The superstar signal-caller has put up some impressive numbers this year in the face of tough competition, but his failure to stop the uncontainable juggernaut that is the Alabama Crimson Tide, unlike last year, has hurt his shot at winning college football’s most prestigious award.
Going into Saturday’s Week 5 game against the Arkansas Razorbacks, Manziel has completed 77-of-110 passes for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He’s also run 39 times for 255 yards and three additional scores.
Unfortunately, those pale in comparison to the raw statistics that his main competitors—Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville—are putting up.
Mariota has led the Ducks' high-flying offense with his arms and legs, completing 49-of-82 passes for 889 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s ran just 15 times, but he has garnered an eye-popping 262 yards and four touchdowns on those attempts.
Those are all from just three total games, one less than both Johnny Football and Bridgewater, although Manziel did play sparingly in the season-opener against Rice.
Speaking of Bridgewater, he has also been impressive for the undefeated Cardinals. The junior has connected on 79-of-110 passes for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns with just a single interception. He’s not much of a runner, but he has gained 36 yards on 12 attempts.
Looking at the schedule, it seems that Bridgewater has the best chance of maintaining his ridiculous pace for the remainder of the 2013 campaign. The Cardinals, now in the AAC, do not face a ranked opponent and likely won’t until bowl season, which unfortunately comes after the Heisman voting.
That could definitely hurt his chances in the eyes of the voters, and it may actually give Manziel a boost, especially considering the Aggies have already faced the top-ranked team in the country and should see at least two more Top 25 foes before the regular season is over.
If voters are going off of strength of schedule, Manziel will still have to hope that Mariota loses pace when the going gets tough. The Ducks have trounced two quality opponents thus far—Virginia and Tennessee—but they won’t see a real test until Oct. 12 when they visit Washington.
There’s also UCLA and Stanford on the schedule, two teams currently in the Top 25 and likely to remain there by the time Oregon matches up with them. While the Pac-12 isn’t as tough as the SEC, it is still a power conference with quality teams.
Barring a slip in production from the Ducks' signal-caller, Manziel is going to have to settle for second place in the Heisman voting this year. Mariota has been extremely impressive in the early going, and only a step backwards against tougher opponents will see his chances of earning the Heisman Trophy diminish.
It isn’t the worst possible outcome—especially not with so many great players in the running—but after winning last year, anything less than repeating is a disappointment for Johnny Football and his legion of fans.
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