Heisman Race 2012: Breaking Down Biggest Performance by Every Top Contender

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2012

In order to win a Heisman trophy, you often need more than great statistics. Most voters want to see one big game that can be considered a "Heisman moment."

Last year, Robert Griffin III put on a show in an upset win over No. 5 Oklahoma. He totaled 551 yards from scrimmage and threw four touchdown passes. He scored enough to overcome his own defense and get the victory.

Although Griffin had an incredible season, this was the game where many voters considered the race over. 

The same happened in 2005 when Reggie Bush totaled over 500 yards in a game against Fresno State, although that award was later vacated.

Each contender this season has a game that stands out from the others, but some of them are better than others.


Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

Best Game: At Oklahoma

It is difficult for a defensive player to be noticed during the course of a single game, but Manti Te'o had his best performance in the biggest game of the year for Notre Dame.

On the road against the No. 8 team in the nation, Te'o was a major factor in the winning effort.

He finished with 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.

More importantly, that interception came in a one-possession game in the fourth quarter with just over five minutes remaining. 

Te'o was as solid as they come all year, but this was the moment that he actually earned recognition as one of the best players in the country at any position.


Collin Klein, Kansas State

Best Game: at West Virginia

This is the spot where Collin Klein struggles as a contender. 

His best statistical game was against West Virginia, a team that was ranked No. 13 in the country at the time. Klein threw more touchdowns (three) than incomplete passes (two) and added four rushing touchdowns for good measure.

Unfortunately, the Mountaineers turned out to be much worse than anticipated.

In what turned out to be his team's biggest game, Klein threw three interceptions in a loss to Baylor. This game was nationally televised and it cost the Wildcats a chance for a national championship.

The quarterback was solid in a win over Texas to clinch the Big 12, but a lack of marquee game to help his team win will hurt his chances at winning a Heisman.


Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Best Game: vs. Nebraska

Unlike the other players on the list, Braxton Miller did not have any high-leverage games this season. This is because Ohio State was ineligible for the postseason, so the pressure of victory was absent all year.

In addition, Miller often kept games close with poor player in overtime wins over Purdue and Wisconsin. 

However, he did play very well against Nebraska, which was perhaps the best bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten throughout the year.

He finished with 186 yards rushing with a touchdown, and his great play helped running back Carlos Hyde add four short touchdowns of his own.

Miller had a great statistical season on a top team, but the postseason ban most likely prevented the quarterback from having his big moment in the spotlight.


Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Best Game: at Alabama

"Johnny Football" had been great all year, but America fell in love with the freshman after he led an upset over No. 1 Alabama late in the season.

Johnny Manziel completed 77 percent of his passes and threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns against arguably the best defense in football. He also added 92 yards on the ground, most in key situations.

His play affected the entire landscape of college football, although Alabama did eventually play its way back into the national title game.

With 4,600 total yards this season, Manziel has the statistics to be the first freshman ever to win the Heisman.

Combine his overall numbers with the amazing performance against Alabama, and the award should go to the Texas A&M quarterback without debate.



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