Heisman Watch: Can Notre Dame's Manti Te'o Overcome Johnny Manziel?

Emily O'Neill Elmer@emilystormsCorrespondent IIDecember 2, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Linebacker Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is congratulated by fullback Soma Vainuku #31 of the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  Notre Dame defeated USC Trojans 22-13.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Heisman finalists Manti Te'o and Johnny Manziel are poised to go head to head this Jan. 7 in New York City in a classic battle of defense vs. offense.

Each excels in his field.

Manziel, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman, has 4,600 yards of total offense, while Te'o, the Notre Dame senior linebacker, has 103 tackles and seven interceptions for the season. 

Depending on what school of football you come from, you undoubtedly have an opinion on which candidate should win the hardware. Those who appreciate high-flying offensive excellence will no doubt back Manziel, while fans of the phrase "defense wins championships" will most likely support Te'o to win the Heisman. 

The Heisman trophy has a history of going to offensive players, even though the official description (via Heisman.com) of the award says it "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work."

Only one defensive player, Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson in 1997, has ever received the award. 

So can Te'o overcome the apparent bias and win out?

It helps that Manziel is a redshirt freshman. No freshman has ever won the Heisman trophy. Texas A&M will also, most likely, not end up in a BCS bowl game. Whereas Te'o, on the other hand, is the No. 1 player on the No. 1-ranked team in the country, and Notre Dame is bound for the BCS championship. 

It seems that no matter who wins, there will be a "first" of sorts: the first freshman or the first linebacker.

However, if the award truly goes to the most deserving player in all of college football, it should go to Te'o. He has displayed all of the criteria set forth in the Heisman manifesto listed above. He has demonstrated excellence with integrity in the way he leads his team. He has proven his diligence to both his school work (returning to finish his senior year and graduate) and on the field (Notre Dame is No. 1 in the nation.) He has demonstrated perseverance more so than anyone else in college football today, losing his girlfriend and grandmother within 24 hours of each other and going on the field and winning just days later. His hard work is evident in all the attributes listed above.  

Te'o deserves and has earned this Heisman trophy. 

Do you agree that Manti Te'o should win the Heisman? Tell us in the comments below.