Well, the season is over. It ended somewhat anti-climactically with a predictable Kansas State win, a mediocre showing by Florida State against an inferior opponent, and a highly questionable decision that kept Georgia from playing for the title. (Spike the damn ball!) While it sucks that we won’t get to enjoy college football Saturdays for eight more months, at least we get to witness bowl season, one of the greatest experiences in sports. Yeah, college football’s method of choosing a champion is suspect, but you can’t beat having three straight weeks with a bowl game nearly every night. I’ll take a Baylor-UCLA Holiday Bowl over a rerun of “Revolution” or some reality show about screaming old hags any day. Not that I would watch screaming hags or “Revolution” normally. Unless they somehow combined them into one show, where people with bows hunted down the Real Housewives. That I would definitely watch. Wait, what were we talking about? Ah yes. I will admit that this year’s bowl lineup seems weaker than usual, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see some competitive and exciting games in the coming weeks.
I’ll be back next week with my final column of the year, in which I’ll dissect every single bowl game on the 2012/2013 slate. For now, let’s examine the two biggest contests of this week: Army/Navy, and the Heisman Trophy.
Navy -7 over Army
Navy’s record is 7-4. Army’s record is 2-9. If that’s not enough for you, Army is in the midst of a 6-game losing streak coming into this game. The Black Knights also have an unprecedented 10-year losing streak to the Midshipmen. That’s right, Army hasn’t won this game since 2001, back when people were popping their collars and country singer Alan Jackson was exploiting national tragedies to sell CDs. Also, in 2001, there were these things called CDs. It was a long time ago. Anyway, the closest Army came was losing by 6 points last year. Navy has improved since then, whereas Army has remained stagnant and maybe even gotten worse. This is a rivalry game… nay, THE rivalry game… so I don’t expect a blowout, but I do think Navy will control the tempo and win by a couple scores. I’d like to see Army get it together and snap the losing streak, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
The Heisman Trophy
Johnny Manziel -1000
Manti Te’o +300
Collin Klein +1200
First, let’s talk about this field. I don’t think anyone has a problem with the three guys who got invited to New York. But would it kill them to invite two more players? I know Jarvis Jones won’t win, but at least let him go to the ceremony and get a photo with Herschel Walker and Tim Tebow.
Now, let’s talk about who WILL win. The Heisman isn’t usually a surprise. The guy who’s supposed to win going into the weekend generally does. The only time I can remember being genuinely surprised over a Heisman winner was Ty Detmer in 1990. (Rocket Ismail was robbed!). RG3 was a little bit of a surprise last year, but he had been gaining momentum for weeks before the voting, and by the time the award was handed out, it wasn’t that much of a shock. And yes, in hindsight it’s easy to criticize many Heisman choices. Peyton Manning losing to Charles Woodson in ’97 and Danny Wuerfful in ’96? Oklahoma’s Jason White beating out Larry Fitzgerald in ’03? Gino Torretta besting Marshall Faulk in ’92? Chris Weinke topping Drew Brees, LaDanian Tomlinson and Michael Vick in 2000? Emmitt Smith coming in 7th place in ’89, behind somebody name Dee Dowis? Of course I say that with the benefit of hindsight. Danny Wuerfull, for example, was sick at Florida. It’s not his fault his future included leading the Rhein Fire to a World Bowl Championship while Peyton Manning was facing off with Tom Brady. The Heisman isn’t a predictor of the future. It goes to the guy who voters think had the best collegiate season that particular year. The fact that Jason White is currently managing an Athlete’s Foot doesn’t negate his great 2003 season.
If you look at the odds above, the media coverage, and the general feeling over this award, it’s clear that Johnny Manziel is the man to beat in 2012.
Now, who SHOULD win? This is a cop-out answer, but I feel that all three of these guys are pretty much equal. Kansas State would be .500 without Collin Klein. They’d be playing in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse instead of the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon. A Manziel-less Texas A&M would probably end up 7-5 with a berth in the Gator Bowl. Not great, not horrible. They definitely wouldn’t have gotten that signature win against Alabama. (Although, in my opinion, the fact that Bama still made the National Championship Game takes that win down a notch. We loved Manziel because he was keeping Saban away from back-to-back titles. If the Tide wins anyways, then it’s just another upset. I digress.) That leaves us with Manti Te’o. If there’s one story of the year in college football, it’s the resurgence of Notre Dame. That resurgence would not have been possible without the leadership of Te’o. If I had a Heisman vote, I would vote to finally award the greatest honor in the land to a true defensive player. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that all three of these guys are equally talented and equally valuable to their teams. But, you’ve got two quarterbacks who are essentially on equal ground, and one defensive player who is clearly the best on that side of the ball. In my mind there’s no clear-cut favorite, therefore I would give the honor to Te’o for the following reasons (some of these may be repeating what I’ve already said):
1) He’s hands down the best defensive player in the nation. (Player, not prospect.)
2) Notre Dame is the #1 team in the nation, the only bowl-eligible undefeated team remaining.
3) The Irish are the story of the year.
4) Te’o is the undisputed leader of the team, on and off the field.
5) Without Te’o, there’s no chance the Irish are playing for the title.
6) He had 7 INTs this year, an astounding number for a linebacker.
7) He had 40+ more tackles than anyone else on Notre Dame.
8) He’s a great human being and his personal story is among the most heartwarming in the nation.
9) He’s going to be a top draft pick.
10) There’s little chance he would look like a stupid choice in hindsight.
In a year when nobody stands out from the crowd, why not make history and give the Heisman to a very deserving defensive player? Oh, and by the way, this is coming from someone who hates Notre Dame and hopes they lose by 30 in the title game.
One more important note before we leave. Chris Fowler let it slip on College Gameday last week that 10% of Heisman voters had submitted their ballots before the Kansas State-Texas match-up. He spun it as a positive for Collin Klein… i.e., only 10% of voters have voted already, so Klein can still win this thing! It’s ridiculous. Those voters should lose their votes immediately. I can’t believe you’re even allowed to cast a vote before the season ends. It’s like voting for the President before the primaries end. Whoops, I cast my ballot for Herman Cain. What if Collin Klein ran for 800 yards in that game? What if K State won 130-0? It’s bad enough that we can’t find 1,000 AP and Heisman voters who will watch all the games. Now we can’t even get them to wait until the season ends. At least pretend like you’re thinking this through. When I join the Heisman committee in 2023, I’m going to straighten this out.
Alright, moving along. This, of course, is a gambling column, so allow me to close with the following statement: It makes no sense to bet on the Heisman this year. The best bet is Manziel, but he’s listed at -1000, which is not a very good bet. Bet $1,000 to win 100 bucks? No thanks. You could make more money collecting cans on the side of the highway. Te’o is listed at +300, which is better, but those odds still aren’t great and there’s a far worse chance that he’ll win. The best gamble is Collin Klein at +1200. He’s a dark horse, but the odds are very good for someone who was considered the runaway favorite until week 12. If you have to bet, put a few bucks on Klein and hope that the voters go Ty Detmer on us.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back next week with my final column of the year, my bowl game extravaganza. Until then, enjoy... umm... basketball. Sorry, I can barely even write those words.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz