Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Put On Your Bowling Shoes! It's... October?

The Aggies handily took care of business against Auburn this weekend, 63-21, making Texas A&M bowl eligible in the month of October. I'll let Ben and Scott break down the devastation that A&M dealt on the field; instead I'd like to focus on this line: "Texas A&M is bowl eligible in the month of October".

Sidebar: There has been some confusion as of late about the whole 6 wins or 7 wins needed for the Aggies to be bowl eligible. The reason is that we play two FCS schools this year (South Carolina State and Sam Houston State) but you can only count one FCS win in your bowl eligibility count. A&M has wins over 5 FBS schools and 1 win over an FCS school already, thus we only needed 6 wins.  

The last time A&M was bowl eligible this early in the season was October 20th, 2007 when Stephen McGee and Jorvorskie Lane combined for 297 rushing yards to defeat a Bill Callahan Nebraska, 36-14, in Lincoln.

Just for fun, I started looking over that year and a barrage of awesome story lines popped out at me. Coach Fran opened up the 2007 season with a 6-2 start. That looks good on the surface but that included a triple over-time win over Fresno State (see the Great Aggie Migration), a painful loss to Miami in a game Fran referred to as an "exhibition game", and the infamous secret newsletter scandal. It's quite interesting to think that one of our most successful starts to a season in the last decade was marred with so much controversy. Of course, the Aggies closed out the season losing 4 of their last 5 games and firing Fran moments after his only win the remainder of the season, a second straight victory over the Longhorns.

So in light of us being bowl eligible, let's take a look at our recent bowl selections. In my 7 years of experience as an Aggie, I've learned that there is one place A&M excels at: being selected in bowls above our skill level.

2006 - We jumped a 9-3 Texas team to get invited to the Holiday Bowl against Cal where this man ran for over 100 yards and 2 TDs in 2 and a half quarters to blow us out. Meanwhile, Texas cleaned house on a 6-6 Iowa team.

Sidebar: How did Marshawn Lynch get into Cal? That makes as much sense as my dog, Loki, cooking ME spaghetti. 

2007 - In a year where Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas combined for an overall record of 45-9, the Aggies, now without a head coach, were just lucky to limp into a bowl game against Penn State. Add to that, the game turned out to be Joe Paterno's 500th career game, and the Aggies fell to a game-winning Penn State TD in the final 20 seconds of the game.

2008 - The season started with a home loss to Arkansas State... Yea, we didn't go bowling.

2009 - A&M, at 6-6, jumped an 8-4 Missouri to make it to the Independence Bowl where we took on a 7-5 Georgia. Good wholesome beat-down in the worst city on earth.

2010 - Aggies rode a 6 game win-streak to a 9-3 regular season and a matchup with LSU in the Cotton Bowl. Only problem is that there were four other Big 12 teams with better records (OSU, Nebraska, Mizzouri, and OU all had at least 10 regular season wins), but the Cotton bowl picked A&M because Aggies would fill the seats in Dallas. Aggies were wide-eyed and over matched in a game that got out of hand once the All-American, Von Miller, went down.

2011 - Finally we won a bowl game. Thank you Tim DeRuyter!

2012 Prediction? - Sorry guys, it's past my bedtime, but our good friends at Gigem247 have covered this brilliantly.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Al from Dadeville

I feel absolutely terrible about what happened to the trees at Toomer's Corner. If someone poisoned the Century Tree, I can't imagine the heartache for Aggies everywhere. But this audio is pure 12k gold. Thank you, Harvey Updyke, for not supporting my team.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A True Golden Nugget

I came across this excerpt from John Brandon's College Football write-up on Grantland this morning.  I had to share it.  It is perfect.  A truly balanced, fair, complimentary view of Texas A&M at its current state.  It made me proud, validated, and most of all... motivated.  Thank you John Brandon (the acclaimed author of ArkansasCitrus County, and most recently, A Million Heavens), whoever you are.  And thank you Bill Simmons for creating Grantland.

