Can a freshman win the Heisman Trophy?
That's the question after Johnny Manziel's age-defying performance in No. 15 Texas A&M's Week 11 upset of No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The boy wonder helped kick the top-ranked Crimson Tide from the ranks of the unbeaten and likely spoiled Alabama's BCS title hopes along the way. More importantly in terms of his Heisman prospects, the upset gave Manziel a résumé-boosting signature win voters won't soon forget.
The redshirt freshman is on pace to surpass 3,000 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards and 40 combined touchdowns. But despite the eye-popping stats against largely SEC competition, the fact remains: No freshman has ever won the Heisman. In fact, only five freshmen have ever finished in the top 10 in voting. Adrian Peterson's 2004 campaign was the most successful, as he finished second to USC's Matt Leinart by 328 votes.
It's worth noting that the Heisman vote has skewed younger in recent years, however. Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win when he claimed the Heisman in 2007, and two other second-year players, Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram, immediately followed Tebow. Even during Cam Newton's landslide win in 2010, sophomores Andrew Luck and LaMichael James rounded out the top three in voting.
Still, the futility of freshmen is hard to ignore. Manziel will have to overcome that history in order to hoist the hardware in December.
Before we dive into this week's rankings,
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Alabama quarterback McCarron and Oregon quarterback Mariota all missed the cut this week.
Johnny Football fever has taken over the SI office. The Texas A&M freshman made his way onto all but two SI ballots, unseating Te'o as runner-up but falling short of overtaking Klein. If SI's voting is any indication, Manziel might be able to overcome the freshman curse if he can maintain momentum.
Against Arizona State, USC's Lee registered his seventh double-digit reception game of 2012. (Landov)
Johnny Football recovered his own near-fumble in the red zone before hitting a wide-open Ryan Swope for a 10-yard touchdown early against Alabama:
Alabama's defense is feeling Manziel's impact on the stat sheet: