Yes. I’m talking about you. All of you. All SEC and college football fans around the country. Today you won. We all won.
With the announcement that Johnny Manziel will only be suspended for the first half against Rice, removing the dark cloud cast by the NCAA and allegations over the player, you can hoist your crystal ball in the comforts of your own home.
You may not like him, but you respect him as a player. And if you don’t respect him, you love watching his ridiculous highlights, running circles around his opponents and piercing the heart of every Oklahoma, Texas and Big 12 fan along the way.
He’s the silver lining that helped leapfrog the biggest shadow in the state of Texas – in one year. Manziel is the biggest reason Texas A&M’s program is about to jump to another level, leaving the Horns in a freefall.
Manziel’s electrifying encore is a mere three days and two quarters away, and Rice will be the victim. Yeah, he won’t start, but 300-plus total second-half yards aren’t out of the question. It’s going to get ugly.
Folks will point to the Summer of Manziel as the single biggest distraction that will keep Johnny Manziel from going all Johnny Football again. But that’s just not going to be the case.
Some say Manziel is in for a sophomore slump, but that’s wishful thinking. Many say Manziel is a cancer in the locker room. His teammates know that with him, they’re a national championship contender. Without him, they’re, uh, a seven- or eight-win roster. Media pundits also say that defensive coordinators now have the blueprint to beat the Aggies based on Florida, LSU and a complete offseason of scheming and game planning. Yet, they fail to mention Kevin Sumlin’s offensive genius and ability to make adjustments just as well – or better – than defensive coordinators.
Of course, if Texas A&M loses three games because of the defense, who will get the blame? Manziel. He’s the Heisman Trophy winner, and with that comes a responsibility and an accountability to make sure you don’t lose football games. I get that. He’s earned that right.
Alabama had the most to gain from sitting Manziel. But all of Alabama would have been pissed off – including Nick Saban – should he been suspended for the game, because the Tide want revenge and to beat the Aggies at their best game.
I’m not debating whether or not he did it, nor am I debating whether the NCAA is a lacking institution; we’ve been through that already. But the reality that Johnny Football is guaranteed to be making his encore is riveting.
The assurance that Manziel will play in 2013 means the SEC West is wide open. It means the dynasty that’s been built by the process is in jeopardy. It means everyone’s preseason top 10s stay the same, and Verne Lundquist can chortle over Manziel’s ridiculousness on the field. It means the coaches preseason All-SEC team will fuel Manziel’s ever burning ember of wanting to be great.
I don’t exactly condone the Summer of Manziel. I’m not sure I want my starting quarterback acting like that all the time. He brought a lot of these off-the-field antics on himself, and, largely, he has to prove people wrong this season. Can he do it? Absolutely.
Johnny Manziel gets to play college football one more year. He won. But the biggest winner is us, the fans, and you better enjoy every minute of it.
Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell