Johnny Manziel's Performance Against Alabama Will Define Season

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, TX - AUGUST 31:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a third quarter touchdown during the game against the Rice Owls at Kyle Field on August 31, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

For all of the partying, questionable tweets, media over-saturation, autograph scandals and trash-talking 'controversies,' Johnny Manziel has always had one thing in his back pocket that kept people on his side.

It wasn't his Heisman Trophy. It wasn't Texas A&M's 11-2 record and dismantling of Oklahoma, 41-13, in last year's Cotton Bowl. It wasn't even the fact that he was college football's most exciting, compelling player to watch last season. 

Nope, it was the fact that he beat Alabama, and was the only quarterback in college football who managed to to do so last year. Now, his entire college legacy very well may hinge on repeating the feat. 

It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Johnny Football. 

Last season against Alabama, he was nothing short of brilliant, going 24-for-31 with 253 yards and two touchdowns. Oh, and he also rushed 18 times for 92 yards. And he did it all in Bryant-Denny Stadium, staring down the rowdy Tuscaloosa crowd and leading the Aggies to a win. 

So if he can't duplicate the feat at home, after an offseason in which he morphed into Tim Tebow from the darkest timeline, well, Texas A&M fans who are fed up with his off-field antics may start calling him Johnny Foosball

Beating Alabama twice would be a legacy few SEC quarterbacks could match, namely during the Nick Saban run of domination. And obviously, the win would set up A&M on the path toward a national championship run. 

If you look at A&M's schedule, it's pretty manageable until they meet LSU on November 23.

You could argue that the only real danger for the Aggies until then would be a trip to Ole Miss on October 12. Obviously, an SEC schedule is never easy, but the Aggies will be favored in every game after Alabama except perhaps LSU. 

Let's be honest—Manziel is likely to enter the NFL after this season. His toxic relationship with the world of college football is sprinting toward a breakup. And unless he absolutely blows all other contenders out of the water, it's hard to envision him winning the Heisman Trophy again this year. 

So this is his moment. This is the moment he can look at the country and say, "You may not like me, but I have Alabama's number. I'm a winner. Want an autograph?"

There isn't a game on the college schedule more anticipated than this. The ratings will be through the roof. At 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Kyle Field will be the center of the sports world. 

Lose, and Manziel becomes the flavor of the week that went sour. America is tired of hearing about Johnny Football. Lose to Alabama, and the country will tune out. 

But win, and he becomes a college football icon. Win, and he has Texas A&M on a path to a national championship. Win, and the haters begrudgingly kiss his ring. 

It's all on the line this Saturday. No pressure or anything, Johnny Football. 


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