Did Te'o open the door for Clowney in 2013?


Did Te'o open the door for Clowney in 2013?

Manti Teo didnt win the Heisman Trophy this year, but he may have cracked the door open for a purely-defensive player to win college footballs most prestigious honor down the road.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has already received some way-too-early Heisman chatter for 2013 after finishing sixth in 2012. Clowney received four first-place votes and garnered 61 points, more than NIUs Jordan Lynch and Oregons Kenjon Barner.

The sophomores 13 sacks were tied for the most in the nation, and hell return to a strong South Carolina squad next year as hes ineligible for the NFL Draft until after his junior season. Hes regarded as the most dominant force on a defensive line in college football, and has already garnered significant national attention.

Perhaps Teos finish showed some unconvinced voters that its not a sin to vote for a defensive player.

MORE: Dr. Saturday: Will a defensive player ever win the Heisman? Well, what about next year?

Teo garnered more second-place votes than all but one Heisman runner-up, and only finished about 300 points behind a guy who set the SEC record for all-purpose yards in 2012. That seems like good news for Clowney, given the willingness to vote for Teo, who didnt play a lick of offense or special teams.

But Notre Dame went undefeated with a top-ranked defense. That had just as much to do with his Heisman Trophy candidacy than his on-field play -- which, interceptions aside, wasnt as statistically eye-popping as youd expect from a middle linebacker in the running for a Heisman.

Without my team, I wouldn't be a Heisman candidate, Teo said earlier. If we weren't 12 and 0, I wouldn't be a Heisman candidate. So without my team and their help, I wouldn't be going to New York.

Offensive players can put up monster numbers on teams with multiple losses (like Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III) and win the award. Defensive players, however dominant, dont have that luxury -- Hugh Greens Pittsburgh team went 11-1 in 1980 while Alex Karras Iowa squad went 7-1-1 in 1957, and theyre the only two other purely-defensive players to finish second -- so Clowneys chances hinge just as much on his on-field performance as South Carolinas record.

South Carolina avoids Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M in 2013 and draws Florida and Clemson at home. A road date against Georgia and a potential SEC title game look like the Gamecocks two biggest tests away from Columbia, but obviously plenty can change between now and next fall.

After Manziel was announced as the Heisman winner, plenty Teo supporters took to Twitter to argue that if Teo cant win the honor, no defensive player could. Teo built the strongest case a defensive player had for the Heisman in over three decades, maybe ever.

Itll be tough for Clowney to equal that. If he can, though, perhaps Teos 2012 finish will help Clowney in 2013.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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