Quantifying the importance of Johnny Manziel

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama

Who is the most important player in college football? It’s the playmaking quarterback and it’s not even close.

Getting that five-star running back, wide receiver, linebacker or defensive lineman is great. Those pieces are huge in building a championship roster, but no single player has the impact of the quarterback that can make plays both in the air and on the ground. This player is a game changer.

The SEC has showed us this with studs like Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel.

What’s that you say? Alabama is winning without a playmaking quarterback? Of course they are. But there’s only one Nick Saban and one Alabama currently. Few teams can consistently stockpile the talent that Alabama does and then coach up that talent the way Nick Saban does.

Interestingly, two of the most memorable Alabama games in recent years are two losses at the hands of the playmaking quarterback in Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. While Tim Tebow couldn’t secure a second victory against Saban and Cam Newton didn’t have to try, Johnny Manziel will let us know early in 2013 whether Saban’s coaching and system can be beat twice in a row by the same playmaker (I have my doubts).

Regardless, the importance of Johnny Manziel cannot be understated. With him, the Aggies can win every game on the schedule. Without him, it’s a much different story.

Let’s look at the percentage of offense that Johnny Manziel is responsible for and compare against Aaron Murray and AJ McCarron. The Aggies, the Tide and the Dawgs had the most prolific offenses in 2012 in the SEC.

Team/QB Total QB Yards Total Team Yards QB % of Yards
Texas A&M/Manziel 5116 7261 70.4%
Alabama/McCarron 2937 6237 47.09%
Georgia/Murray 3893 6547 59.5%

Let’s look at total touchdowns:

Team/QB Total QB TDs Total Team TDs QB % of TDs
Texas A&M/Manziel 47 78 60.3%
Alabama/McCarron 31 71 43.7%
Georgia/Murray 39 72 54.2%

Side note: the above numbers along with the insane talent all over Alabama’s roster show why AJ McCarron will never win a Heisman trophy. This isn’t a criticism of McCarron, but it’s the reality of how players win the Heisman.

Johnny Manziel means that the Aggies are never out of any game. It means that the defense can be less than world class and the Aggies can still win.

Defenses will adjust to Manziel, but his ability, coaching staff, and yes, the manageable schedule for the Aggies mean we should see similar numbers from this Aggie offense in 2013.

But, the big question: Can they beat Alabama? This game won’t be easy for Manziel, but I look for the Aggies to take a page from the Clemson v LSU Chick-Fil-A bowl and try to win the game in the 4th quarter by exhausting the opposing defense. If they can get up to 80 or 90 offensive plays, the Alabama defense will get worn down and Manziel can make plays late to win the game.

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