Things are different for Johnny Manziel this year. Texas A&M’s redshirt sophomore quarterback took the college football world by storm in 2012. His swag and risky play made him the nation’s most popular player. His on-field brilliance helped guide his team to an 11-2 record, a BCS bowl victory and the Heisman trophy.
Manziel’s signature moment came when he led the Aggies to a 29-24 victory over the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide in November.
In 2013, his swag hasn’t been as charming. It has landed him in hot water and at the nucleus of the "should college athletes be paid" debate discussed by John Terbush of The Week. Manziel's positive publicity has tailed off and on Saturday, the Crimson Tide avenged their lone loss in 2012 with a 49-42 victory.
Manziel didn't play a terrible game by any stretch. He threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns on Saturday. He ran for 98 more.
From a yardage and touchdown standpoint, he had a much bigger game against the Tide this year than he had in 2012.
In last season's epic win, Manziel threw for just 253 yards and ran for 92. The difference in Manziel's performance this year were the mistakes. On Saturday, he threw two interceptions. In 2012, he and the Aggies were turnover-free.
How will Manziel's good—but not great—performance affect his 2014 NFL draft stock and chances at repeating as Heisman trophy winner?
There is Nothing New to See Here
Manziel’s performance would have been impressive win or lose. He did throw two costly picks, but he still produced more than 500 yards of total offense. Aside from his standout numbers, Manziel showed resolve late to lead his team back from a 42-21 third-quarter deficit, but scouts already knew he had heart.
Still, he isn't the prototypical QB prospect. Nothing that he did in this game was going to change that.
Teddy Bridgewater is still the top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL draft. Manziel is just 6’1”, has a few mechanics issues and sometimes looks to run rather than find receivers downfield. As evidenced by the two picks, Manziel also attempts to force passes in to his receivers.
The good and the bad were on display for Johnny Football on Saturday.
He's Still In the Race For the Heisman, But This Doesn't Help
With the off-field problems Manziel has had this year, repeating as Heisman winner could be about more than his play on the field. Depending on how voters deal with the off-field controversies, Manziel could be fighting an uphill battle.
After a loss on the biggest stage his team will compete on all season, Manziel's Heisman hopes remained the same at best. He'll get credit for putting up 42 points against the Crimson Tide, but losses aren't good for Heisman candidates—especially at quarterback.
Signal callers always get more blame for team losses than they should. Texas A&M's defensive line was blown off the ball most of the game, and their inability to stop the run was just as responsible for the loss.
'Bama ran for 234 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
Unfortunately for Manziel, voters may not see it that way. If his chief competition for the award is a quarterback with great numbers—like Ohio State's Braxton Miller or Clemson's Tajh Boyd—whose team happens to go undefeated, this loss could be the deciding factor.
Stats per ESPN.
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