Momentum continues to build toward the likelihood of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel becoming the first freshman to win a Heisman Trophy in the 77-year history of college football’s top individual honor.
Odds released today by Bovada Sports Book (www.Bovada.lv) established Manziel, a redshirt freshman, as a 1/15 favorite to hoist the hardware Saturday night in New York. That dwarfed the odds given to the other two finalists: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o (4/1) and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (25/1).
In addition, Manziel _ who celebrates his 20th birthday today _ has carved out a solid lead in projections by StiffArmTrophy.com, which solicits feedback from Heisman voters. With input from 140 voters, the site reported this morning that Manziel has 82 first-place votes _ double the total for Te’o (41), the next-closest finalist _ and was listed on 127 of 140 ballots. Voters are required to select a first, second and third choice on each ballot.
Te’o appeared on 104 ballots, the site reported, with Klein receiving seven first-place votes and appearing on 94 ballots. The site has correctly predicted the Heisman winner in each of the last 10 years.
Manziel emerged Wednesday as the leader in the final weekly installment of the Scripps Howard News Service Heisman Trophy Poll, the nation’s longest-running Heisman poll. Since its inception in 1987, it has correctly forecast the Heisman winner in its final weekly installment in 21 of 25 years, including last season.
Manziel received seven of 10 available first-place votes from members of the Scripps voting panel. The redshirt freshman, who rushed for 1,181 yards, passed for 3,419 yards and accounted for 43 touchdowns (19 rushing, 24 passing) in his first season as the Aggies’ starting quarterback, is up for two awards that will be presented during tonight’s telecast of The Home Depot College Football Awards Show (6:30 p.m., ESPN): the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the Maxwell Award.
During a news conference to promote tonight’s awards show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Manziel acknowledged winning a national award would be a special way to celebrate his 20th birthday. But he said he hasn’t had much time to think about the opportunity.
“I haven’t really thought about my birthday much. I was more worried about trying to get finals done and get everything done before I left,” said Manziel, who will head from Florida to New York for Saturday’s Heisman presentation. “My birthday … kind of slipped my mind. But I’m looking forward to sharing my birthday with my dad.”
Manziel’s parents, John Paul and Michelle Manziel, have accompanied him to Florida for tonight’s awards show.
_ Jimmy Burch