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Heisman Trophy 2012: Johnny Manziel, Manti Teo, Collin Klein are deserving finalists

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The greatest individual achievement in college football, the Heisman Trophy, will be awarded Saturday at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square, and this year's group of finalists are gems.


Sometimes its not the quantity, but the quality that makes the Heisman Trophy race so special.

On Saturday night, at the Best Buy Theater in New York's Time Square, that's what will be on display as Texas A&M Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame Fighting Irish senior linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas St. Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein will be featured at the 78th Heisman Trophy presentation (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

The trio outperformed the competition, which featured a strong preseason favorite in USC Trojans senior quarterback Matt Barkley and quarter-pole front-runner in West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith.

However, by mid-season three finalists had really separated themselves from the pack.

At first, Klein was the leader as he helped the Wildcats move as far up as No. 2 in college football polls. Kansas State held the slot for three weeks, including at one point earning the top spot in the BCS rankings (Nov. 11).

However, a disappointing 52-24 loss to the Baylor Bears ended the Wildcats' and Klein's shot at a National Championship and Heisman Trophy.

In the end, Klein's resume would be good enough to help him earn a trip to New York, but, not enough to beat Saturday's two favorites - Manziel and Te'o.

Manti Te'o

The Irish senior was easily the best story and leader of the three candidates.

The Hawaii native helped lead Notre Dame to its first unbeaten regular-season finish since 1988 and trip to the BCS National Championship Game where it will face the Alabama Crimson Tide, Jan. 8.

Te'o's 103 tackles and seven interceptions helped him collect a trio of college football awards Thursday, as he earned the Bednarik Award for top defensive player, the Walter Camp Foundation player of the year award and, most importantly, the Maxwell Award for the nation's most outstanding player.

Te'o beat out both Manziel and Klein for the Maxwell Award.

On Saturday, Te'o is looking to become the first ever "true" defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy and the first Notre Dame player since Tim Brown in 1987.

The odds are stacked against Te'o, but he does have a groundswell of support. Earlier in the week, Dan Patrick, the host of the popular sports talk radio show The Dan Patrick Show, admitted he voted for the Notre Dame linebacker.

Johnny Manziel

"Johnny Football" enters Saturday as the favorite to become the first ever Aggie and freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

Three sophomores have won the Heisman, including Tim Tebow in 2007, Sam Brandford in 2008 and Mark Ingram in 2009. However, Manziel, a redshirt freshman, will become the first ever first-year player.

Manziel put together an amazing season throwing for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and tallied a SEC-record 4,600 yards of total offense - a mark formerly owned by Tebow and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton

Manziel's stats and outstanding ability to make plays helped him earn the SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Player of the Year award.

On Thursday, Manziel won the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.