NCAA FB

Forget offense: Te'o deserves Heisman

CFB on FOX's Charles Davis discusses his 2012 Heisman finalists.
CFB on FOX's Charles Davis discusses his 2012 Heisman finalists.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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Inflation makes everything worth less. Dollars, grades, even football yardage. Sometimes you don’t realize it when it’s happening, because you’re amazed by the size of the numbers. But the truth is, as numbers get bigger, meaning gets smaller.

We are going to find out Saturday night who wins the Heisman Trophy, and it’ll probably be Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football is a fine choice, a typical choice with huge numbers and a win over Alabama. That’s the formula. Take a quarterback or running back with big, bigger, biggest numbers, add a signature moment and some cool marketing things. Winner. Heisman.

Here’s the thing: Manti Te’o deserves it more than Manziel.

At some point, Heisman voters have to stop letting their heads spin over numbers. They are easier and easier to build up. The thing that stands out about this college-football season isn’t the ever-inflated offensive numbers, but instead the fact that Notre Dame has gotten to No. 1 because it’s stopping those numbers.

Te’o is the most important, best player on the most important, best (for now) team. Notre Dame wasn’t even expected to do much this year because it doesn’t have a quarterback. Now, a defensive front seven has led a team to the national championship game.

Come on, Heisman voters. Here’s hoping you didn’t pick another guy because he had great plays in 10-second segments on SportsCenter. A lot of great plays.

Manziel is the first freshman to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000. He’s not a bad choice, just an uninspired one.

I truly don’t understand why the Heisman has never gone to a defensive player, other than Charles Woodson, who also caught passes and was a thrilling return guy. Just a guess, but maybe in the old days, the game was so defense-based that any offensive standout was just too hard to overlook.

So he was the story in these things people used to use to get information called “news-papers.’’ Everyone loves the guy who scores the touchdowns.

And over the years, the offensive numbers went from the hundreds to the thousands, with the camera on the guy with the ball. The game is offense-based now, which is fine. But in an inflated offensive era, Notre Dame went undefeated by stopping offenses, allowing just 10.33 points a game.

Best in the country.

All we ever do is tell kids that defense is the most important thing in sports, and then prove over and over that we don’t mean it. All that talk about putting the best athlete on defense, and that defense wins?

Yet not one defense-only player has ever been considered the most outstanding in the country? Not once in history?

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It’s true that quarterback is the most important position on the field.

I’m not arguing that. I guess it’s just easier to quantify big numbers. Te’o’s big number? He had seven interceptions, second-most in the country, one behind the leader. It is a remarkable number for a linebacker.

But also, Te’o is exactly what we are looking for in college sports, exactly what this game needs. The game now is defined by greed from schools and conferences.

Te’o was an Eagle scout. He graduated early from Notre Dame. He is selfless: Shortly after his grandmother and also his girlfriend died, Te’o was told of a family in Michigan whose young daughter was dying. He selflessly surprised them by writing a touching letter about knowing their pain.

Maybe those things don’t exactly translate into a great football player, but they do make him stand out as someone who is selfless and cares about education. He has plenty of flaws; everyone does. And when he goes on to an NFL career, we’ll find out about them.

But for now, he represents something college football truly needs.

NCAA FASHION POLICE

Oregon, Maryland and others show off their unique uniforms from this season.

Te’o is not the most dominant defensive player in history. But he is a leader who made others around him better. He carried the team and covered for its lack of offense, though quarterback Everett Golson has been improving.

Te’o had the big interception at Oklahoma. He was in on the signature goal line stand against USC. Notre Dame’s front seven is something historically special.

This isn’t to say that Manziel is no more than numbers. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, who is likely to finish third in voting, is a leader, too.

Te’o is the model, though. And Notre Dame is undefeated. He doesn’t have big numbers, but he does have big meaning.

Tagged: Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel

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