowns, was sacked four times and picked off twice. In addition, his No. 2-ranked Trojans lost their first game of the season dropping Barkley from No. 1 in the Heisman straw poll down to No. 7
    • Against Cal on Sept. 22, Barkley totaled only 192 yards passing and two touchdowns and was picked off two more times. Despite a victory for the now-13th-ranked Trojans, Barkley’s mediocre numbers were enough to bump him from the straw poll for good.
  • Geno Smith
    • Smith benefited the most from Barkley’s quick fall from the rankings as the West Virginia quarterback, who was ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll, ascended to the No. 1 spot in week 3 after USC’s loss to Stanford and the Mountaineers’ 42-12 victory over James Madison. Smith completed 24-of-39 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns and as a result, he passed Marc Bulger to become West Virginia’s all-time career passing leader.
    • Over the next five weeks, Smith would maintain his No. 1 ranking as he racked up stats in bunches. During the next four games, Smith passed for a total of 1,540 yards and 17 touchdowns.
    • Smith’s downfall was partially attributed to the Mountaineer defense’s inability to stop anybody on offense and after a second-consecutive loss to Collin Klein and Kansas State on October 20, during which Smith threw for only 143 yards and 1 touchdown and threw his first two interceptions of the season, Smith fell from No. 1 to No. 4.
    • One week later, West Virginia lost to TCU in overtime, the Mountaineers’ third of what would be five-consecutive losses, and Smith was out of the straw poll completely.
    • It wasn’t all bad for Smith, as the Mountaineers would eventually get back on the winning track and he would make it back into the poll one last time. After beating Iowa State to end the five-game skid, Smith jumped back into the poll at No. 7. However, despite 407 yards passing and three touchdowns in the season-ender against Kansas, it wasn’t enough to keep him in the poll at season’s end.
  • Collin Klein
    • Of the 11 players ranked in preseason poll, Klein is the only player to finish the season ranked in the top-10. However, that does not mean he has been ranked every single week.
    • After debuting at No. 5, Klein didn’t do much to wow voters. He passed for only 169 yards and two touchdowns in the season opening 51-9 victory over Missouri State while rushing for 49 yards on 13 carries. The next week, when Kansas State beat Miami, Klein had 210 yards passing (on only nine completions) with one touchdown and one interception. He did score three rushing touchdowns and had 71 yards on 22 carries but it still wasn’t enough to get him into the straw poll.
    • Week three was when Klein finally started to get some attention. He threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns while racking up another 85 yards and one touchdown on the ground. This effort had him back in the poll at No. 4, one spot higher than his debut.
    • The first key true Heisman-moment for Klein was the week four victory over Oklahoma in Norman. The Wildcats NEVER beat Oklahoma on the road, let along when the Sooners are a top-10 team. Although the Wildcats pulled off the upset, Klein only posted modest numbers: 149 yards passing and 79 yards rushing, scoring only one rushing touchdown, but not throwing an interception. This victory vaulted Klein into the No. 1 spot, only to fall back to No. 2 the next week after Smith’s big game against Baylor.
    • Klein’s biggest detriment to his chances to win the Heisman came when his Wildcats lost their first and only game of the season to Baylor. In the game, Kansas State’s second-to-last game of the season, Klein threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for only 39 yards and one touchdown. He also threw three interceptions. Without a championship game in the Big 12, the Wildcats only had a final game against Texas remaining.
    • Like all three finalists, Klein took home an award on Thursday night, winning the 2012 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
  • Johnny Manziel
    • Presumed favorite Johnny Manziel was unranked until week 6 when he jumped into the poll tied-for-sixth with Marcus Mariotta, Jadeveon Clowney and Kevin Minter. What happened in Texas A&M’s game on October 6? Manziel’s Aggies beat Ole Miss 30-27 and Johnny Football had 191 yards passing and a touchdown, and 129 yards rushing and a touchdown. Oh and he was also sacked four times. Not what you’d consider Heisman-caliber numbers.
