What Johnny Football Needs to Do to Lock Up the Heisman in Death Valley

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What Johnny Football Needs to Do to Lock Up the Heisman in Death Valley
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Don't look now, Archie Griffin, but Johnny Manziel is coming for you.

The Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner could be on his way to trophy No. 2 this season, if he can finish strong.

Several dominoes have fallen to leave a clear path to the Heisman for Manziel, leaving this weekend's contest against No. 22 LSU as a crucial moment for the No. 12 Aggies' redshirt sophomore to become just the second athlete to ever win two Heisman trophies.

As Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston have both seen their Heisman campaigns take hits in very different ways, Manziel could lock up the honor with a clean performance in Death Valley.

He will head into Tiger Stadium this weekend for just the third road game for A&M this season. Johnny Football hasn't played as well on the road as at home this season, throwing for less than 400 yards in both road trips against Arkansas and Ole Miss, though the Aggies won both of those games.

Even though he'll be facing one of the toughest road venues in college football, he shouldn't have too much problem shredding the LSU defense. The Aggies have averaged 578 yards and 49.2 points per game this season and have shown no signs of slowing down.

The first step will be using the run to set up the pass. The Tigers have been mostly solid against the pass this season, but they rank ninth in the SEC against the run.

Manziel can do much of this himself. LSU showed that it can be suspect against rushing quarterbacks when it was gouged for more than 100 yards and a touchdown by Mississippi State signal-caller Dak Prescott.

While making plays with his feet, he must also avoid interceptions, which has been the biggest downfall of the A&M gunslinger. It hurt him last year, as he tossed three picks in a 24-19 loss to the Tigers.

So far this season, he has thrown 11 interceptions, which stands as the biggest smudge on his Heisman resume.

If he can keep the ball out of the hands of the Tigers secondary, Manziel shouldn't need to do anything spectacular or anything other than what he has been doing all season long. If he can just find Mike Evans six or seven times, avoid interceptions and make a couple of plays with his feet, he'll remind voters why he was tabbed as college football's most outstanding player last year.

As previously mentioned, the downfall of the rest of the Heisman contenders will liberate Manziel as he makes final push.

After spending much of the first half of the season as the favorite, Mariota checked his own name off the list with a dismal performance in the Ducks' biggest game of the season against Stanford.

When Mariota choked, resulting in his team dropping out of the national title picture, it sent Winston to the top of the list.

But recently, Winston has fallen from grace—and not because of his play on the field.

For those who haven't heard, the FSU redshirt freshman is facing allegations in a sexual assault case—and on Wednesday, ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported that a DNA test linked Winston to the accuser:

A DNA analysis completed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Tuesday confirmed that DNA provided by Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston matched the sample taken from the underwear of the woman who has accused him of sexual battery.

According to the DNA analysis report, a copy of which was viewed by ESPN.com on Wednesday, the Florida state crime lab determined the chance of the DNA in the woman's underwear being a match for someone other than Winston was one in 2.2 trillion.

While that doesn't prove that Winston sexually assaulted the accuser, he doesn't need to be guilty to take a hit in the Heisman race.

The Bessemer, Ala., native was recently asked about potentially losing votes with the off-the-field issues swirling. As reported by Natalie Pierre of NoleSports.com, he said, "Of course, I don't want to lose any voters."

Unfortunately for Winston, the situation is now out of his control. With his team a near-lock for the national title game, he has already made his case on the field—and now these allegations are likely eating away at that effort, whether he is guilty or not.

Perception is reality, and if Winston's public perception continues to dwindle, Manziel might not have to do much to seal the Heisman. It's a bit of an ironic situation, considering just a few months ago, it was Manziel who had his off-the-field activities dissected and scrutinized on a daily basis.

Now, he might be just a clean and efficient win over LSU away from taking a great leap toward Heisman No. 2.

And if he follows a strong performance this weekend with another next week against Missouri, he'll show voters that he is still college football's most outstanding player—no matter what is happening with the rest of the Heisman contenders.

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