Johnny Manziel is the clear winner in SI.com's People's Heisman vote
The vote is in, and youth has been served: Johnny Football reigns supreme in America's eyes.
With more than 23,000 votes counted as of midnight on Thursday, the Texas A&M quarterback took the top spot in SI.com's annual People's Heisman poll, collecting a whopping 48 percent of available first-place votes. With 49,995 total points, Manziel topped Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (34,784) by a 15,211-point margin.
If America's vote mirrors this year's electorate, Manziel will make history as the first freshman to ever win the award. But what's most interesting about Manziel's victory is that the freshman wasn't even a choice in SI.com's annual Halfway Heisman poll. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith -- whose second-half slide left him out of People's Heisman consideration -- received 38 percent of the Halfway vote, while Manziel was represented only by the "other" category. Manziel pulled in two percent of that vote.
It appears a strong finish to the season turned the tide in Manziel's favor.
As with Saturday's ceremony, this year's People's Heisman vote was a three-man race between Manziel, Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. Klein came in third with 23,458 points, but the next closest player, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, hauled in just 6,586 total points for a distant fourth-place finish. That significant drop-off suggests few players beyond Klein are attracting much 11th-hour Heisman chatter.
The attention given to Te'o is worth noting, however. If our projection holds, Te'o would claim the highest finish by a defense-only player since Pitt's Hugh Green finished second in 1980. But there was a wider point discrepancy between Te'o and Manziel (15,211) than between Te'o and Klein (11,326), so perhaps the battle for runner-up is the race to watch.
A reminder before moving to the results: The votes were tabulated using the traditional Heisman voting formula, which awards three points to first place, two to second and one to third.