There’s a game you need to watch on Saturday. Sure, there’ll be some good football played, but it’s the underlying drama, and championship implications that make this game must-see TV.
The most anticipated game of the 2013 NCAA season is hitting in Week 3 (that’s tomorrow), and it’s all going down in College Station, TX: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas A&M Aggies.
These are two teams that rarely played one another before last season, and now they seem to be bitter rivals. No, this is not because A&M joined the SEC, and plays in the same division as Alabama. This new found hatred is due to one incredibly divisive individual: Texas A&M quarterback, Johnny “M.F. Football” Manziel.
Manziel is Texas football culture personified. If you were a fan of the exceptionally underrated TV series, Friday Night Lights, then you’ll feel a twinge to hear the short phrase, “Texas forever.” That … is Johnny Manziel. He’s full of 20 year old pride, a healthy confidence bordering on arrogance and an understanding that he is a damn fine talent on the football field.
Because of that — and some alleged off-season indiscretion — Manziel has incited a media frenzy over everything he does. For example, here is what Auburn-alumni, and I-hate-the-University-of-Alabama sports media personality, Charles Barkley, had to say:
“Johnny Manziel, he’s doing something I never thought was possible. He’s going to make me root for Alabama this weekend. I never thought I would say those words. I am so close to saying ‘Roll Tide.’ Johnny Manziel is annoying me so much. I’m really close to saying ‘Roll Tide.’”
File that away as one more sign of the impending apocalypse, or the fact that Charles Barkley is turning into a real softy as he gets older. Regardless, this game is steeped in that much drama. You could tell a teenage girl who “hates sports” about this game’s cast of characters, and she’d wanna watch.
Before I digress any further, let’s talk some football.
Alabama took a bye during the second week of the season, and it was no random schedule opening — the team was preparing for Texas A&M. The early time off has probably helped to solidify the “How to defense Johnny Manziel” game plan. Well, at least on paper, in practice and in pre-game walk-through.
Along those lines, there are certain consistencies in the world of college football, and one emanates from Alabama head coach, Nick Saban. He doesn’t lose “rematches.” And if you give the guy ample time to prepare for a big game — well, we all remember the drubbing they laid on Notre Dame in January.
On the flip side…
Texas A&M is certainly not Notre Dame, and head coach, Kevin Sumlin, may be as much of a disciplinarian as Nick Saban. He just possesses a whole lot more cool.
Johnny Manziel is half man, half wild animal on the football field. You can’t control him, you can only hope to contain him, and that’s what Alabama will attempt do. They will try to make Manziel beat them with the pass.
Manziel’s comfort level in open space is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my 30-plus years of watching football. He’s hyper aware of everything happening around him, and his head is always on a swivel. Alabama can put together a game plan to contain Manziel, but they really can’t “prepare” for the guy. The offense around Manziel has improved, and there are several threats capable of gouging the Alabama defense.
The A&M defense is suspect. They’ve had some key personnel out of the line up in weeks one and two. No doubt, these boys will be hungry when Saturday afternoon rolls around. However, Alabama quarterback, A.J. McCarron has been the perfect picture of poise under pressure for the past two seasons, and it’s hard to imagine this defense rattling him enough to force poor play or a rash of turnovers.
Considering everything, here’s to hoping for an entertaining battle. It will offer the winner an inside track to the SEC Championship Game, and potentially the BCS National Title (though LSU will have a thing or two to say about this down the line). Not surprising, the odds-makers have Alabama as a 7.5 favorite.
In my humble, yet knowledgeable opinion, I’d take A&M +7.5. I think Alabama wins the first half, and A&M wins the second. I foresee the ‘Bama defense strong against the designed run, but weak against the breakdown scramble. If Johnny Manziel can keep his head screwed on straight, check his baggage at the locker room door and play with positive emotion, I think the Aggies improve to 3-0 and send Alabama home at 1-1.