"Two roads have diverged in the shadowed SEC wood. Missouri has proven unworthy, while Texas A&M has shown it belongs. And how. Nonetheless, the Aggies' Kyle Field was put through its second unhappy initiation Saturday. There's plenty to be happy about in College Station. You've got a real-deal superstar quarterback and you'll have him for a couple more years. You've got a top-10 recruiting class arriving next year, 28 strong. Texas is down. Ryan Swope and Damontre Moore. Plenty to smile about. But then there's this other matter: There are three teams in the SEC — A&M has already faced two and will play the last of them, Alabama, on November 10 — who do not care whether their quarterback or their home crowd has a nickname, who do not care about statistics, who do not care about orchestrating a balanced offense or if TV analysts feel confident in their passing attacks, who do not care if they get called for three or four personal fouls a game, who do not care if their cheerleaders are pretty or what their BCS rank is, who do not care about anything except strapping themselves into a steel chair and strapping the opponent into an identical chair opposite them and exchanging head-slaps until one party passes out. LSU and Florida were good enough to allow A&M the first half-dozen swings, and then coaches Miles and Muschamp looked up, blood trickling down their chins, maniacal grins spreading across their faces, and slowly lifted their pimp hands. Alabama is not known to show such courtesy. They're known to strike you in the temple immediately, so you'll give in right away.
All this is to say that the final step of assimilation for coach Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M will be gaining that depth, conditioning, mind-set, and ability to adjust at halftime, all of which allows a team to want four quarters. It reminds a team that the first half can be loads of fun, but the second half determines the winner."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Observations from Kyle Field

Saturday was the first opportunity I had this season to take in a game at Kyle Field. You may have picked up on that, as the award-winning in-game tweeting was nonexistent due to the archaic cellular coverage in College Station. My day at Kyle Field was a pleasure, as always, and it wasn't without its usual treats. The following are some of the things that I mentally noted (none of which have anything to do with the actual game):

1. The number of solid (and by solid, I mean full, dark, and manly) mustaches among the students at Texas A&M has exploded recently. I counted no less than 8 lip-ticklers that deserved two thumbs up. Anyone that reminds me of #3 is fine by me.

2. I have never heard a louder chorus of boos at Kyle Field than the one following the questionable pass interference penalty called on Texas A&M in the 2nd half. This is something I have been openly pining for - hissing is neat and all, but it isn't loud enough to really let the referees or the opposing team feel the 12th Man's wrath. The booing on Saturday was powerful and effective. Less hissing, more booing!

3. The in-game use of the video board and PA system was VASTLY improved over past years. Maybe they scaled it down for the nationally televised game? Whatever the reason, it was nice to not constantly be bombarded with "H-E-B's Tailgate of the Week" and "Texaco Row of the Game" and multiple "Aggie Bugle Calls" during critical moments in the game or during the Aggie Band playing a song.

4. Can we stop with the neon shirts and hats? What's wrong with maroon and/or white? Did we change our school colors without me knowing? Are the "FLO" groups pushing this? Why is this happening?

5. The eye candy present at tailgate on Saturday cannot be understated. (Or so I hear... right?)

6. At one point in the game, a student wearing a yellow banana costume was shown on the video board. I wondered if I knew someone in his section I could call and ask to punch this banana kid in the face. I thought of giving him the benefit of the doubt, and maybe he lost a bet, but he was clearly enjoying wearing a banana outfit that happened to be the opposing team's color. Let's drop the banana bit, guys.

7. I think I like where the majority of the Corps is now seated at Kyle Field. I believe they are the loudest body of people in the stadium, and having them in the corner, where their noise projects out to the whole field rather than the north third of the field, makes sense. 

8. I was thoroughly disappointed to see the amount of LSU colors present in the stands at Kyle Field on Saturday. Not that it was overwhelming, or obvious, but I'd rather none of them be present at all. I realize that's not realistic, and also that Texas A&M season ticket holders have the right to sell their tickets to whoever they want, but I wish they could have found Aggie buyers. Disgusted is probably not a strong enough word to describe my assessment of LSU fans on Saturday.

9. One thing I didn't realize would be going on was tailgate ring dunks. There really is nothing like having a couple hundred random people surround your group to watch you attempt to drink a pitcher of flat beer as fast as possible. After going through it a few years ago, being on the other side is a freaking blast. Ring dunks are awesome.

All in all, it was a pretty solid little weekend trip to Kyle Field. Obviously the game was a huge buzzkill, but sometimes the experience can compensate for the sting of defeat. Saturday was fun, and it affirmed my beliefs that moving to the SEC would result in a better gameday experience in College Station.

