First impressions, second thoughts and the third degree:

Most everyone thought it was huge breakthrough when a freshman, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy last year.

No other first-year player had done it since the inaugural statue was presented to Chicago running back Jay Berwanger in 1935.

There was a three-year stretch from 2007 to ’09 where a sophomore claimed the Heisman — quarterback Tim Tebow of Florida, quarterback Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and running back Mark Ingram of Alabama, respectively — but every other winner has been either a junior or senior.

That brings us to two other prominent voting blind spots when it comes to the Heisman.

The only defensive player to win it was Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997. Meanwhile, not since Houston quarterback Andre Ware and Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer were the recipients in 1989 and ’90, respectively, has the Heisman winner played for a school outside of the five power conferences.

It’s hard to see that changing this time around, but my ballot will give careful weight to both outliers.

Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald has put up dominating numbers that are, in some cases, better than what Nebraska tackle Ndamukong Suh had in 2009 when he was fourth in the Heisman balloting.

Meanwhile, Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois is arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the nation and — regardless of his Mid-American Conference roots — his resume, short-term and long-term, is Heisman-worthy.

The Heisman discussion will pick up big-time in the next 10 days with all eyes on two quarterbacks. Freshman Jameis Winston of unbeaten and second-ranked Florida State is a major contender, but his situation could be affected if an allegation of rape results in charges. Then there’s senior A.J. McCarron of Alabama, who could become the front-runner if he puts on a show guiding his top-ranked and defending national championship club past archrival Auburn Saturday.

AN EVEN MATCH: No surprise that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he has “no intention’’ of trading disgraced outfielder Ryan Braun.

Regardless of the massive PR hit the club has taken since Braun admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, leading to a 65-game suspension last season, Melvin has to carefully measure Braun’s value against the market. That process is sure to carry at least into next season.

There’s some good news on the PED front, though. With National League Central Division rival St. Louis signing free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta — he of the 50-game suspension last year — self-respecting Cardinals fans won’t be so sanctimonious.

A LESSON IN SELF-PROMOTION: University of Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen was criticized in some quarters earlier this month because he declined to toot his own BCS horn.

Many believe the Badgers merit a Bowl Championship Series berth, but Andersen left that debate to the media and look what happened: UW took care of business, beating Indiana and Minnesota to move from 22nd to 15th in the BCS standings, putting it one spot away from qualification.

In contrast, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer last week took public issue with the BCS formula, which could keep his third-ranked club out of the national title game despite a possible unbeaten record.

Meyer not only came across as disingenuous — he didn’t complain about the BCS when he was at Florida and the Gators twice made it into the national title game with one loss — he subsequently acknowledged that he erred for the outburst, saying it turned out to be a needless distraction for the Buckeyes.

Contact Andy Baggot at abaggot@madison.com or 608-252-6175.

Covers University of Wisconsin hockey and football.

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