There’s no College Gameday to focus on this week, but the Heisman Trophy will be awarded on Saturday evening, which will be the most talked-about topic of the next week.
We’ll go over the candidates and conclude with a prediction. But first, who wasn’t invited to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City that deserves to be there?
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee might be the best player currently in college that has the best pro potential. And Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is probably more athletically-gifted and more of playmaker than Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. Neither was invited to the Heisman ceremony.
Here’s who was…
Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel
The case for: By far, Johnny Football was the most electrifying player in college football this season. And he had a signature win that no other player in the country can boast, a victory at Alabama that knocked off the defending national champions and top-ranked team in the country. A true dual-threat quarterback, Manziel has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick. Manziel is thriving in coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense by throwing for 3,419 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions while running for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s the single-season SEC record holder in all-purpose yardage.
The case against: Manziel is a redshirt freshman, which shouldn’t be held against him, although some voters might. In two losses this season, Manziel wasn’t on top of his game. In a loss to Florida in the season opener, he averaged 5.8 yards per passing attempt and didn’t throw for a touchdown. And when visiting LSU at midseason, Manziel averaged only 4.9 yards per attempt and threw three interceptions and no touchdowns.
Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o
The case for: Te’o is the heart and soul of an undefeated Fighting Irish team that will be playing in the national championship. He’s also the leader of a defense that’s ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and boasts arguably the best front seven in the country. His seven interceptions are second in the nation and tops among linebackers. Te’o's 103 tackles, include a couple notable goal-line stops that helped keep Notre Dame’s record unblemished. He’s also a feel-good story as a Hawaiian Mormon playing at Midwestern Catholic institution.
The case against: The defensive player stigma works against Te’o. When Charles Woodson won the Heisman, he also returned kicks and played on offense. A couple of Te’o's interceptions were on tipped balls and less a factor of making a great play. His 103 tackles rank 56th in the nation, not exactly overwhelming for a middle linebacker. When looking strictly at defensive players, Jarvis Jones may have had a bigger impact on the field.
Kansas State Quarterback Collin Klein
The case for: In terms of being the most valuable player, Klein fits the bill. He’s the offensive player you must game plan around if you face Kansas State, yet teams could rarely stop him. Klein is Tebow-esque, a quarterback in a fullback’s body that ran for 22 touchdowns and 895 yards. He’s also an efficient thrower as he tossed the ball for 2,495 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, good for a rating of 156.3.
The case against: In Kansas State’s lone loss to Baylor, Klein was a major factor why. He had more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) and averaged only 5.7 yards per pass. Klein also had his worst rushing output of the year against Baylor, 39 yards and only a 2.3 yard average. Over the last four games of the season, Klein threw for three touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s not nearly as flashy as Manziel, either.
Prediction: The CFWP endorsement is for Johnny Manziel and the prediction is that he’ll win it too. He’s more than just flash. There’s substance too. The impact Manziel has on the game is profound. From running to throwing, he gets the job done and gets it done in style. He helped transform Texas A&M from middling Big XII team under Mike Sherman to a contending SEC team, no small feat.
The Wisconsin Connection
You can’t help but feel that part of the reason Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas was because of what Urban Meyer has done at Ohio State with the Buckeyes under probation.
If Meyer can lead Ohio State to an undefeated season with scholarship reductions and postseason ineligibility just imagine what he can do when the sanctions are over, or so the thinking goes.
No doubt, the prestige of playing in the SEC, the fertile recruiting ground and the money all played a part in Bielema’s decision to leave. But it’s still difficult to view the jump to Arkansas as anything more than a lateral move. Bielema will have to face Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M every year, not to mention an improved Ole Miss and Mississippi State who have done well under coaches Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen respectively.
The opportunity to win at Wisconsin and potentially compete for a national title, especially with Penn State about to nosedive under the weight of their own sanctions in the Leaders division, is no worse than at Arkansas.
While Barry Alvarez announced he’ll be coaching the Badgers during the Rose Bowl, attention now turns who will be the next head coach of the Badgers. There’s nothing wrong with Alvarez taking over for the bowl game, but it’s not in the long-term interest of the program to return to coaching.
Supporters of Alvarez might point to the job Bill Snyder of Kansas State as evidence that coming out of retirement can be done and a team can thrive. But Wisconsin is in a different place than K State was when Snyder returned. Kansas State hit rock bottom while Wisconsin is near the top of the heap.
To Alvarez’s credit, he knocked it out of the park during his press conference announcing he’d coach during the Rose Bowl. He convinced the public of the attractiveness of Madison and the Wisconsin coaching gig; he confirmed that the Wisconsin brand of football won’t change, meaning recruits shouldn’t waver in their commitment to the Badgers; and he, of course, had the memorable and lasting quote that he wouldn’t use a search committee to find a new coach because search committees call on him.
And now that the best candidates for the job are off the market, Paul Chryst and Dave Doeren, who’s going to get the job?
Those with ties to UW are Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph. Others outside the Wisconsin framework are Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, Miami head coach Al Golden, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
Petersen is the best fit, but he hasn’t shown a willingness to leave Boise State in the past. Working in the Badgers’ favor is the uncertainly of the Big East conference. The timing might be right for Petersen to go somewhere more stable.
Where the Badgers go from here is anyone’s guess.