Texas A&M in the SEC Takes to National TV

Bowen R. Loftin was not shy in explaining that the #1 reason Texas A&M moved to the SEC was to gain more exposure. The League of Champions plays on national TV more than any other conference in College Football and we are now starting to receive those dividends. For example, College Gameday showed up during week 2 for a nationally televised ESPN 2:30 PM slot (and that was when Florida was still ranked in the 20's). Talk about imediate exposure! Gameday is great, but the true value will continue to be seen consistently throughout the season.

Next in line were two regional broadcasts on FSN against SMU and SC State and a regional broadcast on the SEC Network against Arkansas. At face value, that seems mediocre, but all three of those games were carried by the A&M brand onto TV. In past years, at least two of those three games would not have made TV. For the record, I understand Arkansas was an odd situation this year compared to usual, but we had a severely downgraded TV slot because of their freefall out of the preseason top 10.

We then followed that up with THREE national TV slots; two primetime ESPNU games against Ol Miss and La Tech; and an 11:00 AM ESPN game against LSU. For those who were unhappy with the 11:00 AM kick-off for the LSU game, you have every right to be. Still, those games are behind us, so we'll take a look at what we have coming up. Before we do that though, let me break down the usual selection process in the SEC. Note the picks are made on Sundays, two weeks in advance, with the exception of two six-day options which I will explain later.

Pick order
1. CBS 2:30 PM - Week in and week out, this will be where the best SEC match-up is aired. There are exceptions, as I'll note below, but you can usually expect the best game here.
2. ESPN 6:00 PM - ESPN ownes the next four picks so they may play some funny games (see LSU @ A&M above), but this will more than likely be the second most enticing SEC game of the week.
3. ESPN 11:00 AM - The third pick is last one to make the top echelon of exposure. Sure the ESPNU games are available nationally, but CBS and ESPN are staples on basic cable. There is a significant drop-off in exposure after this pick.
4. ESPNU 6:00 PM or 8:00 PM - Available nationally, assuming you have the right sports package. Great exposure when considering traditional sports fans, but much less exposure to the general public when compared to the CBS and ESPN games.
5. ESPNU 11:00 AM - Same as above but with a terrible kick-off time.
6-8. SEC Network/FSN/CSS - Pick order doesn't matter much to the majority of fans as these will be regional broadcasts. If you live in the area, you have a good shot of seeing the game. Aggies are well versed on the quality of FSN broadcasts, but even regional TV is TV.

Week 9 Texas A&M @ Auburn (Oct. 27th)
This game gets another nationally televised 6:00 PM ESPNU slot. Auburn is having a disasterous season so the fact this game is still available nationally is something the Aggies can be quite happy about. True, it won't be the featured game of the evening this Saturday, but it will be a channel surfer game for the average fan to check in on between the Ohio State/Penn State game at 4:30 PM and the Oklahoma/Notre Dame game 7:00 PM.

Week 10 Texas A&M @ Mississippi St. (Nov. 3rd)
This Sunday, CBS decided to exercise their second, and final, six-day option for this week. The option allows CBS to defer their 2:30 PM pick for a week, allowing them to gain a better idea of how the teams will be ranked by waiting to see how week 9 shakes out. Also in play this week is CBS's Double Header feature exercised to put the Alabama @ LSU game on CBS at 7:00 PM and nullifies ESPN's 6:30 PM pick. That part is complicated and pointless to us Aggies, so long story short, if we beat Auburn and Ol Miss loses to Arkansas this week, we should get the 2:30 PM CBS spot. If both of those don't happen, then we most likely get an 11:00 AM ESPN game.

Week 11 Texas A&M @ Alabama (Nov. 10th)
No picks have been made, but the only competition for the 2:30 PM CBS slot this week will be Miss St @ LSU. CBS has assigned their Double Header feature for this week as well, with the 2:30 PM CBS slot and an 11:00 AM CBS, but the 11:00 AM CBS slot gets 4th pick and won't affect us. Ideally, CBS would want to know who wins between LSU/Bama and A&M/Miss St, but they have already used their two options so they will have to make this selection before week 10 games happen. My suspicions have CBS picking this game based on the winner of the Bama/Miss St game. Barring Miss St upsetting Alabama; both A&M and Alabama will be favored going into their respective week 10 games, so I think the edge would go to A&M @ Alabama to get the 2:30 PM CBS game, leaving Miss St @ LSU with the 6:00 PM ESPN game.
Week 12 Sam Houston State @ Texas A&M (Nov. 17th)
This weekend is marked by 8 SEC teams playing out-of-conference home games, meaning a total of 11 games to choose from. Even this far in advance, I don't expect to see this game picked up by any TV, but if we are, look for it to be an 11:00 AM SEC Network/FSN/CSS game.

