- Last Updated: 1:10 PM, October 27, 2012
- Posted: 1:04 AM, October 27, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. — The Manti Te’o Heisman Trophy campaign has started with a keystroke.
Whereas Kansas State sent out a mass mailing to promote quarterback Collin Klein, Notre Dame has gone digital.
The story earlier this week in The Post asking why a defensive player should not win the Heisman was tweeted by Notre Dame officials.
The touching story about Te’o reaching out via email to the family of a dying Detroit girl — Notre Dame officials tweeted it.
According to most Heisman polls, Klein is leader in the clubhouse, by several strokes. If Te’o is going to cut into Klein’s lead, he needs a monster game against an elite team on national TV.
In other words, Te’o needs tonight.
The fifth-ranked Irish (7-0) face their biggest challenge of the season when they play at No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1).
How big of a challenge? Odds-makers have installed the Sooners as 11-point favorites. The Sooners are 79-4 at home under coach Bob Stoops. Oklahoma has issued 904 media credentials, the most in history.
Oklahoma is fifth in the nation in scoring (44.7 points per game), but since a 24-19 home loss to Klein and Kansas State, the Sooners have averaged 52 points in winning their next three games.
That is what Oklahoma does: score. And scoring is what Notre Dame, behind Te’o, has not allowed.
The Irish are second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing a meager 9.43 points per game.
Te’o is the heart of that defense. He is the soul. He is the leading tackler at a shade under 10 per game.
“I think that’s the reason you come here, to play with the best but also against the best, and it’s definitely a matchup I’m looking forward to,’’ Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard said this week. “I know that there are a lot of schemes that I’m going to have to be blocking him and things like that, so it’s something you look forward to in practice and try to get prepared for.”
That’s the matchup to watch tonight, the matchup that could determine the outcome of the game and the winner of the Heisman.
When asked who would get the job of blocking Te’o, Stoops said jokingly, “Whoever draws the unlucky straw.’’
Enter Millard, No. 33 on your Oklahoma roster. He goes 6-foot-2, 256 pounds. He likes to hit people.
Te’o is No. 5 on your Notre Dame roster. He goes 6-foot-2, 255 pounds. He likes to hit people, too.
“I think his drive is part of what makes him so great,” Millard said. “He’s coming up snap after snap, hitting people in the mouth. He gets cut, gets knocked down, you can see him roll, get up, chase the play and get a tackle. He doesn’t have quit in him.”
Millard is similar. He knew when he accepted the role of fullback he was not going to be a Heisman Trophy contender. He wasn’t going to be the next Adrian Peterson.
But players such as Millard make a difference in games. If Millard can make a difference against Notre Dame’s difference-maker, Te’o, that 11-point line will seem like an appetizer.
Klein became a Heisman contender after piling up 228 yards in total offense and one touchdown against Oklahoma. He became the front-runner when he sent West Virginia running for the hills.
If Millard neutralizes Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker still might get an invitation to come to New York as a Heisman finalist — an honor, no doubt. But he will not hear his name called. All the tweets in the world won’t change that.Follow @NYPostsports