10 Things We Learned from Aggies' Win vs. Bulldogs
Texas A&M absolutely obliterated Mississippi State, winning in Starkville by a score of 38-13.
Johnny Manziel was outstanding and MSU had no real answer for him. The Aggies defense was stout and made it tough for Tyler Russell.
What does this game tell us about these two teams going forward? Read on to find out the 10 things we learned from the Aggies' big win.
Johnny Manziel Should Be a Heisman Finalist
Johnny Manziel put on an absolute show this afternoon. He went 30-for-36 for 336 yards and rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
The amazing part? He's only a freshman. Manziel has had an absolutely incredible season thus far. He's has a remarkable 15 rushing touchdowns and has thrown for over 2,500 yards.
Something else is pretty clear: Manziel should be a Heisman finalist.
Now, he may not win. Collin Klein and Manti Te'o may have a say in that.
But what Manziel has done so far is nothing short of heroic. This is an A&M team transitioning to a new conference, the best conference in the nation. They lost their starting quarterback to the NFL, as well as a bunch of other players to the pros. They have a new head coach.
And right now they're 7-2. Their two losses were against Florida and LSU, by a combined eight points. The Florida game, for what it's worth, was the first game of the season and Manziel's first start.
This team is eight points from being perfect, with a freshman quarterback and a new coach at the helm. It's remarkable.
It's not just the stats that make Manziel great. It's the way he plays the game. It's fluid; it's easy; it's running around with friends in the backyard.
Manziel is a star. He has the stats. He has the legacy already. If he's not a Heisman finalist, then something has gone wrong.
SEC Has to Be Scared of A&M
Texas A&M may be able to beat Alabama next week, something we'll discuss later.
But let's look ahead. Manziel is a freshman. He has, at least, two years left in College Station. Running back Ben Malena is a junior and would benefit from another year in college. Mike Evans is a stud freshman receiver.
They're young, and they're only going to get better. Think about it: If Manziel is a Heisman candidate now, what is he going to be like in two years?
And as A&M wins, they'll get more recruits. They have the rich recruiting area of Texas, and right now they're the best destination for in-state players.
This is a team that has the ability to contend for a national championship. They have the recruiting base of Texas and a star QB in Manziel.
Things are looking up in College Station.
Mississippi State Is Not Ready for Prime Time
Mississippi State started the season 7-0. They're 7-2 now, after two bad losses to Alabama and Texas A&M. So what gives?
Well, of their first seven wins, the best team they faced is probably Tennessee. And the Vols aren't very good.
So they took care of business against inferior teams. But they've gotten absolutely demolished by the cream of the crop. It leads to one conclusion: they're not ready for prime time.
Sure, State has a lot of talent. Jonathan Banks is a first-round cornerback. Tyler Russell is generally steady. LaDarius Perkins is a nice-looking running back.
But they're just not ready. Maybe in two years, but not now. That's not to say they aren't good. They are. You don't get to 7-0 by being a bad team. But this is, right now, a team that is simply above average. They can beat up on the bad teams, but they can't compete with the big boys.
Dan Mullen has done a terrific job, and they will get a nice bowl game this year. They will most likely finish 9-3. But the nine wins will all be against unranked teams. The three losses will be against top-10 teams. That says a lot.
Give them time, State fans. But it's hard to compete in the SEC, and State is learning that lesson the hard way.
Plenty of Pro Talent
This game featured plenty of pro talent on both sides.
Ryan Swope is an excellent possession receiver for A&M. He plays hard and laid out a few punishing blocks against MSU. He's not the fastest, but he will move the chains and is going to be an excellent special teams player.
A&M's two tackles, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, are top-notch. Joeckel is a future top-10 pick, while Matthews will be drafted early as well.
If he leaves school now, Damontre Moore will be a top-eight pick in the draft. He's going to follow in Von Miller's footsteps.
Ben Malena, A&M's running back, reminds me of Ben Tate and will carve a niche as a change-of-pace back in the NFL.
For State, their best pro prospect is cornerback Jonathan Banks. He's a future first-round pick. He's long and fluid and will be a shutdown player in the league.
Chad Bumphis reminds me of Wes Welker. Not the fastest, but elusive in the open field and will find a home as a slot receiver.
LaDarius Perkins will be a home run hitting-type running back, as well as a return specialist in the pros.
