A Heisman Trophy race that started with a dozen candidates was down to two by November. Ten days later, it was reduced to one.

That one was Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Heisman voters get three votes, and Manziel received my first-place vote for several reasons, none more salient than his work on Nov. 10, when he entered the den of No. 1 Alabama and strutted out with a sizzling, stunning, spellbinding victory over the Crimson Tide.

That would be a landmark achievement for any quarterback. For a redshirt freshman like Manziel, it was mind-boggling.

For a redshirt freshman in his first year under a new head coach (Kevin Sumlin), operating a new offensive system and new to the world's most heralded conference, the almighty SEC, I considered beating Alabama Manziel's Heisman-clinching accomplishment.

There is no question Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o was spectacular this season, probably the best defensive player in the country -- and the centerpiece of the No. 1 defense that is the strength of the Fighting Irish.

That's why he received my second-place vote. If I were drafting for an NFL team, I'd love to have the opportunity to select Te'o. His leadership was tremendous and his numbers off the chart, especially for someone at his position.

But Te'o's season was, in most ways, not appreciably better than several other defensive players, particularly that of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, a one-man wrecking crew and the SEC defensive player of the year.

Manziel, however, blew away the rest of the offensive field. He rolled up 576 yards in total offense in one win and broke the SEC single-season record for total yardage that had been held by 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton.

Manziel -- I consider his "Johnny Football" nickname a lazy way to compliment a player who excels at the game he loves -- passed for more than 3,400 yards and ran for almost 1,200 yards. He threw for 24 touchdowns, ran for 19 more.

Moreover, Manziel cruised through the eye test. He's the most watchable player in college football, just as Robert Griffin III was in 2011 and Newton was in 2010.

The vote, for me, was not particularly difficult. Manziel won the award. Te'o received my second-place vote. My third-place vote went to USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who might be the best pure football player in the country.

No voter's remorse here. I could understand why someone would vote for Te'o. I certainly see why someone would vote for Manziel. They were the top two, which explains their presence in New York. One of them will win; Kansas State's Collin Klein, in the race for much of the season, is there as a seat-filler.

The young man whose name should be announced Saturday is Manziel. He did things we've never seen by any quarterback, much less a freshman. His season, quite simply, defied logic.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.

Heisman trophy ceremonies
SATURDAY: ESPN, 5 p.m.


The NOMINEES AND THE NUMBERS
ColLin KlEin (above), QB, Kansas St.
Completed 180 of 272 passes for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns; rushed for 890 yards and 22 TDs.
JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, Texas A&M
Completed 273 of 400 passes for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns; rushed for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Had 101 tackles (46 solo) and two sacks; led nation in interceptions by a linebacker with seven.