Week 13 Missouri @ Texas A&M (Nov. 24th)
Rivalry Week pits many teams against their big rivals; resulting in Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt playing OOC and not at home. The Iron Bowl (Auburn @ Alabama) would be the expected 2:30 PM CBS game. That leaves us fighting with Georgia Tech @ Georgia, Miss St @ Ole Miss, and Kentucky @ Tennessee. Assuming Mizzou finally wins a few conference games, we have a long shot at getting that 6:00 PM ESPN night game, but I don't see us falling past the 11:00 AM ESPN third pick.

We're heading into the make-or-break part of our season with more than our fair share of the national spotlight pointed on Aggieland. Lack of exposure is no longer an excuse.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2013 Schedule Released

The school's official press release can be found here:

Here's a quick look though:

Date Opponent Location
8/31/2013 Rice Kyle Field
9/7/2013 Sam Houston State Kyle Field
9/14/2013 Alabama Kyle Field
9/21/2013 SMU Kyle Field
9/28/2013 @ Arkansas Wal-Mart U
10/5/2013 BYE - Hurricane Placeholder
10/12/2013 @ Ole Miss The Grove
10/19/2013 Auburn Kyle Field
10/26/2013 Vanderbilt Kyle Field
11/2/2013 BYE - Definitely Off
11/9/2013 Mississippi State Kyle Field
11/16/2013 New Mexico Kyle Field
11/23/2013 @ LSU Cane's World
11/30/2013 @ Missouri Pinkel's Playground
12/7/2013 SEC Championship Hotlanta

From a 2012 point of view, I think everyone would agree this looks great. I'll break it down in the spring. Let's focus on this season.

The Johnny Freaking Football Heisman Hype

Scott gave you his thoughts on the JFF Heisman hype, and I had the itch to write about it too. Let us know which one you like more. The results will determine which one of us is more man.

If you are a supporter of the Aggies and you live anywhere other than under a rock, you have probably heard the increasingly loud chatter about Johnny Manziel over the past two weeks.

When Manziel led his Aggies (yes, this is absolutely his team now – there’s no denying it) to a blowout win over hapless, smiling Arkansas, the 12th Man took notice, as Manziel was clearly the most electrifying player we have watched at Kyle Field in years.

When Manziel led his Aggies to a miraculous win over Ole Miss (in Oxford, mind you), the SEC took notice, as Manziel may not have had his best game, but damn, they said, he sure is fun to watch.

When Manziel led his Aggies to an expected win over Louisiana Tech (however scary it may have been), the entire nation took notice, as Manziel broke his own SEC record for total offense in a game and accounted for 6 TDs.

As sportswriters who cover the team have noted, it’s been a long time since Texas A&M has had a player in the running for the Heisman trophy this far into the season. Watching Manziel, it’s laughable to think that we once considered Reggie McNeal a Heisman candidate.

So now that the clamoring for JFF to be considered a Heisman contender is reaching noticeable levels, and with the gauntlet of the 2012 schedule upon us, what are Manziel’s chances of actually winning the Heisman trophy?

Here are two of the most common arguments being thrown out there either for or against Johnny Football being mentioned as a Heisman candidate:

The “Hey, look at the stats other SEC quarterbacks who won the Heisman recently, Manziel is better than them! He should definitely be the Heisman favorite!” argument

(h/t @SEClogo)
The table above explains, quite clearly in fact, that Johnny Manziel has been a more productive quarterback through six games than either Tim Tebow or Cam Newton were in their respective Heisman campaigns. The numbers don’t lie. It’s worth mentioning that Florida was 4-2 after two games.

However, we aren’t comparing these guys in the same season, against the same competition (Heisman contender-wise), which to me renders this comparison relatively useless. It’s fun to look at and talk about, but it really means nothing.