There Is No Gameplan for Manziel
How do you stop Manziel? Maybe you want to take away the pass and play tight man coverage. Fine, but then Manziel will out-run all your linebackers for big gains.
Want to take away the run and stack the line? Fine, but Manziel is going to throw it to Mike Evans and Ryan Swope all day.
It's pretty simple: There's no gameplan that can stop Manziel.
There's hope if you can pressure him and force turnovers. But A&M has two pro-caliber offensive tackles.
Teams will have to get creative in the way they get after Manziel. Bring extra pressure. Try to confuse Manziel.
But you will not stop Manziel. You can slow him down. But stop him completely? No chance. Mississippi State came into this game with the 15th-best defense in the nation. They were giving up an average of 17.4 points per game. And they had absolutely no answer for Manziel.
The only way to beat Manziel is for him to beat himself. Throw bad passes that lead to interceptions. Fumble the football.
But barring that, Manziel will march the Aggies up and down the field all day long.
Kliff Kingsbury Will Be a Head Coach
Kliff Kingsbury is the offensive coordinator for Texas A&M. Maybe not for long.
When Kentucky opts to change head coaches, UK should take a close look at Kliff Kingsbury. Bet he could make em relevant.
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) November 3, 2012
Former TExas Tech QB and Patriots backup Kliff Kingsbury is OC for Texas A&M and will be a head coach within 2 years
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) November 3, 2012
How long will it take before Kliff Kingsbury gets a HC job? Probably not long.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 3, 2012
They're all right. Kingsbury is at the helm of an absolutely dynamic offense. They're averaging over 45 points a game against good competition in the SEC.
Having someone like Johnny Manziel certainly helps, but it's Kingsbury that's putting him in the position to succeed like he has.
Any team with a vacancy is going to have to look hard at Kingsbury. He has the track record of offensive success that will entice any athletic director.
Gut Check for State
So where does Misssissippi State go from here? They started the season on such a high note. They were 7-0. Now, they're 7-2 after running into two top teams and losing badly.
There're three games left. Next week is against LSU. That's probably a loss, speaking frankly. So three straight losses. How do they respond?
They're a talented bunch, but this is a gut check for the Bulldogs. How they respond to this stretch will say a lot about this team going forward. Are they a tough team? Do they play hard when things get rough?
If MSU wants to turn the success from this season into something that's more long-term, then the remainder of the season will set the stage for that. If they play hard and set the right tone heading into the offseason, then they'll be fine.
But if they let this get to them, then next season could start the same way this season is ending: on a bad note.
A&M Performance Bodes Well for Future Conference Realignment
Conference realignment is all over the place and the college football landscape is constantly changing.
But the fact that A&M has taken to the SEC so well is a good sign for teams across the nation who are changing conferences.
The SEC is the best conference in football. It's a leap from the Big 12. But the Aggies have made the jump seamlessly.
That bodes well for teams moving. Whether it's from the Big East to the ACC or somewhere else, there's more parity within the major conferences than we previously thought. It's not just the heavyweights. College football has opened up a bit more. Which makes it much more exciting for fans.
Kevin Sumlin Is a Great Coach
Kevin Sumlin is a pretty great coach. In five seasons as a head coach at Houston and now at Texas A&M, Sumlin has a record of 42-19.
Sumlin brings with him a high-tempo offense that's hard to stop.
But it's his leadership that has been fun to watch. He took a decent Big 12 team and turned it into a top SEC team in one season. That's tough to do.
Sumlin's name doesn't get mentioned when talking about the best coaches in the nation, but I think it's time that changed. He has taken to the SEC with flying colors and set up A&M to be a contender for years to come.
Texas A&M Can Beat Alabama
Texas A&M takes on Alabama next week in Tuscaloosa. And here's the dirty secret: the Aggies can win.
Alabama has a great defense, the best in the nation. But they have not yet faced an offense like A&M. They have not faced a quarterback like Johnny Manziel.
Manziel will be the best individual player they have faced so far this season. They haven't faced a player who is able to run and pass like he can.
Alabama's defense is stacked with talent, but no one has been able to contain Manziel yet, and it's not impossible to imagine that Alabama won't either.
Now, we're not saying that 'Bama will give up 45 points to Manziel. But this is not a cake walk for Alabama as it might have been in the beginning of the season. Right now, this game is going to be really, really close.