When Texas A&M joined the SEC, it remained to be seen whether or not the move would pay off on the field. Financially, the school would benefit greatly—but what of the product every Saturday? The Aggies had a solid team, but their head coach had departed for the Miami Dolphins and their starting quarterback had been drafted.
It was logical to expect a drop-off, for one or two seasons at least. But Texas A&M didn't get the memo, and neither did freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It's been a stellar season for the star quarterback, and he is arguably the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
The argument for Manziel is clear—he's one of only a handful of quarterbacks to have a season in which he passed for 3,000 yards and ran for 1,000.
To do that as a freshman in what is known as a smashmouth, defense-first conference—in his school's first year as a member of said conference—is nothing short of spectacular.
If you're not convinced, simply watch film of the game he played against then-No. 1 Alabama. Manziel absolutely dominated, making one of the nation's top defenses look absolutely foolish.
With Collin Klein and Kansas State losing big to Baylor, Manziel has separated himself. He has yet to put together a bad performance and faces a Missouri defense this week that has allowed at least 31 points in five games this year. All he has to do is push on and put up more big numbers against the SEC's other new member, and the trophy will be his.
Of course, there is one thing he must do, one thing that is important above all else. The Aggies must win the game. Klein was having a superb season, but one loss caused him to drop off the map completely. If A&M somehow falls to Mizzou—at Kyle Field no less—Manziel can kiss his Heisman hopes good bye.
It shouldn't be a problem. The Aggies have lost two games at home this year, but they were against SEC powers Florida and LSU. In the three wins at Kyle Field, A&M has averaged an astounding 58.3 points per game.
In order to beat Mizzou and cement his status as the nation's most outstanding player, Manziel must limit turnovers and simply play spectacularly. He's impossible to defend and Missouri has seemingly given up on being competitive this year, so there's no reason to think the Aggies won't cruise.
Crazier things have happened. There's no question that A&M is looking at this as a trap game, and Manziel and his teammates will bring their best to the field. But even if Missouri makes it a close game, Manziel should be able to find a way to close them out. A strong fourth-quarter performance would only make his case stronger.
It's been a special season for Johnny Football. If he manages to win the Heisman, he will be the first freshman in the history of college football to do so.
He is often compared to Cam Newton, but that's not really a fair comparison. They are two totally different players. And while Manziel's season has been slightly less dominant than Newton's Heisman campaign was (remember, Newton had 50 touchdowns), it has become apparent that the Aggies' star quarterback is more well-rounded.
Don't be surprised to see Manziel holding the trophy in New York come January, and don't be shocked when he suits up for a team in the NFL just a few years down the road.