The “Okay, Manziel is fun to watch, and yeah, his stats are incredibly eye-popping, but c’mon, the Aggies aren’t in national title contention, and his stats have come against inferior competition” argument

This argument is a representation of the misplaced line of thinking that typically leads to the best player (usually the QB) of one of the best teams in the nation winning the Heisman trophy. In years past, I would buy into this, as the trend was well-established.

However, Robert Griffin III proved last year that a special player on a mediocre team (in a mediocre conference, no less) can win the Heisman trophy depending on the quality of the field of candidates. This year, when looking at teams currently ranked, only Kansas State’s Colin Klein and West Virginia’s Geno Smith stand out to me as likely contenders (if Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o wins the Heisman, I’ll see you guys on the other side. We could see a Notre Dame rant here pretty soon. I’m giving you fair warning. I fully expect Braxton Miller of Ohio State to drop off – propensity for choking is in the Big 10’s blood.)

How well the rest of the guys being touted as Heisman candidates play down the stretch will determine the direction this race goes, because if we’re being real here, there’s little chance of Texas A&M actually running the table and finishing the season 11-1. Playing on a team with multiple losses reduces the Heisman candidate’s margin for error and increases his reliance on the field of candidates being relatively weak.

Personally I’m not swayed one way or the other, as I think handicapping the Heisman race in mid-October is something that should be done over beers when you’re skipping class and hanging out at Corner Bar rooftop, rather than by national news organizations, but it’s still fun to dream on. I’ll give it more thought if this thing keeps rolling over the next few weeks, but it’s still far too early to really consider it. However, make no mistake; Manziel winning the Heisman is not unrealistic at all.

But I’d rather the talk this week be centered on kicking LSU’s ass back to Baton Rouge. All this hullaballoo about the Heisman and seeing JFF on the Texans’ sideline Sunday night has me a little worried that the hype is getting too big. I’m nervous. However, I realize that we haven’t been this fired up about a player at Texas A&M in… ever. So I’m cool with it. I just hope we aren’t losing sight of the bigger picture here. Wins are more important than individual records.

This week, I want atonement for the Cotton Bowl letdown of 2011. Beat LSU.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kool-Aid Aside... A Real Heisman Candidate?

Kool-Aid aside… yes, I believe he is.

What if the Aggies knock off LSU this weekend and Manziel has anything above a horrendous game (but then again, if the Aggies were to win, Manziel would OBVIOUSLY have done some things well)? 

He could very well be a Heisman frontrunner.

What if the Aggies fall to LSU?  Well, he should still probably be on the list.

My dream scenario:  Johnny Football gets invited to the Heisman ceremony.  I don’t want to drown myself in my own Kool-Aid and start envisioning every scenario that ends with Johnny Football at the podium accepting the award.  Probably not going to happen… probably shouldn’t happen.

Winning the Heisman has a little something to do with seniority (no freshman has ever won the award).  And a little something to do with your team’s overall record (well… minus last year I guess).  I believe those two factors will ultimately eliminate Johnny Football from winning the prestigious award this year. 

Tangent:  If the Aggies beat LSU and win the rest of their games (minus Alabama) and finish with a 10-2 record… well, that might be enough (again, considering what it would likely take from Johnny to lead the Aggies to that record).  I can only imagine the amazing publicity that Johnny and Texas A&M would receive if he were on the final short list and invited to the nationally televised ceremony. 

Look at the facts: redshirt freshman, first year head coach, inaugural SEC season; the odds seemed insurmountable.  But all Johnny Football has done is completely reignite the Fightin’ Texas Aggies’ world. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of other factors in play (attitude change via Sumlin and his staff), but this story is about Johnny Football.  And nobody can tell me otherwise.  It may end up being the defense that costs this team a chance at greatness, but at least we have “potential greatness” to talk about.  We have hit the halfway point and the flukes should have disappeared.  We have a potential Heisman candidate running our team.  The game of football revolves around the quarterback.  It is the single most important position on the field.  And we have found one.

Johnny is going to have some more freshmen moments.  But as long as he limits them and mitigates their effect with the inevitable big play, we will be just fine. 

Honestly, I am probably writing this piece a week too early.  If the Aggies lay a stink-bomb this weekend, we might have to pour out some of our Kool-aid that has been accumulated at a rapid pace.  BUT, if the Aggies do pull off the upset, well, every single bit of this piece rings true. 

