The 2013 USA Today Coaches Poll has been released and the Texas A&M football team is ranked No. 6. It is now up to the Aggies' sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel to help them exceed this preseason rank and lead them to their first national title since 1939.
The No. 6 ranking is the highest the Ags have been ranked to enter the season since 1995 when they entered the year at No. 3. That Aggie team traveled to Boulder and lost a top ten matchup to No. 7 Colorado 29-21.
The Ags were ranked in the top 10 entering the 2011 season only to struggle to a 7-6 finish during their last year in the Big 12. Whether or not the Aggies are able to capitalize on their lofty 2013 preseason rank will depend on the play of Manziel and his teammates.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is tasked with leading the A&M program where it has not been in decades. This is a look at how Manziel can lead A&M to the BCS title.
The difference between a good team and a great team is often leadership. The Aggies lost a lot of leaders from the 2012 team that finished 11-2 and ranked No. 5 in the nation.
Sean Porter and Ryan Swope have both graduated from the A&M program. They were difference-makers on the field who led the Aggies with their play and their words.
Someone is going to have to step into the void created by their graduation. That someone has to be Johnny Manziel.
By the very nature of the position the quarterback has to be a leader. Manziel is the best football player in the nation and already has the respect of his teammates and opponents because of the skill he has displayed on the field.
In 2013 he will need to make the Aggie team his team, and lead them on and off the field. Manziel may be asked to will the team to victory in some games and must be able to do it.
The team is ready for Manziel to take over and make it his. He will have to step up in 2013 and assume more of a leadership role.
The Texas A&M football team lost two games in 2012. One of those games was the season opener against Florida before the coaches knew what they had in Manziel.
The second loss was a 24-19 loss to LSU at Kyle Field. Manziel threw three interceptions in that game. Only two of them were his fault, but the fact remains that in a game where the Ags out-gained the Tigers 410 yards to 316 they lost because of turnovers.
Manziel must limit his turnovers in 2013. With the dearth of talent at running back surrounding him, Manziel can afford to be more of a distributor in 2013 than he was in 2012.
He can use short passes to get the ball into the hands of his running backs in space and let them create big plays. Manziel will not have to force the action as much.
Part of what makes Manziel such an exceptional player is his ability to improvise and make something out of nothing. He needs to learn in 2013 that sometimes it is okay to simply throw the ball away rather than forcing a bad throw.
There are people out there who believe that Johnny Manziel is set up for a fall as a sophomore. The common perception is that with an offseason to prepare most SEC defenses will be able to contain him in 2013.
The fault in this logic is that Manziel did not really start to feel comfortable in the offense until halfway through the 2012 season. The first half of the season he was basically looking for his first option, then improvising if it was not there.
Once Manziel learns how to go through all the reads in Kevin Sumlin's spread offense before he scrambles, the offense will reach its full potential. Given the kind of talent available at the skill positions that the Ags have, and so long as Manziel can distribute the ball effectively, then the offense is going to be very hard to stop.
If Manziel can become a more efficient passer, then the Aggie offense will once again threaten to break SEC records.
Johnny Manziel is the straw that stirs the drink of the Aggie offense. If the Ags are going to win a national title then Manziel is going to have to be at his best on the biggest stage.
On Saturday, September 14 the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are going to visit College Station. All eyes will be on Manziel to see how he performs in his rematch with the Tide.
In 2012 Manziel and the Ags befuddled Nick Saban and his Alabama program in a 29-24 victory. Manziel will be at home and will have more offensive talent around him in 2013 than he did in 2012, but he will still need to be at the top of his game.
The Ags will have enough talent to beat teams like Auburn and Vanderbilt without Manziel being brilliant. Against teams like Alabama and LSU (a road game) the Ags are going to need Manziel to show everyone why they call him "Johnny Football."
The 2013 team is going to be a young team, and the younger players are going to need see their leader to set the tone in the big games.
What makes Johnny Manziel great on the field also makes him an attraction off the field. He works hard and he plays hard.
Manziel's affinity for living life to the fullest has led to an offseason full of scrutiny from the media. It is also part of what makes him who he is.
It is not surprising that a person who shows little aversion to risk on the field would engage in risk-taking behavior off the field. When you are chasing greatness, sometimes you ride on the edge of danger while trying to get there.
Manziel needs to continue to be himself. If the Ags are going to achieve greatness on the field then they need their quarterback to play on the edge like he did in 2012.