Jalen Mills (left) and Lamin Barrow (middle) chases down Johnny Manziel last season in College Station. All three return for this year's game in Death Valley.
Johnny Manziel is so good at tackle football.
In fact, Johnny Football is so good at tackle football that he deserves to win the Heisman Trophy for the second straight season. The Aggies' losses this season have not reflected upon his play. It is not Manziel's fault that his defense is putrid.
Manziel has yet to be stifled this season by anybody. He has accumulated at least 300 yards of total offense in every entire game that he has played this fall. Only Ole Miss has held him to under three total touchdowns.
Last season, Manziel was only slowed down twice. The first came against Florida in his first career game. The second, and by far the most impressive, was by way of LSU.
The Tigers defeated the Aggies, 24-19, in College Station. Manziel played the worst game of his college career, throwing for 276 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns. He rushed for only 27 yards on 17 carries.
In that game, Manziel looked as if he was going to have a masterful performance right out the gates.
|First Two Drives||9||13||102||0|
|Rest of the Game||20||43||174||3|
Texas A&M began with two 12-play drives—one resulting in a touchdown and the other in a field goal. The LSU defense looked befuddled by Manziel's wizardry.
LSU ran its base 4-3 defense on 22 of the Aggies' 24 plays on their two opening drives, as Texas A&M moved swiftly, scoring nine points.
But then defensive coordinator John Chavis made a tactical switch that won the game for LSU.
Chavis' innovative 3-2-6 "Mustang" defensive package has been troubling for opposing offenses. Chavis gets as much speed on the field as possible for LSU by having three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs on the field at one time.
Former LSU Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu had most of his success in the Mustang, as it allowed him and the Tigers' other defensive backs to play freely on the field. It has given spread offenses fits with its amount of speed on the field.
Manziel could not crack the "Mustang" package. Every time he ran to the outside, he would often be met by one of six LSU defensive backs who possess the same amount of speed as him. Sometimes, Manziel would run right into LSU's agile defensive ends.
Here, LSU is in its Mustang package on a manageable down and distance. The defensive ends are lined up wide with even more contain help to the outside. Chavis is daring Texas A&M to run up the middle with power runs, something the Aggies do not do well.
Manziel runs a zone read where he must make a decision on whether or not to hand the ball off to his running back or keep it. Manziel decides to keep it, hoping he can outrun LSU to the outside, but the Tigers are sitting down waiting for them.
Manziel sees he is going nowhere and simply falls into the arms of Anthony Johnson for a three-yard loss. Even if Manziel ran around the defensive line, a defensive back would have chased him down for a negative gain.
LSU did a great job of staying in its rush lanes when attacking Manziel on pass plays as well. The speed and discipline of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery at defensive end frustrated Manziel.
Chavis' lack of depth and inconsistency at defensive back have been part of the reason why he has not run the Mustang as often this season. Micah Eugene and Dwayne Thomas have played the role of nickelback and dime back in the formation, both of whom have had some success. Eugene played a critical role in chasing down Manziel last season.
Will Johnny Manziel have over 400 total yards on Saturday?
Johnny Football has become a better passer, but he still likes to extend plays and improvise instead of sit in the pocket and make throws. LSU may not have the speed it had from last season, but it still has enough to give Manziel fits.
The problem for LSU has been the lack of consistency in its secondary. Manziel could be as slow as a snail if Mike Evans and the rest of the talented Texas A&M receiving corps gets open with ease.
The biggest factor in LSU's favor will be Tiger Stadium. The Mustang becomes even more effective as blitzes are tougher to read pre-snap and communication is dampened by crowd noise. The questions remains if Chavis is willing to take chances against a shifty quarterback like Manziel.
Legendary players look to conquer those who have conquered them. Manziel will be looking for revenge against an LSU defense that was depleted from the year before.
Manziel will play better against LSU this season, especially as Manziel looks to make history in becoming only the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner besides Ohio State's Archie Griffin. But can the Tigers contain him enough for LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to outduel him?
No matter the result, expect a fireworks show in Death Valley on Saturday.
Follow me on twitter @CarterthePower.