Thursday, October 18, 2012

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.

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