The Official 2012 Heisman Candidate Debate

As candidates focus on bringing the Heisman home, a debate is in order to determine qualifications. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

The Downtown Athletic Club. New York, N.Y.

Moderator: Welcome to the 2012 Heisman Trophy debate – the first and only debate among the top Heisman candidates before voting commences and the award winner is announced Dec. 8.

Tonight we are joined by Collin Klein, quarterback, Kansas State; Manti Te’o, linebacker, Notre Dame; Kenjon Barner, running back, Oregon; AJ McCarron, quarterback, Alabama; Braxton Miller, quarterback, Ohio State; Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia; and Matt Barkley, quarterback, University of Southern California.

Tonight’s format is an open discussion. I will pose questions about college football and the Heisman Trophy, and any of you can feel free to answer. I simply ask that you keep your answers brief and your jokes about the Big Ten to a minimum. No offense, Mr. Miller.

I will begin with the topic of defense. Is it a factor in high-scoring, modern football, and should a defensive player be eligible for the Heisman Trophy?

McCarron: I play in the SEC. Defense is very important there. If we play a low-scoring game, it’s because our defenses are just that good. If we play a high-scoring game, it’s because our offenses are just that good. There is no arguing with that logic. The SEC is infallible, and I am proud to be the only SEC candidate here tonight.

Te'o: No defensive player has won the Heisman Trophy since Charles Woodson in 1997. And he got a lot of votes for his impact as a return man. The Heisman Trophy is not supposed to be an award for the best quarterback or running back. It was designed to be an award for the best college football player. Those of us on defense are college football players. We have been forgotten for too long. It’s time to give the Heisman to a defensive player. It’s time to show all the kids out there that they too can achieve college football immortality even if they can’t throw or catch.

Smith: I don’t understand the question. What’s defense?

Moderator: You know, tackling and stuff. Stopping the other team from scoring.

Smith: Nothing. Doesn’t ring a bell.

Klein: What my team did to you. And what Texas Tech did to you, too.

Smith: Oh. OK. I hated that.

Miller: Wait. Why are you even here?

Smith: The invites went out two weeks ago.

Moderator: Let’s move along. Bowl games. The Heisman is given out before bowl season. Some Heisman winners have gone on to play terribly in their bowl game, undercutting their supposed status as the best college football player. Do you think the trophy should be given out after bowl season?

Miller: Bowls are dumb. I definitely don’t think the Heisman should have anything to do with bowls.

Smith: I think bowls are pretty important. We beat Clemson 70-33 last year. I threw six touchdowns.

Barner: Your whole candidacy is about the past, isn’t it?

Smith: Shut up.

McCarron: I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I play in the SEC. So I think bowls should count. Specifically, the BCS Championship Game. The SEC has won that for as long as anyone on this stage can remember. That should probably count for something. So, again, as the only SEC player on this stage, I think bowls should be factored into the Heisman race. But I realize I might be biased because I play in the SEC, the best conference with the best competition.

Te'o: You people are so annoying.

Moderator: Let us move on to the NFL. Many Heisman winners in recent years have gone on to have subpar professional careers. Should voters consider a player’s NFL potential in voting?

Barkley: Definitely. In fact, I think that should be the only criterion. Whoever is the favorite for the No. 1 overall pick should be the Heisman winner. Case closed.

Klein: Whoa. Hold on. It shouldn’t just be about where a player might be drafted. We should also consider what kind of NFL career a player might have. Do we really want to vote for Matt Barkley of USC, the same school that produced Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez? Whereas I can’t name one Kansas State player who was an NFL bust.

Barkley: Huh. That’s a good point. Neither can I.

Klein: See?

Barkley: I also don’t know whether I can name a single Kansas State player in the NFL.

Barner: Ha! Good one, Barkley.

Klein: Shut up, Barner. What are you wearing, anyway? The rest of us are in suits, and you’ve got on some kind of shiny silver astronaut suit with wings on it.

Barner: Hey, Nike makes an awesome suit.

McCarron: Classic is better.

Barner: I bet kids prefer my astronaut suit.

Te'o: I think young recruits prefer classic and the occasional uniform that everyone over 18 might find disgusting.

Moderator: We’re getting off topic a bit.

Smith: Yeah, let’s get back to the NFL question. Who’s the most exciting player in the NFL right now? It’s RG3. He won the Heisman last year; he’s already a great NFL quarterback; and -- here’s the best part -- I’ve been called the next RG3.

Barkley: I haven’t heard that for, like, two weeks.

Smith: Shut up.

Moderator: Barkley is right. The RG3 comparisons have really died off.

Smith: Just moderate, guy. We don’t need real-time fact checking. You’re not Candy Crowley.

Moderator: OK, before this gets out of hand, let’s wrap it up. I want all of you to give me a closing statement about why you should be the Heisman Trophy winner, but do it no longer than a 140-character tweet. You are all in college, after all.

McCarron: The best college football player has to be in the best conference. Hashtag: SEC. Hashtag: SEC. Hashtag: SEC.

Smith: My stats are still awesome. Hashtag: September2012NeverForget.

Barner: Don’t hate me because I look cooler than you. Hashtag: Swag.

Miller: It’s a regular-season award; bowls mean nothing. Hashtag: AskTroySmith.

Barkley: Give me the Heisman. The Chiefs or Jaguars deserve a little something extra to market to their fans next year. Hashtag: IAmNotSanchez.

Klein: The Heisman is a quarterback award. Smith and Barkley have fallen off. SEC quarterbacks stink. I’m what’s left. Hashtag: DoItForBillSnyder.

Te'o: A vote for me is a vote for defense. Hashtag: IKnowIAmNotGoingToWin. Hashtag: ButItWasNiceToBeHere.

Moderator: Thank you, everyone, and good night.