Johnny Football Heroics Great, but Texas A&M Defense Is Still Huge Liability

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 13, 2013

Johnny Manziel was doing Johnny Manziel things on Saturday night in Oxford, putting his team on his back and leading the Texas A&M Aggies to a thrilling 41-38 last-second win over Ole Miss in a critical SEC West matchup.

Texas A&M DB De'Vante Harris and Ole Miss WR Vince Sanders
Texas A&M DB De'Vante Harris and Ole Miss WR Vince SandersMichael Chang/Getty Images

That's great for Manziel and great for Texas A&M, because at 5-1 and 2-1 in the SEC, the Aggies are still very much alive in the national title and SEC West races.

But Manziel has to put his team on his back, and that's a big problem.

While the SEC logo is stitched onto their jerseys, Texas A&M is still a stereotypical Big 12 team playing in the wrong conference. Luckily for the Aggies, many other SEC teams are too, but that doesn't change the fact that defense is still a major liability for head coach Kevin Sumlin's crew.

Oct 12, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Jeff Scott (3) advances the ball during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M gave up 462 yards to Ole Miss on Saturday night, which was enough to get the job done, but not enough to calm the fears of Aggie fans. This was an Ole Miss team that looked disjointed and out of sync in back-to-back losses to Alabama and Auburn.

Sure, the Rebels get yards, but they also make mistakes.

They didn't make many on Saturday night.

“I thought the first half we gave up one big play," Sumlin said according to postgame quotes released by Ole Miss. "A little bit different story in the second half. They made some adjustments in the third quarter, but we just made enough plays in the fourth to win. It’s about third-down conversions. We were 8-of-13 and they were 6-of-14."

Texas A&M came into the game ranked last in the SEC in sacks and only got to quarterback Bo Wallace once. For perspective, he was sacked six times by an average Auburn defense a week ago.

Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
Ole Miss WR Laquon TreadwellMichael Chang/Getty Images

Usually, when you say a defense will keep you in every game, that's used as a compliment to a stout defense. Texas A&M's defense is going to keep it in virtually every game, even ones in which it shouldn't. Only once this season have the Aggies given up fewer than 28 points, in a 42-13 win over SMU on Sept. 21.

It isn't just the points that should alarm A&M fans. It's the remarkable lack of fundamentals by the Aggies that has persisted throughout head coach Kevin Sumlin's tenure. They can't tackle and they take poor angles.

As CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli notes, at least they're consistent:

I truly admire the Texas A&M defense's commitment to not playing defense.

— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) October 13, 2013

Can A&M win the West with this defense? Sure.

The Aggies have what's sure to be a shootout with Auburn next week in College Station and will likely be able to cruise through Vanderbilt, UTEP and Mississippi State. A win next week means they could get to the bye week 9-1 with two weeks to prepare for LSU.

The Tigers played great defense against Florida on Saturday, but they've been far from consistent.

With a loss to Alabama on its resume, Texas A&M will need some help to win the West. Manziel can win games himself if he needs to, but that shouldn't be a requirement for an elite program.

It is a requirement for Texas A&M, and that's preventing the Aggies from breaking through that glass ceiling and becoming elite.