by Mike Coffey
The college football season is a marathon and not a sprint. Along the way, some obstacles spring into your path while others get moved aside. Sometimes that movement is within your control, other times not. All you can do is hope for an even playing field and that you’re there at the end.
So too are the tertiary aspects of the season like awards. Players pop up and fall down along the way. But you’d hope the consistent performance would be rewarded and not fall as a casualty to the bling-bling of highlight reels.
Last weekend, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and Oregon running back Kenjon Barner had eye-catching performances on offense. McCarron led the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind win over LSU, while Barner ran roughshod over an SC defensive squad who apparently missed the bus to the game. These achievements led CBS’ Sports’ Chris Huston to wonder if the pair could shake up the Heisman race.
Huston’s conclusion seems to be “not at the moment”, noting both players would need to continue to provide quality performances while hoping Kansas State QB Collin Klein somehow slips. That certainly seems logical. Klein has played well all season, and also plays McCarron’s position with numbers just as good or better.
But where’s Manti Te’o?
I’ll tell you where — buried in the third-to-last paragraph in a note that predicts he’ll “do well in the Midwest [regional voting].”
That’s an absolute crock, but it’s illustrative of the uphill climb our favorite Samoan Sackmaster has if he’s going to become Notre Dame’s eighth Heisman Trophy winner.
The Butkus and Bednarik folks no doubt already are engraving Te’o’s name on their trophies, and rightfully so. No one on the defensive side of the ball has what Te’o has this year, either on or off the field, and it is right and just that he’ll become the first Domer to have his name on either one.
But why should it stop there?
According to the Heisman Trophy website, the award supposedly is given to “an individual designated as the outstanding college football player in the United States.” I don’t claim to be the best reader in the world, but nowhere in that sentence did I see the words “on the offensive side of the ball”. No, Te’o isn’t spiking the ball in the endzone or running up passing yards against overmatched cow colleges. But why can’t the leader of one of the best defenses in the nation who is 4th in interceptions per game and 25th in tackles get stronger consideration for this award, especially when you consider his off-the-field story is as antithetical to the current college-football-as-cesspool as you’ll find today?
Unfortunately for Te’o — and perhaps even more unfortunately for Boston College and Wake Forest — that may not be enough. And if it isn’t, it’s a damn shame. If it isn’t, then we’ve officially elevated sizzle over steak. If it isn’t, the Heisman folks may as well change their website to say “an individual with the gaudiest ESPN highlights” and call it a day.
As I noted yesterday, two should-be-bloodbath games await on the schedule before the trip to Los Angeles. The other 21 players on the defensive two-deep need to remember what’s at stake for their Fearless Leader. No half-assery, no “this’ll be easy”, no lack of focus. Bomb these two weak sisters back to the stone age with outstanding defensive performances. Then maybe, for once, the Heisman Trophy won as a result of performance in the ND/SC game will go our way.