Meet Johnny Football
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel finally speaks, UT-TCU, the Cotton Bowl, UTSA-Texas State and other highlights from the college football week that was.
“Johnny Football” finally spoke on Monday.
Texas A&M star quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Manziel had been off-limits to media all year, due to head coach Kevin Sumlin’s old-school “freshman should be seen not heard” team rule.
“Why did Sumlin bend his own policy?,” asked Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Staples.
Because he wants Manziel to win the Heisman Trophy, and the Aggies don’t want everyone to forget about Manziel after Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o spent three-and-a-half hours entertaining millions in prime time this past Saturday or in case Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein throws for 10 touchdowns and runs for five more against Texas this Saturday.
Manziel broke Cam Newton’s SEC total offense record in two fewer games than Newton played in his Heisman season of 2010. Manziel’s numbers (3,419 passing yards, 24 passing TDs, 1,181 rushing yards, 19 rushing TDs) are undeniable. But the Heisman is a political award. There are calcified voters who will leave Manziel off their ballots strictly because he is a freshman. (These are probably some of the same guys who didn’t vote for Herschel Walker in 1980.) So Manziel has to play the game. And while Sumlin should be correct when he says Manziel’s numbers should “speak for themselves,” that might not be the case. So, to drive the point home, Sumlin let Manziel speak for himself.
Of course, Manziel’s teleconference didn’t introduce America to someone unexpected. He’s an Aggie: unassuming, humble, proper. The Bull Durham press conference cliche (“I’m just happy to be here”) applies.
“I don’t see myself as Johnny Football. I see myself as Johnathan Manziel,” Manziel said, as Paul Newberry of the Associated Press reported. “When people want to take my picture or ask for an autograph, I’m shocked by it. I’m not used to the whole thing, even though it’s kind of becoming a daily thing.”
As Newberry and Staples noted, among the other memorable talking points from Manziel’s hour-long teleconference was the fact that he attended TCU’s summer football camps without getting an offer from the Frogs, the revelation that he plays the “NCAA Football” video game as the University of Texas-San Antonio (where some of his friends from Kerrville play), and that he claims he’s unaware of this now-viral YouTube tribute:
Other highlights from the college football week that was:
That 20-13 loss to TCU might not have been the glummest set of numbers from the University of Texas’s Thanksgiving Day.
How about 99,950–the lowest official attendance at Royal-Memorial Stadium this season? Or “the low 80,000s,” which is what Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman estimated was the actual crowd.
It’s not hard to figure out why. TCU’s not Texas A&M. And neither is Texas Tech, which is now set to play the Horns in Austin on Thanksgiving 2013.
This is no big deal in and of itself–the next time UT is 11-0 and playing for something that truly matters on Thanksgiving, they will sell out DKR even if the opponent is Concordia University.
But when that’s not the case, the real crowd-killer might not be the rotating opponent, but UT’s plan to play at home each year. It’s one thing for the students to skip out on turkey and remain in Austin for an A&M game. And it’s fun for fans to hold Thanksgiving tailgates every other year.
But every year? For TCU or Tech or Baylor? In the age of HD flat screens?
It’s enough to make one miss 1997-2006, when UT-A&M was played on Fridays.
COTTON TO IT?
So will the rivalry resume in just five weeks? That is to say, are the University of Texas and Texas A&M still headed for the Cotton Bowl?
The “X” factor is not UT, which would still look good in Cotton even if they lose to Kansas State this Saturday (and especially since the next best 8-4 team would be Oklahoma State, a team the Longhorns bested).
Rather, it’s Texas A&M. As Mandel explained, the Cotton is actually behind the Capital One Bowl in the SEC pecking order, so in order for the Aggies to end up in Arlington, the Orlando game would have to prefer the loser of the Alabama-Georgie SEC championship to the novelty of a first-year SEC team and the Heisman hype of Johnny Football.
THE HORNED FROGS ARE YOUR SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS
(AP Photo | Jack Plunkett)
TCU’s win over Texas was its biggest as a first-year member of the Big 12. And the Statesman‘s Bohls says that Gary Patterson’s young team might be the preseason favorite next year.
The last time TCU won in Austin–1967–UT was still an all-white team, as Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted.
The victory also means the Frogs can claim the Big 12’s Southwest Conference alumni championship, having gone 2-1 against UT, Texas Tech, and Baylor, with a win over SMU for good measure.
THE END OF A GREAT IN-STATE RIVALRY
With all due respect to Baylor-Texas Tech, the game that had the potential to replace UT-A&M for Thanksgiving weekend in-state hate should have been UTSA and Texas State, both of which are playing at the Football Bowl Series (FBS) level for the first time this season. (Texas State had been an FCS power, while UTSA just started playing football, period, in 2011).
The two schools have proximity, a history of spite in other sports and were supposed to be huge Western Athletic Conference rivals. But, alas, the same conference realignment that began with A&M ultimately sent UTSA to Conference USA, Texas State to the Sun Belt and the WAC, it seems, to NCAA heaven. And just as UT has said its non-conference schedule is too full to accomodate Texas A&M until at least 2018, UTSA is all booked up until 2016.
The one and only game (for now) lived up to its billing, at least for UTSA. Quarterback Erik Soza, who transferred onto Larry Coker’s team from Texas State, led the Roadrunners to a 38-31 victory over the Bobcats, then proposed to his girlfriend afterwards.
Because the program is so new, 8-4 UTSA (which most pundits didn’t think would have a winning record) can’t go to a bowl, while Dennis Franchione’s 3-8 Texas State squad never lived up to the early-season promise that included an historic upset of the University of Houston.
THIS ROUND OF GROG IS ON THE PIRATE.
Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is a hero now. Under fire from the media and his own Washington State players recently, the Pirate fixed his image for the moment by doing the only thing that matters when your football team is 2-9–knocking off a favored, hated rival in the last game of the season.
Washington State’s 31-28 comeback overtime win over Washington not only gave the Coogs the Apple Cup, but earned Leach a $25,000 bonus that he apparently spent, in part, by buying every fan inside a Pullman bar a round.