What Johnny Manziel Has to Do to Surpass Jameis Winston as Heisman Front-Runner

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 9, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies waits on the field before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Another game, another stat sheet Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel lit up like a Christmas tree.

The redshirt sophomore and reigning Heisman Trophy winner completed 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and tied a career high with five passing touchdowns in the Aggies' 51-41 win over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon in College Station.

Nov 9, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) breaks a tackle attempt by Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Jamerson Love (5) during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TO
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

But while he dazzled in the victory, it wasn't without some stress.

He threw three interceptions and made some decisions that left you scratching your head, which let the Bulldogs hang around much longer than anticipated.

So where does this put Manziel in the race to win his second consecutive Heisman Trophy?

Manziel isn't thinking about it, according to Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News:

Manziel said he's not paying much attention to this year's Heisman race -- just like last year. Said he just wants to win last 3 games.

— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) November 10, 2013

He's in the mix for sure. But until Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston loses a game and his team falls out of the race for the BCS National Championship, Manziel will be looking up at the Seminoles signal-caller in the Heisman pecking order.

 

Winston completed 17 of 28 passes for 159 yards, two touchdowns and one pick on Saturday afternoon against Wake Forest. Not exactly mind-blowing. But the Seminoles won 59-3 over the Demon Deacons, and Winston simply didn't have to do much for his team.

Johnny Manziel vs. Jameis Winston
PlayerPassing YardsComp. %Total TDsWins in 2013
Johnny Manziel3,31373.0%398
Jameis Winston2,66169.2%299
CFBStats.com/ESPN.com

That's the difference between Winston and Manziel. Winston has been rock solid all season long, proving that he can be not only a caretaker, but also a difference-maker. Manziel has to be a difference-maker for his team because his defense is mediocre at best.

Advantage Winston.

The Heisman isn't a team award, nor is it a career achievement award. It is for the player who "best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity," per the Heisman Trust's mission statement.

That varies from voter to voter, but you can be your bottom dollar that Winston keeping his team in the title hunt will resonate among voters. 

That is incredibly unfair to Manziel, because it's not his fault that his defense let him down in losses to Alabama and Auburn earlier in the season. But it also needs to be factored into the conversation when discussing the merits of Winston and Manziel.

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a touchdown pass in the third quarter during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by S
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Manziel just has to keep doing what he's doing, continue to put up those video-game statistics and hope Florida State loses between now and championship weekend.

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 09:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a touchdown pass in the third quarter during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field on November 9, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by S
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The former is likely.

Only two teams have slowed Manziel during his career—Florida and LSU last season. While the Tigers still loom on the schedule for the Aggies (the teams will meet on November 23), this isn't the same Tigers defense from last year's group. He walks the tightrope all game, every game, and almost always makes it across the canyon.

With apologizes to former Atlanta Hawk Dominique Wilkins, he is a human highlight film.

The latter, however, may be more of a challenge. 

Florida State has Syracuse, Florida and the ACC Championship Game left on the schedule. If Winston's team drops any of those contests to vastly inferior opponents, then the door won't just be open, Manziel will waltz through with the elegance of a ballroom dancer.

That seems like a stretch, though.

Manziel's game hasn't changed since he started taking the snaps in College Station, and there's no reason to change it now. As long as he continues to be Johnny Football, he's got a shot.

All he needs to do at that point is hope for BCS chaos in the Florida Panhandle, and he'll join former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin as a two-time Heisman Trophy winner.