My friends and I like to imagine that every big game at Kyle Field is the biggest game of our lives.  Florida could have been… but we lost and had to commit ourselves to short-term memory loss in order to cope.  This game could be a statement win; not only a statement win for our University, but a statement win for Johnny Manziel that would ultimately complete his ascension into the national spotlight.  Deep down, I believe we got a good chance.  And Johnny is main reason.  

Let's go out and win a big one.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Winning One We Weren't Supposed To Win

Dennis Franchione was a dead fish.  And Mike Sherman might have been a little too reserved.  But wow… Kevin Sumlin is all energy.  We all saw the YouTube clip of him flying around the locker room like a reckless linebacker after the Ole Miss comeback.  And as we mentioned on Twitter on Saturday evening, it truly did give me the chills.

Kevin Sumlin brings the energy, and when a 48 year-old man (I honestly had no idea he was that old) brings that kind of energy, you can bet all of those 18-22 year-olds take notice.  The guy has swagger, and what in the world do college students want more than swagger? (Swagger is the new cool.)  I have no idea if Sumlin knew this when he accepted the gig (see what I did there), but he just happened to find one of the few quarterbacks in the nation that can match his own swagger, stride for stride.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Saturday’s game was a textbook example of a situation in which Aggie teams of old would fold like a lawn chair.  SIX TURNOVERS ON THE ROAD!  And that doesn’t even include the one turnover on downs early on.  A&M literally handed them the ball seven times and said “naw, it’s cool, we want to shoot ourselves in the foot again.”  But the Aggie defense capitalized when it needed to (the Stephen Jenkins interception, for one) and refused to break at the end.  Out of all the notable plays from Saturday, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Ole Miss was TWO INCHES from a first down late in the 4th quarter, and while a first down wouldn’t have ended it, it would have dramatically hindered our remaining opportunities.  And then Ole Miss decides to go with a run play out of the shotgun.  Thank you, Hugh Freeze, for that lovely gift.  It was one of the few mistakes that Ole Miss made on Saturday. 

Another thing: Ole Miss is a solid team this year.  

Did you know that through six games last year, Ole Miss was 117th in total offense and 106th in total defense?  This year, through six games, they are 42nd in total offense and 56th in total defense.  Pretty interesting stuff right there.  As they almost did with us, they could very well play the role of spoiler at some point later this season.

Johnny Manziel looked like a freshman for most of that game.  But with about 7 minutes left in the game, he decided to turn it up a notch.  Backed up against your own goal line?  Why not go to your 6-5, behemoth of a wide receiver deep down the right sideline?  That play may not work every time, but it is a calculated risk that lends you some decent odds.  And you know what?  The odds were in our favor Saturday night in Oxford

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention that West Virginia gave us a nice little dessert (after our tumultuous main course) when they knocked off the perennially overrated Longhorns (in Austin) not but fifteen minutes after our game ended.  As they say in golf, the scorecard does not paint the whole picture. I think that applies to the Aggies’ win in Oxford and the Longhorns’ loss in Austin. But at the end of the day, wins are wins and losses are losses.

It is Monday morning and I still feel great.  I just had a conversation with a fellow Aggie co-worker that consisted mainly of, “can you believe that” and “that was incredible”.  The Aggies are pulling on my heart strings again.  And now with a trendy little #22 next to their name, the nation (and the SEC) will begin to take notice of the new kid on the block.  The masses said Missouri would be able to compete immediately, but Texas A&M would suffer from a steep learning curve.  The season is only six weeks old, but 4–1 feels good. 

The Aggies are getting their Swagger back.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Sunday Package, Ole Miss Edition

The perfect compliment to a cool fall morning and a hot cup of coffee: short thoughts from last night's game in Oxford.

THREE signature plays of the game, in order:

1. Mike Evans' 4th quarter leaping catch over the Ole Miss DB on 3rd and long from their own end zone.

2. Steven Jenkins' TAINT (that's touchdown after interception for you non-Bill Simmons readers) at the end of the first half, when things were looking pretty shaky.

3. Toney Hurd Jr.'s interception to seal the game for the Aggies.

TWO head-scratchers that possibly made me throw a drink at the wall:

1. Taylor Bertolet. I can live with missed FGs; it's a part of the game. But missed PATs are simply horrible.

2. Dustin Harris muffing the punt. That's a senior making a freshman mistake. It should have been the nail in the coffin. This was the only TO that really aggravated me. The others were guys trying to make something happen or fight for extra yardage after contact.

