He is must-see TV anymore.
A run, a pass, a rabbit pulled out of his helmet – you name it and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel can provide it these days, and provide it with style, some panache, some electricity that has proven so highlight-worthy than much of the nation’s college football fandom has stood up and taken notice of what’s going on with a two-loss team … and part of it even thinks the 15th-ranked Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC) can challenge top-ranked Alabama (9-0, 6-0) this Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The latter seems a bit far-fetched. But is it?
Think about it – who expected a freshman to take the reins in College Station, Texas, and not only carry Kevin Sumlin’s crew into the big, bad Southeastern Conference and earn some respect, but actually make a little noise? Put it this way, a week after the Tide knocked Mississippi State from the unbeaten ranks with a 38-7 runaway at home, Johnny Football and Co. took care of the Bulldogs, 38-13, in Starkville, Miss.
That’s a case of pick your poison as to which was more impressive … or damaging to MSU.
Manziel ripped off 311 yards through the air – completing 30 of 36 attempts – and another 129 on the ground in that one last week, scoring on a blistering, zig-zagging 37-yard run in the second quarter and then an 8-yard jaunt in the fourth.
He is, in short, the real deal … because he’s putting on performances like that every week, against teams in the best circuit this side of Sunday football.
But ’Bama, clearly the country’s best team the first nine weeks of the season, received a little wake-up call at Louisiana State. That comeback victory last Saturday salvaged a perfect season and kept the Tide on track to defend its BCS title.
They also thrive on shutting down teams driven by singular stars. But they might want to be careful in this one – RB Ben Malena has provided a nice support system to Manziel’s dramatics. He averages 6.6 yards per carry, and if Manziel wasn’t about to zoom past 1,000 rushing yards at this point, Malena would be.
Manziel ain’t the only Heisman candidate in this one, though. Tide QB AJ McCarron remains in the running, too, for the sport’s highest individual honor.
In other top 25 games of interest:
No. 10 Florida State (8-1, 5-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3), tonight – What in the name of Frank Beamer has happened to the Hokies? A preseason top-10 choice, they’ve dropped like a stone as the months moved from summer to fall this season. You’d assume they’d be mere fodder for FSU and EJ Manuel as the QB attempts to strengthen his own Heisman candidacy. Funny, this seems the most likely of unlikely upsets to happen this weekend.
No. 11 Oregon State (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) at No. 14 Stanford (7-2, 5-1), Saturday – The Beavers were a story to rival any other this fall … until injured QB Sean Mannion was rushed back and they fell a couple weeks ago at Washington, which, oddly enough, knocked Stanford from the unbeaten ranks a couple months ago. Backup Cody Vas is back in for OSU in a matchup between two quality teams … that are no better than second and third in the conference pecking order behind Oregon.
No. 21 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 7 LSU (7-2, 3-2), Saturday – It’s a shame the Tigers won’t get another crack at ’Bama this season. LSU outplayed No. 1 last week before falling in the final minutes. Most teams would be emotionally crushed after that, but Les Miles-coached squads seem to move on like few others and just play. That does not bode with for Mississippi State.