Lies, damned lies and Johnny Manziel's statistics?
During a Heisman debate on HuffPost Live, Steve Herring of The New Notre Dame Nation Network argued that the gaudy stats racked up by the Texas A&M quarterback are misleading.
On the ground and through the air, Manziel accounted for a staggering 43 total touchdowns and 4,600 total yards over the Aggies' 12-game schedule. By comparison, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein's 37 total touchdowns and 3,380 total yards seem relatively pedestrian. And what about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's seven interceptions and 103 total tackles? Part of the reason that no purely defensive player has won the award is because it is so hard to stack up those stats against offensive numbers.
Looking to contextualize Manziel's output, Herring called out a few games against weak opposition.
"You talk about padding stats, and that's a very fair argument when you start talking about Johnny Manziel's stats. Three games against SMU, South Carolina State and Sam Houston State, he racks up 16 touchdowns," said Herring before praising the quality of defenses in the SEC. "He goes against, not Alabama, I'm talking about his games against Florida, LSU, Mississippi State... zero passing touchdowns and three interceptions."
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Let's take a look at Manzie's stat lines in the games Herring mentioned:
- @ SMU: 20/36, 294 passing yards, 4 TD passes, 13 carries, 124 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
- South Carolina State: 15/20, 174 passing yards, 3 TD passes, 8 carries, 78 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
-Sam Houston State: 14/ 20, 267 passing yards, 3 TD passes, 1 interception, 16 carries, 100 yards, 2 rushing TDs
- Florida: 23/30, 173 passing yards, 17 carries, 60 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
- LSU: 29/56, 276 passing yards, 3 interceptions, 17 carries, 27 rushing yards
- @ Mississippi State: 30/36, 311 passing yards, 21 carries, 129 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Does Herring have a valid point? Or is he just stumping for his preferred candidate?
Whether or not Herring is on to something about Manziel, Heisman voters will certainly consider the context of each candidate's performance. Te'o starred for a dominant defensive unit on an undefeated team that is set to play for the BCS national title. Klein lifted K-State to the verge of the national championship game and will lead an 11-1 team into the Fiesta Bowl. For his part, Johnny Football led the Aggies to a 10-2 record and delivered the performance of the season against Alabama.
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton also appeared in the HuffPost Live segment with Derring and threw his support behind Manziel, highlighting the difficulty of the SEC schedule rather than the Aggies' non-conference games.
"He played in the conference that has won the six past national championships. There is a reason the SEC has one six national championships: Because they're the best conference, the most competitive conference," Tarkenton, an SEC product out of Georgia, argued. "The most football players from that conference go to the NFL than any other conference. He played in a very tough league on national television. Also, as we stated, [he played] against Alabama, who has won two of the last three national championships, and he does light them up and he's the difference of the game."
WATCH: Tarkenton Makes Heisman Pick
Who do you agree with? Are Manziel's stats inflated thanks to a few games against weaker teams? Or could they actually be depressed due to the intense competition of the SEC?