ONE nugget that you should remember:

1. Enjoy getting the chills.

Your Aggies will be ranked for the first time in almost a year when they face also newly ranked Louisiana Tech next week in Shreveport. (Insert cliche about Bulldogs and fighting and Aggies.)

Swagger. It's nice, isn't it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Manziel and Our First SEC Win

We return with a little email exchange to discuss the heroics of Johnny Manziel and the state of the team going into Oxford.

Ben: Another game, another impressive performance from our favorite Aggie, Mr. Johnny Manziel. Right now, the kid can do no wrong. Hell, he is only a redshirt freshman! He still hasn't thrown an interception! He has absolutely shredded the last 3 opponents' defenses! The Florida game wasn't exactly dazzling, but we definitely saw glimpses of his potential that day. 7/8 halves of really good football is impressive. He has lit up the last 3 teams so much that Jameill Showers is seeing a substantial amount of playing time as the undisputed backup QB!

Manziel was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week and SEC Co-Freshman of the Week for his performance against Arkansas. Which reminds me, Scott - smile! I'll admit, after Sumlin elected to kick a field goal up 7-0 in the 1st quarter, only to watch Taylor Bertolet miss, I was a little frustrated. After the Hogs took a 10-7 lead, I was legitimately worried that the Aggies were about to embark on yet another barn-burner with Arkansas. Alas, the power of Johnny Manziel was too much for the Hogs to overcome.

Everyone is praising Johnny Football right now - and rightfully so. Not only do the stats speak for themselves, but the guy is an absolute joy to watch. When was the last time the 12th Man was this electrified by their quarterback? Reggie McNeal during and after his upset win over Oklahoma? (Please. baby Jesus, do not let Johnny Manziel's career fall apart like Reggie McNeal's. Please. PLEASE.)

Two plays from Saturday's game against Arkansas stick out as examples of now vintage Johnny Football: 1) With the Aggies driving on their first possession of the game, facing 3rd and goal from the ARK 7, Manziel dipped, ducked, dodged, dived, and dipped his way around the pocket, faking a throw in the process, only to find an open Mike Evans in the end zone for the game's first score, and 2) In a similar situation later in the game, Manizel literally ran a circle around the Arkansas defense on his way into the end zone. A full, 15-yard circle around their front seven. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I realize the Aggies played a team coached by a puppet that may eat bath salts for breakfast and surely goes comatose by the 2nd quarter, but the team's performance on Saturday was impressive. They took care of business in a fashion that we honestly haven't seen in Aggieland in a long, long time. 

Here is where I get polarizing, Scott, but I have to ask it...

Is Johnny Manziel overrated? He has played great the past few weeks, but I think we are really forgetting was Florida's defense did to stop this offense dead in its tracks three weeks ago. It's also worth mentioning that his lack of turnovers may not be due completely to his superior ball control and decision-making abilities, but rather luck. His very first pass against Arkansas was right to a Razorback linebacker, who apparently dislikes interceptions. 

I love watching the guy play, and I haven't been this excited about an Aggie QB in ever. But should we slow our roll, at least just a little bit?

Scott: Wow, that was an essay in and of itself.  Am I required to be brief now?  Did you just bring me in here to throw a bucket of water on your flaming Manziel crush?

I won't take that bait.  I am ALL IN on Johnny Football as well.  The kid has swagger (and rescues kittens).  The kid can play.  And the kid is going to ignite the fan base in College Station.

BUT... if we don't slow down the parade, I think we are going to get a tough reality/gut check when some of the big boys come into the picture.

At home against LSU, away against Auburn, away against Mississippi State, and away against the well-oiled machine known as Alabama.  Those are the big boys.  And I don't think any of them are going to be overly impressed with our Johnny Football.  Ole Miss and LA Tech aren't freebies, but I don't think they have the coaching nor the defense to contain our new Quarterback and his bag of tricks.

But the snowball is rolling.  Every week he puts up video game numbers is another week that the nation must take notice.  If only West Virginia and Baylor hadn't had a shoot out for the ages, WAY more people would have noticed the redshirt freshmen who lit up the stat sheet and snagged SEC offensive player of the week.

