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Even in a loss, “Johnny Football” became the story line after the Crimson Tide’s 49-42 win over Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies. Now, I realize that a Johnny Manziel story is nothing original, and as of late, it would almost be bigger news for him NOT to be talked about.
I am in no way a fan of Manziel. I think he is another case of a gifted athlete who simply lacks common sense, but — it definitely seems like there was a “but” coming at the end of that, didn’t it? — credit must be given when credit is due, and in watching the game he played last weekend, I’ll be the first to say the kid needs his credit.
Manziel completed 28 of 39 passes and had 464 passing yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in addition to rushing for 98 yards. Video game numbers, if you ask me. Not to mention it happened against an Alabama defense that has only given up 30 points or more four times since 2008. Alabama’s defense may not be what it has been in years past, and it is still well above average compared to other college defenses, but they got torched.
Although he didn’t lead his team to victory, he displayed some quite memorable plays that will translate nicely to a Heisman Trophy highlight reel, and, given today, Manziel would win the Heisman Trophy again. Manziel was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy when he took home the hardware last season, and after Saturday’s performance, I think it is safe to tab him as the frontrunner for the award this year.
Winning it again would put him in an elite category. Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only player in history to win the Heisman twice, first in 1974 and then in 1975. In recent years, a couple players have been close to doing it, such as Matt Leinart in 2004-05 and Tim Tebow in 2007-08. Neither duplicated their first win, which shows how difficult it is to be recognized as the best in college football two years in a row.
I realize that it’s early in the college football season, and there is a lot of time for things to change. Let’s not forget that at this point last year, West Virginia’s Geno Smith was tabbed as the favorite, and the eventual winner, Manziel, was still relatively unknown outside of College Station.
There are also players who are having pretty unbelievable seasons so far: Oregon’s Marcus Moriota in that high-powered offense, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Florida State’s breakout QB, Jameis Winston, is as advertised. All are great players who are having fantastic seasons so far. But Manziel has that something special that has set him apart from his fellow Heisman hopefuls — a wow factor.
The types of plays he makes are so spectacular that it makes it difficult for Heisman voters to ignore his performances. In sports, there are games that you can just look at stats and see the story. In doing that with Manziel, you’d only be getting half of it. His highlights astonish fans and baffle defensive coordinators.
So, while end-of-the-year numbers may be similar to others in college football, the highlights of Manziel will look vastly different. This is what puts him above the rest in the Heisman watch.
Now, I would love for a player I liked to be able to win the Heisman, and maybe, just maybe, that’ll happen, but simply put, Manziel’s ability to extend plays with his instincts, athleticism and speed makes him my early Heisman pick.