Manziel's numbers are not murky. He amassed 4,600 yards of total offense while performing in the Southeastern Conference, the nation's best league. Manziel also was dazzling in his team's nationally televised upset of then-top-rated Alabama.
Mark Blaudschun, a longtime Heisman voter who recently retired from the Boston Globe, said he would have no problem voting a defensive player first. He attended the Notre Dame-Boston College game with the express purpose of focusing on Te'o.
"I went into the game looking for him to do something," Blaudschun said. "I didn't hear his name called the whole night."
Blaudschun submitted his Heisman vote in this order: Manziel, Te'o and USC receiver Marqise Lee.
Voters in Oklahoma caught Te'o on the night his fourth-quarter interception secured Notre Dame's impressive upset win in Norman. So it's no surprise that all four Heisman voters from the Daily Oklahoman had Te'o first on their ballots.
Columnist Jenni Carlson said she thought Te'o was a decisive, consistent presence. She noted Manziel did not have great games in losses to Florida and Louisiana State, while conceding the Florida game was Manziel's first college start.
In the end, Carlson picked Te'o. "I just really felt like he was on a team that wins with defense, and largely wins with defense because of him," she said.
She added: "I'm pretty sure I voted for the guy who is not going to win."
The Times doesn't allow its reporters to participate in awards, so I surrendered my Heisman vote years ago. My top three would have been Manziel, Te'o and Lee.
I watched Te'o in several games and acknowledge him as Notre Dame's indispensable, spiritual and inspirational leader. However, in the end it was impossible for me to conclude Te'o had more impact over his team's win-loss record than Manziel.
I agree with Huston of HeismanPundit: "There is no acute bias against defensive players. There is structural bias… When you read a recap of a game, even a Notre Dame game, I defy you to find one AP recap with Manti Te'o's tackle numbers… All defensive stats are shrouded in mystery."
And with that, so much for the mystery of this year's Heisman race.