Cotton Bowl 2013: Predicting How Johnny Manziel Will Fare vs. Oklahoma

Ian BergCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a first quarter touch down during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Johnny Manziel burst onto the national stage this year making unbelievable plays from day one. Manziel finished the year as the only freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy pushing through the best defenses in the country week after week.

Manziel will lead the Aggies to Dallas in January to take on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, with all signs pointing to another strong performance. 

This season the Aggies were expected to struggle as they worked their way into the toughest division in the SEC, but with the Manziel at the helm Texas A&M made the transition look more like a jump to a mid-major conference, not the toughest in the country. 

Nothing Like Manziel

Oklahoma has not faced a dual-threat quarterback this season with the skill set that Manziel possesses. The Sooners did face-off with Collin Klein of Kansas State and Everett Golson of Notre Dame, but neither player brings the explosiveness of Johnny Football. 

The Aggies have a unique talent in Manziel. He has the ability to take plays that have broken down and turn losses into huge gains. 

He took a snap against Alabama, fumbled it, and turned that play into a touchdown toss. That is an impossible play to defend. Impromptu plays are the signature of the young freshman signal caller. 

Sooners have Success Against the Pass

The Sooners have played well against the pass this season putting the No. 26 ranked pass defense in the country on the field. They have played some very prolific passers this year, so landing near the Top 25 in pass defense is impressive. 

Manziel has tossed interceptions at inopportune times—think the LSU game—but as the year progressed he became more selective. 

In a bowl game where nothing but pride is on the line, Manziel could revert back to his sandlot style and make some mistakes against this secondary. 

He won’t light up the stat sheet with passing yards against the Sooners, but Manziel should be able to throw for enough yards to keep the Aggies offense rolling.

Predicted Passing Yards: 226 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT

The Ground Game Has Caused Issues

For Manziel taking the ball and running for a first down is second nature. He has been nearly impossible to stop on his runs, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. 

Manziel is a hound for first downs, sniffing out the marker and earning the first down on most occasions when he takes off with the football. 

He will be facing off against the No. 80 rushing defense in the country in Oklahoma. The Sooners will struggle to stop the Aggies ground attack from the start. 

Running backs Christine Michael and Ben Malena should be able to help balance the ground game with Manziel, keeping the Sooners defense on its heels. Malena is averaging 5.8 yards per carry while Michael is hitting 4.7 yards a carry this year. 

Having them add a few carries to the fold will take the heat from Manziel and allow him to do more with his feet in the later quarters.

Predicted Rushing Yards: 127 yards, 2 TDs

Manziel Completes his Heisman Campaign

Manziel will complete the full circle of his Heisman-winning campaign in the Cotton Bowl. The Aggies will be able to push for a win on the back of their star quarterback. 

Look for Manziel to adjust to the defense early, and begin to hit stride by the end of the first half. The Sooners will have a lot of looks that they will throw at Manziel to attempt to confuse the young signal-caller and force him to develop his play as the game progresses. 

By the end of the Cotton Bowl it will be clear how easy it was for the voters to hand the bronze to Johnny Football in New York.