Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has had a historic year—becoming the first freshman to hoist the Heisman Trophy—but it will be Oklahoma’s offensive leader, Landry Jones, who plays better in the 2013 Cotton Bowl.
Manziel has an advantage over Jones because he’s a dual threat—passing for 3,419 yards and rushing for an additional 1,181 with 43 combined touchdowns—whereas Jones is more of a pocket passer.
Jones, though, didn’t have a bad season himself. The senior threw for 3,989 yards with 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions to lead the No. 11 Sooners to a bowl berth.
Manziel may have had the better regular season, but the experience that Jones comes into this game with and the top-tier receivers that he has should propel Oklahoma to a sixth-straight victory.
Jones has been the starting quarterback for Oklahoma since 2009, when he was only a freshman, and has gotten the Sooners to a bowl game in every year since. Only one of those three bowl games was a BCS Bowl—the 2010 Fiesta Bowl against Connecticut—but he’s still undefeated. In those games, Jones averaged 336 yards through the air and threw three touchdowns twice.
Manziel has played in some big games this season—the biggest being a 29-24 win over Alabama—but he’s still a freshman. Sure, he’s the best freshman to ever play the game, but he still doesn’t have any postseason experience under his belt.
Manziel will also be going up against a very good secondary. Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson are two great cornerbacks who will make it difficult for Manziel to throw anything deep. Colvin and Jefferson combined for six interceptions during the year.
Jones, on the other hand, is facing a bad pass defense. The Aggies ranked 82nd in pass defense this season, and Jones is sure to have a field day with that.
Jones has too many offensive weapons to not have a great game through the air. Kenny Stills and Justin Brown both have over 800 receiving yards this year, and Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard each have more than 500. Jones has no problem spreading the wealth either, as each had at least 40 catches.
The only thing that will allow Manziel to have a big season finale is if Oklahoma can’t stop him on the ground. The Sooners haven’t been great against the run all year long and he’s the type of guy that you can’t allow to get loose. But the Sooners do have the capability of holding Manziel to some short yardage when he does take off.
This is Jones’ final game as a Sooner and he’s not going to let it get away from him. His defense will halt Manziel so that he can be the star one last time. Jones is 2-1 in his career against Texas A&M, and the senior will surely go out with a bang by earning his third victory over the Aggies.
Prediction for Manziel: 20-for-33, 251 yards, 1 TD; 13 carries, 67 yards
Prediction for Jones: 27-for-41, 365 yards, 3 TD