Speaking of stats.  I hope Kingsbury and Sumlin continue to give Manziel the rock around the goal line.  Every touchdown Manziel gets is a big step in the right direction for the notoriety of our program.  He is now the face of the team.  A Ben Malena touchdown is irrelevant.  But the difference between Manziel producing 4 touchdowns and 5 touchdowns every week very much is relevant.  We aren't winning the national championship nor the SEC championship... but we might end the season with the best (and certainly most influential) freshmen in the SEC, maybe even the nation.  Let's help Johnny get there.  You thoughts on this topic Ben?

In addition to our continued praise of Johnny Football, what else have you noticed.  Swope played a great game and got involved.  How in the world is Christine Michael still an afterthought?  I get that Ben Malena can be a good player, but Michael can be a GREAT player.  This still confuses me.

Ben: I agree, that's exactly what I was thinking. Manziel has made these last three opponents look silly, but the future is daunting. I fully expect the freshman in him to be exposed at some point. I never in my wildest dreams expected the ridiculousness of the last few games. 

Malena is simply outplaying Michael. I love me some C-Mike, but I personally don't give a flip over who plays as long as we win. And convincing wins are even better. Bottom line, competition is good. The best player will get the opportunities. Sumlin made that clear on Day 1 (yet another point in Sumlin's favor!).

I'm going there. Now that we have a few games to base opinions on, what do you think of Kevin Sumlin's first season so far? To say I am impressed would be an understatement. The change in energy is more obvious than a Corps guy walking his girlfriend by the Century Tree. I love watching this team play.

Scott: WHOA! A successful (and tasteful) corps joke.  I am impressed Mr. Berryman.  I am extremely happy with Sumlin thus far.  He has handled the media, the expectations, and the team in general extremely well.  

Another tidbit as we sit 3-1.  The Florida loss doesn't hurt as bad.  After that game, most of my pain arose from the fact that it was a winnable game.  Letting a W slip through your hands like that never feels good.  But I now feel somewhat vindicated.  Florida is a great team.  We had a strong showing.  Johnny Football sufficiently stepped up.  I will even go so far as to call it a building block.  Phew... this might be the most accepting of a loss I have ever been.

The C Mike situation.  I am not with you.  I know Ben Malena is quietly producing.  But you know who produced LOUDLY last year before he broke his leg?  C Mike.  Now I get it... new year, new team, new coach.  Not buying it.  He is in the dog house.  And don't get me wrong, I am sure that C Mike, himself, is the only one to blame.  I sure hope he finds his way out soon though.

Want to give me a few defensive tidbits Ben?  I thought our unofficial spokesperson De'Vante Harris has been playing quite well given his true freshmen status.  By the way, I think we need to call him out and get him to put some thoughts to paper for us here at Aggie Rundown.  De'Vante was chosen via the #AggSwagg #Outchea awesomeness.  Should we just show up at his door one morning?  Do we bring flowers?  Protein shake?

Ben: Overall I am satisfied with the defense. They performed well in the first three games, but not so much against Arkansas. Giving up over 500 yards at home is extremely concerning. Granted, Tyler Wilson and Co. are a very talented offense, but I would have liked to have seen more pressure up front and better tackling on the back end. Wilson was doing a good job using a quick drop to get rid of the ball and beat the pass rush, and also with the lead our defense was playing off the line of scrimmage. But in a closer game against a more polished team the Aggies will have to generate pressure more consistently and do a better job of wrapping up.

Speaking of De'Vante Harris, I like the guy in coverage, but his tackling is going to drive me insane. I understand he is a true freshman that is still adjusting the size and speed of the athletes. I understand that he himself is undersized. I get that. However, simply diving at the running backs on plays that break outside has proven to be ineffective at best. Kniles Davis made him pay on his long TD run Saturday. To be fair, Harris isn't the only one. Multiple guys have looked stupid trying to trip up an offensive player and failing. Surely the coaches recognize this problem and are working to correct it. These plays make me miss Trent Hunter back at the safety position!

At the end of the day, I can't be upset about holding the Hogs to 10 points. Against a team that actually has a coach with a pulse though, the Aggies will have to be better. Arkansas was fumbling the ball like it was a greased up watermelon in a swimming pool. Most teams won't be in such a giving mood.

Any predictions for the Ole Miss game?

Scott: It will be the start of our very first SEC winning streak.  Boom.