Johnny Manziel: Heisman Odds and Season Outlook for Texas A&M's Superstar QB

Jim Sullivan@jsully711Featured ColumnistAugust 30, 2013

Johnny Manziel: Heisman Odds and Season Outlook for Texas A&M's Superstar QB

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    Only Archie Griffin has ever been able to achieve the honor twice—but it's seemingly fitting Johnny Manziel, the nation's most famous No. 2, has the best shot since Tim Tebow to snare the coveted Heisman Trophy for the second time in his college career. 

    With Texas A&M's season kicking off noon Saturday against Rice, Manziel will stand as one of few favorites to end the year sitting in New York. We break down the ins and outs regarding the young quarterback's chances for a Heisman repeat. 

    *Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand

Who He Is

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 200 pounds

    Position: Quarterback

    Year: Redshirt Sophomore

    2013 Award Watchlists: Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award and the Manning Award

Why He Can Win It

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    Manziel has one of the top advantages on his side: he evolves into Johnny Football every time he steps on the field.

    And no other Heisman candidate, ranging from Marcus Mariota to Braxton Miller, can say that. 

    Unlike last season, though, Manziel has lost the advantage of surprise, a factor which may strongly affect his performance when A&M takes on some of the nation's top defensive minds, a number of which run Southeastern Conference squads. 

    Behind A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin's air-raid offense and Manziel's very own organized-chaos style of play, the 20-year-old is poised for another solid run at the Heisman Trophy. And with big-time national matchups against Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State on the schedule, Manziel will have every opportunity to showcase his talents to a massive viewership.

Biggest Obstacle

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    While Manziel has worked tirelessly over the summer to improve and add to his stable of weapons, ranging from his mobility to his arm strength, trying to prepare for a defensive coordinator who's designed a system brilliant enough to slow him down could be a very difficult task.

    Unsurprisingly, the top dogs on that list are Alabama's Nick Saban and his defensive brain trust, Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, followed closely by LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. The Crimson Tide were well on there way to an undefeated season before Manziel and the Aggies ruined their streak early last November, giving the defending national champion plenty of reason (and time) to seek revenge during the Tide's Sept. 14 visit to Kyle Field. 

Key Games

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    Sept. 14 vs. Alabama

    When the Crimson Tide come to visit, they'll be seeking some revenge for last season's home loss to the Aggies. Manziel must show up big or risk losing national support.

    Oct. 12 @ Ole Miss

    The Rebels put up a valiant fight last season in Oxford, Mississippi, but were unable to seal the deal against Johnny Football. With Hugh Freeze and his staff having now stabilized the program, Manziel and company best watch out for a dangerous Ole Miss team on the road. 

    Nov. 9 vs. Mississippi State

    As the SEC West dark horse, Mississippi State may come into Kyle Field this November hoping to do to the Aggies what A&M did to Alabama last year. Behind running back LaDarius Perkins and QB Tyler Russell, the Bulldog offense owns the potential to surprise most anyone on their schedule. 

    Nov. 23 @ LSU

    After LSU shut down Manziel last season at Kyle Field, the young quarterback will require a strong performance against the Tigers to give his Heisman campaign a sturdy push before the voting closes the following week. 

What I Love About Him

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    Manziel is electric. He's a threat to score every time he touches the football, and because of his position, he touches the football every single down. He's every offensive coordinator's dream and defensive coordinator's nightmare.

    And he owns college football's catchiest and most brilliant nickname—Johnny Football. 

    As many found out the hard way last season, the kid is unstoppable, and I expect much of the same as the year officially kicks off this Saturday at Kyle Field. Manziel is both the most magnetic and elusive player on the field at any given time.

    My suggestion, don't miss a play this season because any one could be his best yet. 

Stat Predictions for This Season

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    2013 Stat Projection: Passing—300-of-450 for 3,500 yards and 28 TDs; Rushing—150 carries for 1,050 yards and 13 TDs

    Over the course of the offseason, Manziel worked specifically on his passing, focusing on improving his pocket presence and accuracy on deep throws. With that in mind, along with A&M's coaching staff addition of QB guru Jake Spavital, I expect Manziel's passing efficiency to rise significantly throughout the year. 

    As for what I anticipate will be a decrease in his rushing numbers, I attribute that to Spavital's insistence that Manziel focus on staying more in the pocket, resorting to his incredible scrambling ability only when absolutely necessary.

    Furthermore, A&M's veteran offensive line has a full year of blocking for the mobile quarterback, allowing them a better understanding of how to keep him off the turf. 

Predicted Heisman Finish

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    Predicted Heisman Finish: second 

    Despite Archie Griffin earning two Heismans during his time at Ohio State, voters won't look kindly on handing the big-time talent that is Manziel another gold statue. Manziel's best chance to repeat with a win in New York is linked directly to his ability to reset the bar statistically, to A&M's record and his performances against Alabama and LSU. 

    With the strong stable of Heisman athletes around the country, ranging from Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater to Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Manziel could have a harder time distinguishing his play to voters.