Let me just say this. The show-cause penalty handed down to Jim Tressel makes it unlikely he’ll be coaching anywhere anytime soon. But if there’s one place a university could live with the show-cause penalty, it’s Wisconsin.
If hired, Tressel can’t coach the first five games of the season and also can’t coach during a bowl game in his first season. For what it’s worth, the Badgers have a built-in replacement to get them through that stretch in Alvarez.
And granted, any more infractions under Tressel’s watch would kill the Wisconsin program, but as a place that doesn’t have a history of breaking the rules, Wisconsin might be one place where they’re willing to take such a chance.
It’s not likely Tressel ends up at Wisconsin, but it’s one of the few places equipped to take on the risks of hiring him.
Finally, it similarly might not be likely that recently fired California coach Jeff Tedford becomes Wisconsin’s next head coach, but he’d make a good candidate as an offensive coordinator and associated head coach, if he’d accept such a position.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has publicly lobbied for Tedford, and that connection alone will make Wisconsinites love Tedford. He’s a big name and would lend the program instant credibility.
This week’s exclusive player interview is with Army cornerback Josh Jackson who takes on Navy on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT on CBS…
Question: It’s difficult to sum up the Army-Navy rivalry in a couple words, but what does this game mean to the players?
Jackson: This game, in a couple words, means satisfaction; this game will mean pride. In a sense, accomplishment to us and Army, to our coach, and an organization.
Question: There’s an opportunity to win the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. Is that goal front and center this week?
Jackson: Yes, sir. That’s the only thing we’re thinking about. Honestly, that’s one of our goals that we set earlier in the year. After the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, bowl game hopes out the window, but that one goal we set is still out there, to win that Commander-in-Chief Trophy for the first time since ’96, 16 years. We kept that hope and that dream alive by beating Air Force, and now we have a chance to do it against Navy. It’s our last game for our seniors; it’s the last time we’ll put on pads, for the majority of us, probably all of us, ever. We’re just ready to go out and play the best game possible.
Question: Can you give a scouting report on Navy and what makes them a difficult opponent?
Jackson: Obviously anytime you’re doing the triple option, it’s going to cause some type of confusion from a defensive perspective. Just the type of offense they run, we give respect to our opponents. Navy, they’re going to come with it. They’ve got some speed with their slots. And some of the thing things that they can do, you’ve always got to honor that. Their quarterback, although he’s a freshman, we’ve been told and we can see that he can put the ball where it needs to be. He’s pretty good at passing. At the same time, he is a freshman. This is going to his first Army-Navy experience. Those butterflies will be going, and the pressure is going to be on him. We’re going to make sure as a defense, we’ll put that pressure on even more.
Question: This is the culmination of your college career. How will you feel when the game is over?
Jackson: When the game is over, I want to feel I gave it everything I could. And even though my career hasn’t been the best ever or the best to come through the Academy or anything like that, with a win against Navy, that would put the icing on the cake. And that would ensure and solidify a great season and top a great career off with a win against Navy.
Question: What is your best quality, the best thing you offer your team?
Jackson: At the beginning of the season, the senior class and the leadership on the team labeled me as the emotional cheerleader. By that, they meant that a lot of emotion is going to come from me. The good, the drive, the intensity, getting everybody hyped, when things are going wrong, being the one to flip them around. So that’s one thing I bring. The other thing I bring is my fight and my attitude. I’m not the best athlete out there, but anytime I’m presented with a challenge, I’m going to step up to that challenge and do the best I can with it. Me, on the field, I’m never going to give up. If I get beat on the play, I’m really good at shaking it off like it never happened. I think that sets an example for our younger guys and for our defense to know that this is a defense and this is a team that has some warriors, has some fighters on it that isn’t going to quit.
Question: It’s difficult with the military commitment, but has it ever crossed your mind about a future in professional football?
Jackson: All the time. Since I started playing football in the fifth grade, that was the ultimate goal, to make it to the pros. It’s a lot harder to do that here at this academy and this institution, and it’s not really set up the way we want it to, to get a look for the next round or the next step in football. But the thought has never left my head. There’s been some times I’ve put it aside, like hey, I’ve just got to move on with my life. But at the end of the day, I’d love the opportunity to get a chance, just get a shot, get a chance to prove myself and just show that I can do something at the next level as well. But I take everything with a grain of salt. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, at the end of the day, I’m still blessed to play four years of college ball.
What Happened Before Saturday
Most of the college football awards apart from the Heisman went out on Thursday night, and congratulations go out to Wisconsin running back Montee Ball for winning the Doak Walker Award.
But the biggest news revolves around the coaching carousel, if you will.
While Bielema was hired by Arkansas in the SEC West, an SEC East school was going through it’s own coaching search that took more than two weeks to fill.
Tennessee was turned down by two separate coaches in Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Louisville’s Charlie Strong. The Volunteers have had their share of trouble the past few seasons, but it’s hard to believe a school with a stadium of over 100,000 wouldn’t be a more attractive destination.
Former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones might not have been the first choice, but he’s been a winner everywhere he’s gone.
In six combined seasons between Central Michigan and Cincy, Jones has compiled a record of 47-26 and won at least a share of four conference titles.
The Vols got themselves a good coach, one that will pay better dividends than Lane Kiffin or Derek Dooley.