The most intriguing quarterback matchup this weekend resides in the SEC. Ironically, the quarterback position is the only part of this weekend’s game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas A&M Aggies that most believe is equal. Other than Johnny “Johnny Football” Manziel for the Aggies and A.J. McCarron for the Crimson Tide, most see this as another win for the Crimson Tide. Of course the QB matchup is compelling due to opposite reasons concerning each quarterback.
With McCarron, it’s going to be about whether the Aggies’ defense can stop him and the Crimson Tide offense.
Even with all of the trouble that McCarron had guiding his offense against the LSU Tigers last week, he still hasn’t thrown an interception this season. And that is something that shouldn’t change this Saturday as the Aggies not only are a team that gives up points, but they especially give them up to competent offenses. And if the Crimson Tide offense is anything, it’s competent, more than competent that is. The Crimson Tide offense only failed to score 35 points in one game this season: last week against the Tigers. And even in that game McCarron made plenty of difference with his poise under pressure during that final drive, rushing for his first touchdown this season to help give the Crimson Tide a commanding halftime lead, and he didn’t make that first big mistake of the season in Baton Rouge last week either.
Aside from last week’s game, McCarron’s season has been one that has looked similar to Ohio St. Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller‘s season in the following ways: neither quarterback has had blow away seasons statistically, both seem to be flying under the radar when it comes to the Heisman Trophy, both quarterback’s teams are still undefeated, and both quarterback’s offenses wouldn’t be as close to as efficient without them. That is what McCarron brings to the Crimson Tide: a star that doesn’t need to be treated like a star to play like one. McCarron hasn’t even been close to the top of most covered quarterbacks in the media this season, and part of that could be that the Crimson Tide’s running game and/or defense has usually overshadowed McCarron. So far that’s worked out fine for everyone in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
With Manziel, it’s more about if the freshman QB can withstand the biggest test of his young collegiate career.
Manziel has had two tests that come close to what he will be facing on Saturday: the Aggies’ losses to the Tigers and Florida Gators. This provides Manziel with the best preparation for what he’ll face with the Crimson Tide defense on Saturday, and it takes away any notion that Manziel hasn’t faced a real defense yet this season. It’s also these two games that have made Manziel look the most human in his freshman season. Against the Gators, Manziel completed over 75% of his passes and ran for a touchdown, but was shut down in the second half. Against the Tigers, Manziel was mostly shut down in the second half and threw three interceptions on the day, the most he has thrown in a game this season.
And while those two games are what everyone should be looking at with regard to Manziel’s development in his freshman year, it’s the other seven games this year that everyone has been looking at. It’s these seven games (all wins) that have helped earn Manziel his nickname. It’s not just that this freshman is putting up big passing numbers, it’s that he can run pretty good too. Minus an injury or massive decrease in rushes, Manziel is all but guaranteed to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season, and he also shouldn’t have any trouble reaching 3,000 passing yards with only the Sam Houston St. Bearkats and Missouri Tigers remaining after this weekend. Manziel has thrown for sixteen touchdowns, but he’s also ran for fifteen touchdowns so far this season. Like Collin Klein of the Kansas St. Wildcats, Manziel is a versatile athlete who can run and pass with great efficiency and effectiveness. The difference of course is that Manziel’s nine games this season are his first nine collegiate games and he’s already impressing people in a big way.
It’s an intriguing aspect to an otherwise non-that-intriguing game. It will be a quarterback of experience who has tasted championship glory against a quarterback beginning to create his own collegiate legacy very quickly. And while a division title, spot in the SEC title game, and continuing towards the national championship game won’t be on the line for the Aggies like it will be for the Crimson Tide, it would make the Aggies’ season to get this win. And if Johnny Football can get this win on Saturday, expect to hear his name a whole lot for the next year or two (or three).