Despite losing a tough game to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Johnny Manziel should still remain the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2013.
The Texas A&M Aggies faltered by a mere touchdown in a thrilling back-and-forth contest in College Station, with the superstar sophomore signal-caller doing all he possibly could to win the game.
Johnny Football completed 28 of 39 passes for 464 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, and he ran 14 times for 98 yards. He was near impossible for Crimson Tide defenders to stop when on the move and used his elusiveness to keep the game close.
As part of his exploits, Manziel helped Mike Evans continue his ascension to stardom. The quarterback relied on the 6’5”, 225-pound wide receiver’s strength and jumping ability to make a number of plays, including a highlight throw into traffic after Manziel escaped a near sack.
When Manziel is campaigning to win his second-straight Heisman Trophy, it is the one play you are likely to see at the top of almost every highlight package. Evans would augment his impressive catch with six more receptions to finish with seven grabs for 279 yards and one touchdown.
After two-and-a-half games Johnny Football certainly has the numbers to back up his claim to a second straight season of winning the most coveted award in college football.
The 20-year-old has completed 63 of 89 passes for 984 yards and 11 touchdowns, with just three interceptions. He’s also run 27 times for 153 yards and a score.
Through three games last year, Manziel had completed 58 of 86 passes for 641 yards and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions. He ran 38 times for 262 yards and five scores.
Just looking at those numbers, you can Manziel has clearly become a better passer this year and should only improve over the remaining weeks of the 2013 campaign. He's looking downfield and going through his progressions more, rather than taking off after realizing first or second options are covered.
His statistics should only improve in the coming weeks, as A&M has played its toughest game and has a relatively easy slate of games on the horizon.
SMU and Arkansas are next and represent a chance for Manziel to pad his numbers, with Ole Miss serving as the first ranked team that the Aggies will face after 'Bama on Oct. 12. After that, only LSU on Nov. 23 should pose a serious threat to the team's record and keeping Manziel from absolutely blowing up the stat sheet.
Given that his competition is fading out in the early portion of the season—Braxton Miller is hurt and Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t been the major force he was expected to be—it seems no stretch to say Manziel is well on his way to a second straight Heisman Trophy.
Miller missed Week 3 with a sprained MCL and has only completed 17 passes on the season for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He's also run for just 82 yards and no scores.
Clowney is struggling with a foot injury and has just two sacks in three games. It's tough to quantify his impact when he's not bringing down the quarterback, so voters will likely pass him over when it comes time to pick a Heisman Trophy winner.
Dark horse contenders such as Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Oregon's Marcus Mariota have been putting up solid numbers, but will ultimately be plagued by lack of notable competition.
Manziel's combination of production, recognition and strength of schedule should be what not only makes him a back-to-back Heisman finalist, but also the winner.