Being the first freshman to win college football’s most prestigious award was enough to land Johnny Manziel in the history books. What he does with the rest of his college career will cement his legacy.
Manziel put together a prolific freshman season. He passed for 3,419 yards, ran for 1,181 more, and accounted for 43 total touchdowns in a season that saw Manziel lead his Aggies to a 29-24 victory over Alabama and a 10-2 regular season.
With all the hype and fanfare surrounding “Johnny Football” and his Texas A&M squad, it would be understandable for Manziel to fall short of expectations moving forward. After all, duplicating a 4,600-yard, 43-touchdown season in the coming seasons seems a monumental feat.
But next season is months away, and Manziel’s 2012 story is still without an ending. Texas A&M faces Oklahoma on Jan. 4 in a game that will feature two of the best scoring offenses in the country. It will be Manziel’s last test of the season, but one that offers the freshman the opportunity for a perfect ending to the first chapter of his college career.
Oklahoma boasts the No. 25 passing defense in the country this season. The Sooners allowed just 198 passing yards per game this year, and have picked off more passes (12) than they allowed passing touchdowns (9).
Oklahoma’s passing defense has been good, but the same can’t be said for its rushing defense. The Sooners have allowed 182 rushing yards per game this year, and Manziel has the talent to tally that number by himself. He rushed for at least 124 yards four times in 2012.
A victory in the Cotton Bowl would be a great highlight for Manziel, and while that’s probably the only thing on his mind right now, the future is wide open.
Next season, Manziel will be without left tackle Luke Joeckel, who may be the first tackle off the board in this year’s draft, and right tackle Jake Matthews. Matthews is a junior who also projects as a first-round prospect this year.
While losing two-fifths of an offensive line that blocked as well as any in the country this year will certainly be a hurdle for Manziel, Joeckel and Matthews’ departure will present him with another opportunity to silence critics and prove he is the best young quarterback in the nation.
The next step for Manziel is a victory in the Cotton Bowl. That’s what matters most right now, and it’s the next step to building on his college football legacy. But when the final second has ticked off the game clock and Manziel leaves the field, it will be a clean slate for the phenom, and another offseason to prepare for another great season at the helm of a good football team.