The Heisman Trophy race is down to two quarterbacks — Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Kansas State’s Collin Klein. You can argue otherwise, but you’ll be wrong. As such, isn’t it time we actually dive in and look at the stats of these two guys to determine who has had the superior season?
Let’s start with the basic numbers. Each man has played ten games.
Here are Collin Klein’s stats: 2,020 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 748 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns
So Klein has put up 2,768 total yards and 31 total touchdowns.
Here are Johnny Manziel’s stats: 2,780 passing yards 18 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 1,014 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns
So Manziel has put up 3,794 total yards and 33 total touchdowns.
Just on basic stats alone Manziel has over a thousand more yards than Klein and has accounted for more touchdowns.
That’s a pretty substantial difference, an average of 100 extra yards per game for Manziel.
But are the numbers accurate reflections of both performances?
Let’s dive in and unpack them in terms of competition and overall relevance.
What’s more, Klein is just the fifth, fifth!, best quarterback in the Big 12 if you use total yards to judge his performance. Baylor’s Nick Florence, West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Texas Tech’s Seth Doege and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones are all substantially better than Klein in terms of total yardage produced per game.
Given that every team in the BIg 12 plays every other team, you can’t argue that these numbers are slanted in any way. Playing eight of the exact same opponents, four Big 12 quarterbacks have outperformed Collin Klein this season.
Statistically Collin Klein is an average quarterback in the Big 12, the fifth best of ten starting quarterbacks in the conference.
Meanwhile Johnny Manziel is the best SEC quarterback this season by a wide margin. The next best quarterback in the league, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, who ranks 11th in the country, is over 600 yards behind Manziel when it comes to total yardage.
Let’s break this down further.
Of his ten games Manziel has played three games against top five national defenses — Alabama, LSU, and Florida.
Collin Klein hasn’t even played a single top 15 defense all season.
Against the twenty worst defenses, Manziel has played one team while Klein has played three.
Top ten BCS teams:
Manziel has played three, Klein has played none.
Top twenty BCS teams:
Manziel has played four teams, Collin Klein has played one, Oklahoma. (Presently Texas is on the schedule for the final week of the season, which would raise that number to two. However, if Oklahoma loses one more game the Sooners are unlikely to be a top 20 BCS team).
In terms of wins vs. top 20 BCS teams, Manziel has two, while Klein has one.
This isn’t cherry-picking stats. Put simply, Manziel has played tougher competition and dominated those opponents, while Klein has played weaker competition and been the fifth best statistical quarterback in his conference.
The lazy response, i.e. the Kansas State fan response, will be, “Numbers don’t tell the whole story.” Okay, then what’s the the historical value of the performance? History has to matter, right? How do you stack up against past greats?
Two SEC quarterbacks have won the Heisman trophy in the past six years. Both of these players, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, put up mind-blowing numbers. Manziel is on pace to break their total yardage records. That is, Manziel is on pace to post the best statisical season for any quarterback in SEC history.
How does Collin Klein compare to Robert Griffin III, last year’s Big 12 Heisman winner?
Last year RGIII put up 4642 total yards. Right now Klein is on pace for 3322 total yards. That’s 1600 less total yards than RGIII put up last year. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford passed for 4464 yards in 2008 when he won the Heisman. That may well be 2000 more yards than Klein passes for. Yep, Bradford passed for nearly twice what Klein is on pace to pass for.
Why is this important? Because it puts the numbers into context. Manziel’s season is going to be the best in SEC history, Klein’s season is downright pedestrian for the Big 12.
If Klein wins the Heisman he’s likely to finish with less passing yards than any quarterback that has won the award in the 21st century.
Indeed, when you dive into the numbers, Manziel’s 1,000+ total yardage difference looks even more impressive, not less. Collin Klein has statistically underperformed Manziel by a substantial margin while playing vastly inferior defensive competition.
Put simply, if Klein played Manziel’s schedule, no one would be talking about him as a Heisman contender.
Manziel has played better defenses and tougher teams in a conference with better players and better teams.
Yet he’s still smoked Collin Klein in all statistical categories.
The fact that this is even a contest shows how little attention most Heisman voters pay to actual stats and competition.
This isn’t even a contest. The only reason Collin Klein is a Heisman contender is because his team is undefeated and Heisman voters have become lazy, looking for top teams and then rewarding the best player on those teams instead of the best overall player.
When you dive into the numbers, there’s only one result that makes sense.
Give Johnny Football the Heismanziel.