    • Through those first five weeks, Manziel’s Aggies were 4-1 and Johnny Football had passed for 1,285 yards and 11 touchdowns with two incerceptions. He had also rushed for 495 yards and seven touchdowns (at least one in each game).
    • Manziel would jump to No. 4 in the poll the next week, after the Aggies escaped Louisiana Tech, winning 59-57 with Manziel passing for 395 yards and three passing touchdowns and rushing for 181 yards (hish season high) and three rushing touchdowns.
    • Despite the climb to No. 4 in the rankings, Manziel would find himself unranked just two weeks later. On October 20, Manziel quared off against LSU, only the second high-caliber SEC opponent he had faced all year after losing to FLorida to start the season. In both loses, Manziel passed for a combined 449 yards and ZERO touchdowns, while throwing three interceptions in the LSU game. He gained only 60 yards rushing against Florida with one touchdown, but only 27 yards rushing against LSU – an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
    • All it took to vault Manziel back into the rankings and quickly into the contention for the award was wins against Auburn and Mississippi to bounce back from the LSU loss. Those two wins put Manziel up to No. 2.
    • What truly won Manziel the Heisman, should he win the award tonight, was the upset victory over Alabama. With 252 yards and two touchdowns passing, and 92 yards rushing against one of the top defenses in the country immediately vaulted Manziel to the front of the list ahead of Te’o and Klein. Granted, he lucked out that the same weekend A&M beat Alabama, Baylor beat Kansas State – essentially ending Klein’s claims on the trophy.
    • It’s important to remember that of Manziel’s 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns passing and 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing, 441 yards passing and 178 yards rushing and 10 total touchdowns (six pass/four rush) came against FCS Opponents. That means of all the Heisman finalists, Manziel is the only one to play not one, but TWO FCS opponents. Without those games, Manziel might not have become the first freshman to ever pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000.
    • Tonight, Manziel will be looking to add to his award total from 2012 as Thursday night he won the Davey O’Brien award.
  • Manti Te’o
    • As the only defensive player on this list, Manti Te’o is immediately at a disadvatage over his fellow finalists. No outright defensive player has ever won the Heisman. And yet, as the only finalist on an undefeated team and arguably the most valuable player as it related to his team’s successes, Te’o’s story and stats easily qualify him to win the Heisman.
    • Te’o debuted in the straw poll after week three at No. 7. Against Michigan State on Sept. 15, Te’o had 12 total tackles but did not intercept a pass or force a turnover. He didn’t have a sack but knocked down two passes and recovered a fumble as his Irish beat the Spartans 20-3 on the road.
    • Prior to the game against Michigan State, Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend both passed away in his native state of Hawai’i and yet he still took the field. The next week against Michigan, before which the students at Notre Dame held a rally in support of the linebacker, Te’o had a career-game, his first “Heisman moment.” Te’o had eight tackles but intercepted two passes. Entering his senior season Te’o didn’t have a single career interception.
    • Te’o would continue a steady climb in the rankings over the next five weeks climbing as high as No. 2 in week eight. During those four games, including Michigan, Te’o would rack up 39 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and three interceptions as Notre Damn continued to win.
    • Over the next couple weeks, Te’o would fall back to No. 5 and them climb back into the No. 2 spot after beating Wake Forest November 17 to move Notre Dame to 11-0, one win from a berth in the BCS Championship. Counting the USC victory, and during Notre Dame’s final five games, Te’o had 34 tackles, 3 for a loss, had 1.5 sacks, intercepted three passes and force two fumbles.
    • When Te’o is announced tonight, he will have already won six 2012 awards: the Chuck Bednarik, Dick Butkus, Maxwell, Broko Nagurski, Vince Lonbardi/Rotary and Walter Camp awards.

Tags: Collin Klein Football Geno Smith Heisman Johnny Manziel Kansas State Wildcats Manti Te'o Marqise Lee Matt Barkley Notre Dame Fighting Irish Texas A&M Aggies

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