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2012 Heisman Watch: From nowhere come three outstanding candidates for college football's top individual award

A freshman, a defensive player and a Kansas State quarterback represent the best players in college football, as the Heisman Trophy award ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT Saturday in New York.

Jonathan Daniel

The 2012 college football season began without many expectations for Kansas State, Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

Imagine the odds of a parlay of those three teams finishing in the top 10. How about a freshman, a defensive player and a Kansas State player becoming the only three-player Heisman Trophy finalist group since 2008.

It's an out-of-nowhere kind of finalist group, but one representing accomplishment befitting college football's top individual award.

Texas A&M's freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is probably the odds-on favorite for the award, which will be given at 7 p.m. CT at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.

No freshman has ever won it (Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson finished second in 2004), but Manziel's 70 plays this season of 20 yards or more is the highest total in FBS, and his 4,600 total yards give him the kind of versatility possessed by the last two winners; Auburn's Cam Newton in 2010 and Baylor's Robert Griffin III last year.

Manziel isn't the only finalist from a traditionally underrepresented group. Notre Dame's Manti Te'o looks to become the first primarily defensive player to win the award since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1998. Te'o's credentials, however, are impressive enough for consideration.

Te'o has seven interceptions this season, tied for second-most in FBS and three more than any other linebacker. Add in two fumble recoveries and his nine total takeaways are tied for the most in the nation.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is making a bid to become the first Wildcats player to ever win the award after a season in which he accounted for 37 touchdowns.

Coverage of the awards presentation begins at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.