Two major feature articles, countless eyes watching his social media accounts, leaked videos, and accusations of exchanging autographs for cash eventually gave Johnny Manziel a half off.
One of the few players in history capable of defending his Heisman Trophy will sit for the first half of Texas A&M’s season opener against Rice at Kyle Field on Saturday afternoon.
Many expressed outrage at the NCAA’s ruling that Manziel didn’t receive payment for his signature, but Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and the rest of his staff are probably eager to move on and play some football.
One half shouldn’t mean much to Manziel, who totaled 5,116 yards and 47 touchdowns through the air and ground last season, while leading the Aggies to an incredible victory over Alabama on the road, and a 41-13 drubbing of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
But there are plenty of players to talk about other than Manziel, who will have to find out what life is like without NFL first round pick Luke Joeckel at guard. Seniors Shep Klinke and Jake Matthews, along with his sophomore brother Mike Matthews, are charged with leading an offensive that must protect Manziel at all costs.
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Junior Matt Joeckel or freshman Kenny Hill will start ahead of Manziel. Joeckel went 1-for-1 for minus-two yards in five games last year, and Hill was a top ranked duel-threat quarterback coming out of Southland, Texas.
The Owls are coming off a 7-6 season led by senior quarterback Taylor McHargue‘s 2,209 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, and another 667 yards and 11 scores on the ground. Fifth-year senior running back Charles Ross also returns after 800 yards and five scores last season.
Cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Darrion Pollard lead the Owls secondary after senior Phillip Gaines was suspended for the game for violating team rules. That’s on top of senior linebacker Cameron Nwoosu missing camp with a knee injury.
The game begins at 1 p.m. ET and a live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here.
Betting Odds: Texas A&M is favored by 27.5 points.
Over/Under: 67.5 points
Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Rice 17