College Football Tuesday: Will Manziel repeat?
By John Harris
Published: Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 9:47 p.m.
Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, is emerging as a surprise leader to win the award again.
But, first, let's see how he performs this weekend against the best team in college football.
Considering Manziel's controversy-filled offseason, winning another Heisman did not look like a viable option this year. However, Manziel's impressive start will no doubt change the mind of skeptical Heisman voters.
Despite limited playing time in his first two games, Manziel has thrown for 520 yards and six touchdowns despite playing less than the equivalent of a full game. He was 29 of 42 for 426 yards with three touchdowns in less than three quarters against Sam Houston State. Manziel was suspended for the first half of the opener against Rice.
If Manziel comes close to duplicating last year's performance against Alabama when the teams meet Saturday at Texas A&M, the Heisman could be his to lose. Manziel threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards in Texas A&M's 29-24 upset win against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Two other quarterbacks have joined Manziel in the early Heisman race — Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.
Mariota, who faces Tennessee this week, has thrown for 433 yards and three touchdowns while also averaging 26.1 yards on nine rushes. He has touchdown runs of 71 and 46 yards.
Bridgewater has passed for 752 yards and nine touchdowns. He was 22 of 32 for 397 yards with four touchdowns against Eastern Kentucky. Louisville travels to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday.
NCAA double standard
Latrobe coach Ray Reitz, who coached former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor at Jeannette, said the NCAA handled Pryor's situation differently than Manziel, although Reitz believes the cases are similar.
“That's where I think the NCAA gets in trouble. Their punishment doesn't fit the crime,” Reitz said.
In 2010, the NCAA ruled that Pryor and five of his Ohio State teammates would be suspended for the first five games in 2011 for selling memorabilia.
Conversely, the NCAA agreed with Texas A&M to suspend Manziel for the first half of the 2013 opener against Rice, after acknowledging Manziel did not receive money for signing autographs.
Texas coach Mack Brown, feeling pressure for his job before the season started, made a panic move when he changed defensive coordinators for Saturday's game against Mississippi. Brown replaced Manny Diaz with former Longhorns assistant Greg Robinson.
Brown had to do something after Texas yielded a school-record 550 rushing yards in a 40-21 blowout loss at BYU. The performance dropped the Longhorns to No. 121 in rushing defense and No. 115 against the run (out of 123 teams).
Short of firing himself, Brown — who, ironically, faced questions about his offense during the offseason — replaced the head of a defensive unit that was humiliated in its first road loss against a nonconference opponent since 2000.
Robinson, who recorded losing records in each of his four seasons as Syracuse's head coach, has the daunting task of facing a Mississippi offense averaging 35 points. His track record as Michigan's defensive coordinator in 2009-10 under Rich Rodriguez, when the Wolverines ranked 82nd and 110th, doesn't look good.
QBs growing up fast
Texas Tech freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield, who's third nationally with 390.0 passing yards per game, faces a tough matchup Thursday night against TCU. Mayfield didn't enroll until July and started preseason practice working with the scout team. After throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns and running for another touchdown against SMU in the opener, Mayfield became the first Texas Tech freshman quarterback named Big 12 player of the week since Texas Tech first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury in 1999.
• The Texas A&M-Alabama matchup is clearly the game of the week, but one loss won't make or break Alabama — or A&M — in the SEC, which has produced the past seven BCS national champions. After all, Alabama won the BCS title a year ago despite a regular-season loss to Texas A&M. But a win improves Alabama's national title chances; the Crimson Tide won't face another top-10 opponent until LSU on Nov. 9.
• The Southern Cal-Boston College game Saturday is more than just an intersectional matchup between teams from the Pac-12 and ACC. It also could be a case of USC coach Lane Kiffin fighting to save his job following a stunning 10-7 loss to Washington State, a game in which the Trojans amassed only 193 yards. Even if USC's offense can't move the ball against Boston College, its top-ranked run defense — yielding only 15.0 yards per game — should keep things close.
• Ohio State's game at Cal on Saturday likely won't determine the BCS national champion. But it could foretell how the Buckeyes' defense performs against a top-notch passing quarterback. Cal freshman Jared Goff threw for 450 yards against Northwestern in the opener and 485 against Portland State last week.
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