Back for another dose of our MNC Wednesday miniseries entry analyzing Heisman Trophy history, and in 56 seasons overall so far now, we have confirmed just 17 winners—which is pretty crazy. Yes, we have the benefit of hindsight, of course, but some of the elected winners just have defied logic to us. It is what it is as we start closing in on the most recent 10-year period in college football history. So, without further noise, enjoy another edition of our retroactive sports history fun!

2012 Heisman Trophy winner: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (original); Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (revised)

In a stunning development, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman vote as he led the Texas A&M Aggies to a 10-2 record against the No. 20 SOS. The Aggies reached the Cotton Bowl on the back of Manziel’s video-game statistics: 5,116 total yards with 47 total touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a 155.3 QB rating (15th in the nation). Texas A&M was the only team to defeat the mythical national champion, and that is probably why he dominated the Heisman vote, in truth.

As is often the case, there are always other quality candidates to consider, and this is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2012 Heisman Trophy, a list that is both diverse and not diverse:

  • Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: 3,561 total yards with 39 total TDs and 9 INTs for a 149.2 rating (No. 17 SOS)
  • Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon: 2,023 scrimmage yards with 23 TDs (No. 32 SOS)
  • Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: 85 tackles, 24.5 TFLs, 14.5 sacks, 1 INT (No. 31 SOS)
  • Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: 3,893 passing yards for 39 TDs and 10 INTs for a 174.8 QB rating
  • A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama: 2,937 total yards with 31 TDs and 3 INTs for a 175.3 QB rating (No. 14 SOS)

Klein led the Wildcats to the Big XII title and an 11-1 record with a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s better than TAMU’s also-ran status in the SEC, for sure, and the SOS rating is better, although the stats are lesser. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either, as we have seen with players running up stats for the wrong reasons. Barnes helped Oregon to the Fiesta Bowl with an 11-1 record that just left the Ducks out of the Pac-12 title game. And we have a defensive player, too, which is rare.

Jones wasn’t even the top defensive vote getter, but he should have been as the Bulldogs went 11-1 to qualify for the SEC title game, where they lost to Alabama. But what we see here so far is a group of players who led their teams to better finishes than Manziel did for TAMU, even if the video-game statistics are not there on the same level. But there are more great QBs on this list, when we drill deep down on the nation’s QB efficiency rating leaders.

Murray was second in the nation for efficiency, but his presence here basically eliminates Jones at the same time. Meanwhile, McCarron led the Crimson Tide to the SEC title while also leading the nation in efficiency. That’s a big double double, of course, and his SOS is higher than Manziel’s mark. This comes back again to the ridiculous stats the Aggies QB put up, in comparison to the modest ones McCarron posted. So, in the end here, we have three QBs and one RB … let’s breakdown the signal callers first:

  • TAMU: Three skill position players over 911 yards each, for a total of 2,935 yards and 22 TDs
  • KSU: Three skill position players over 742 yards each, for a total of 2,637 yards and 23 TDs
  • BAMA: Three skill position players over 1,000 yards each, for a total of 3,750 yards and 43 TDs

What we see here is that Alabama was loaded, and A&M also had very competent skill position players who were denied more opportunity by Manziel calling his own number a lot. The Crimson Tide had better players, but McCarron was not the ball hog that Manziel was. As for Klein, he had the least amount of support, still led his team to a conference title, and did it against a great schedule, too—even if that QB rating was lower than the other. Thus, we have dilemmas here.

We really cannot give our nod here to either Manziel or McCarron, as they were playing basically for all-star teams when Klein was not. His QB rating is middling, but all the other factors are excellent. We can live with that, and he did finish third in the vote at the time, too, so we’re not that far off. So, what about Barner? He was ninth in the Heisman balloting, and the Ducks had a very good QB in Marcus Mariota (163.2 QB rating) and a great all-purpose player in De’Anthony Thomas (1,757 yards and 17 TDs).

That’s a better supporting cast than Klein had at Kansas State, so that leaves us with Klein as a very surprising pick here for 2012. We will be honest here as we do not remember Klein at all. So, this may be our most shocking analysis, as we end up picking a player that we never imagined we would—because we didn’t even know who he was when we began this exercise. That’s objectivity, however, at its purest.

Congratulations to Collin Klein, the real Heisman Trophy winner for 2012.