Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma: Takeaways from Aggies' Cotton Bowl Romp over Sooners
With a dominating 41-13 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in Friday's Cotton Bowl, the Texas A&M Aggies proved they belong among college football royalty while Johnny Manziel showed there would be no Heisman hangover.
The Aggies looked like the crisper, better prepared team from the opening whistle, but it took until the second half before that became truly apparent. Kevin Sumlin's squad came out of the halftime break with a mere one-point lead but eviscerated the Sooners, 27-0, in the second half.
While those in College Station and Norman certainly have a dichotomy of emotions going on at the moment, there are some interesting long-term takeaways from the Cotton Bowl for both sides.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the biggest things we can interpret from the Aggies' dominant win.
Johnny Manziel: Good Football Player Extraordinaire
In today's culture, when a player has an extraordinary season, very rarely do we actually get time to reflect on that brilliance. Instead, we're always looking ahead, wondering how Player X will possibly live up to the standards set by his previous greatness. Overall, it's a process in sad one-upmanship and schadenfreude when you think about it.
From the moment Manziel won the Heisman Trophy, it seemed like pundits were crawling over each other to project his sudden downfall. Countless "bold" predictions like Manziel not winning the Heisman were littered all over the world wide web, only for those same people to fall back in love with the Texas A&M quarterback on Friday night.
As most know by now, Manziel was not only brilliant against Oklahoma, he was once again historic. He became the second player in NCAA history (alongside Vince Young) to both rush and pass for over 200 yards, and Manziel's 229-yard rushing performance set an all-time bowl record for a quarterback (per ESPN Stats & Information)
Manziel's only blemish of the night, a second-quarter interception in the Sooners' end zone, was dropped by an Aggies receiver. Based on just about any criteria, you can have, it was an all-time great bowl performance.
As for how Manziel will do next season, it's tough to tell. He's losing likely first-round picks Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews to the NFL draft, meaning his protection is guaranteed to take a dip.
We can worry about that in September. For now, let's just bask in the greatness of Johnny Football and toss our schadenfreudian thoughts in the garbage for once.
Landry Jones' Draft Stock: Not Doing So Hot
Coming into Friday night's Cotton Bowl, prognostications were all over the place about the Oklahoma star's prospects in April. ESPN had him as the fifth-best quarterback in this year's class, while CBS Sports disagreed and ranked Jones ninth.
Based on what we saw on Saturday, it seems likely that NFL teams will fall in line with the former. Though Jones' ultimate stats—35-of-48 for 278 yards and a touchdown against one interception—don't look horrible, much of his day was spent putting up garbage time yardage.
With the game still in reach during the first half, Jones struggled to connect for any big plays. Of his 22 completions during the first half, only six went for more than 10 yards, and he failed to make a completion of more than 20 yards the entire game.
Considering the Aggies' pass defense (especially the secondary) was viewed as a relative weakness before Friday, Jones' performance was certainly disconcerting. It certainly isn't going to do anything to dispel the notion that Jones is a check-down artist whose excellence was the product of a spread system.
Obviously, NFL teams have plenty of game tape on Jones. He was a four-year starter in Norman and was attempting to win his fourth career bowl game. One loss isn't going to totally change how he's viewed in April—especially with three months to reingratiate himself to NFL scouts.
Friday's game just means Jones will have a whole lot more making up to do than he ever planned.
Kevin Sumlin's Coaching Stock: Going Through the Roof
It took him one season, less than 12 months, to revive a program that many had left dead on arrival in the SEC. Though Manziel deservedly gets much of the credit, Sumlin proved Friday night that his lack of national coaching awards is rather laughable.
Sumlin guided the Aggies to an 11-2 record this season, employing the same vaunted spread offense that brought the Houston Cougars to national prominence a season ago. Of course, the fact that he did most of his work in the SEC is most impressive. This is a conference that has emphasized hard-nosed, old-school football since its inception.
Now? Teams are falling over themselves trying to find the next Kevin Sumlin.
If you want to poke holes in his resume, it's true that Sumlin was cooking with another man's groceries so to speak. It was former Aggies head coach Mike Sherman who recruited Manziel, Joeckel and just about every other player in the team's core.
Sherman's "groceries" went a combined 25-25 with him at the helm. They will compete for a top-five finish this season in Sumlin's first season.
And it seems Sumlin is no slouch in recruiting, either. The folks at 247 Sports have the Aggies' 2013 class currently ranked as the seventh-best in the nation, and a dominating win on the national stage certainly won't hurt matters.
It may seem hyperbole, but if Sumlin and Manziel can continue the building blocks they laid this season, we may have seen the birth of a new SEC dynasty in 2012.
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