Heisman Trophy watch 2012: Johnny Manziel and Manti Te'o solidify Heisman status, Collin Klein fades

Scott Halleran

WIldcats quarterback needs "Heisman performance" against Texas to get back into the running.

Both Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o solidified their Heisman Trophy status with solid performances Saturday, further distancing themselves from Collin Klein and the other candidates for the award.

Johnny Manziel set a new career high for completions and neared his records for passing yards and total offense in a rout of the Missouri Tigers. The Texas A&M signalcaller completed 32 of 44 attempts for 372 yards and three touchdowns, and added 67 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. On statistics, there is no contest: Manziel leads Klein in yards, completion percentage, efficiency rating, and passing touchdowns, as well as rushing yards and yards per attempt. Klein has led his team to more wins, but Texas A&M and Kansas State are side-by-side in the newest polls. If a quarterback is going to win this year's award, it's increasingly likely to be Johnny Football.

If there is to be a challenge to Manziel, it may now come from Manti Te'o. The Notre Dame linebacker cannot match Manziel's statistics, though he has been impressive: 101 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and seven interceptions. Te'o's value to Heisman voters lies in less tangible criteria, though. He is a senior middle linebacker and the unquestioned team leader for the nation's only undefeated bowl-eligible program, he has an inspirational story of turning down the NFL Draft to return for one last run at a championship, and then dealing with heartbreak during the season. And, as a defensive player, he is not easily comparable to Manziel or Klein in pure statistics.

With Manziel and Te'o both done with their regular seasons, Klein will need a spectacular performance against Texas Saturday to get back in the hunt. Absent that, his Heisman dreams may be dashed.

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