Over the course of the past calendar year, few athletes have generated as much polarizing hype as Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel. Whether viewers love his awe-inspiring feats on the field or criticize his off-the-field fiascoes, Manziel has become the face of college athletics.
In order to emerge as a true Heisman Trophy candidate, however, Manziel needs to lead Texas A&M to a road win against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
This may seem like an outrageous claim due to the fact that Manziel is the reigning Heisman Trophy award winner. With that being said, the field is significantly tougher in 2013, and countless college football legends have failed in their bid for a second Heisman.
Just don't ask Texas A&M to offer any criticism, as Manziel is leading the school's best offensive attack in more than 70 years.
Johnny Manziel & the Aggies have opened 2013 w/ 3 straight games of 40+ pts. Last time Texas A&M did that was in 1941.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) September 18, 2013
If Manziel is going to become the first two-time Heisman Trophy award winner since Archie Griffin, however, it'll take more than points and stats. He needs wins.
That all starts with what could be a rare signature victory on the road against Arkansas.
Underwhelming Schedule Ahead
During the 2012 college football season, Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o fell victim to criticism of his team's strength of schedule. While his on-field production was strong, Te'o and the Irish didn't pass the "SEC eye test" when it came to whom they faced.
In 2013, Manziel may fall victim to that same evaluation, albeit with a stronger level of competition.
Having lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Texas A&M has already come up short against the best team on its schedule. To make matters worse, the Aggies have just two remaining ranked opponents on the schedule: an inexperienced No. 21 Ole Miss squad and the No. 6 LSU Tigers.
After the Ole Miss game, the Aggies play four consecutive home games against Auburn, Vanderbilt, UTEP and Mississippi State. Good luck finding a Heisman trophy moment in there.
Should the Aggies lose to the Razorbacks on Sept. 28, they'll enter that stretch as a two-loss team. Manziel may continue to post magnificent numbers, but it'll be an uphill battle for a Heisman contender who lost two games before some of the most notable names have lost one.
For that reason, Manziel needs to take down the Razorbacks and remind the voters that he isn't just another stat-sheet stuffer. The rest of the field isn't wasting any time.
Deep Field of Contenders
The Heisman Trophy went to the right man in 2012, as Manziel did things that few could dream of during his freshman season. In 2013, however, there is a significantly deeper class of contenders as the transition period between superstar collegiate players has passed.
Each one of those contenders is in the running for the national championship—a title that Texas A&M would need a severe measure of help to reach.
Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks hasn't posted the same statistics as Manziel, but he's a primary example of the kind of players standing in the Texas A&M star's way. Oregon is averaging 61.3 points per game, and in its most recent outing, the Ducks beat an SEC team, the Tennessee Volunteers, 59-14.
Oregon is also 3-0 and the front-runner for the Pac-12 title.
Other candidates at quarterback include Tajh Boyd of Clemson, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Jameis Winston of Florida State. Running back candidates include Jordan Hall of Ohio State, De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon and the same T.J. Yeldon of Alabama that torched Texas A&M in Week 3.
If any of those players can lead a team to an undefeated regular season, the statistics won't matter too much. That's why Manziel needs to keep on winning.
Two Times with Two Losses?
During the past two seasons, college football has rewarded dynamic quarterbacks whose teams experienced marginal success. Robert Griffin III won the Heisman in 2011 and Manziel took home the hardware in 2012.
Prior to that, the Heisman Trophy was more often than not handed to the best player on one of the two teams heading to the National Championship game.
Should Johnny Manziel win the Heisman Trophy award if Texas A&M loses two or more games?
In 2013, Texas A&M's only hope of reaching that plateau, let alone making to to the SEC Championship game, is for other teams to slip up. Alabama has already defeated the Aggies to take a commanding lead in the SEC West, while Texas A&M's meeting with LSU isn't until Nov. 23.
If the Aggies slip up any time before then, the division would likely be decided, the Aggies' national title dreams would be squandered and Manziel's Heisman Trophy candidacy would be limited, at best.
The past two years may provide an anomaly that could become a trend, but the world is expecting Manziel to be the best. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2012, and thus, will need to put on a legendary individual performance and lead his team to victory to repeat.
Keep in mind, Archie Griffin won the Heisman two years in a row by going 11-1 during his follow-up campaign. The one loss came during the Rose Bowl, signaling an undefeated regular season for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Don't put your money on the Heisman Trophy committee rewarding a player whose team has lost at least two games in consecutive seasons.
Manziel may already be in the record books, but in order to join Griffin, Texas A&M will need to win every game that it plays throughout the rest of the regular season. A two-loss Aggies team spells defeat for Manziel in the Heisman Trophy race, as it would for any other player.
A win here would set the stage for a legendary repeat, but a loss would be a crippling blow.