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Johnny Manziel Sits at Helm of Heisman Trophy Race After Saturday





Throughout Saturday’s 51-41 Texas A&M victory over Mississippi State, it often appeared that Johnny Manziel was teetering on the edge of danger, before he would suddenly snap back into superman form and make the improbable happen. Of course, this has been a staple of not only Manziel’s 2013 season, but the whole of his two-year reign as the King of college football. Furthermore, this knack to show up when things count the most has placed him at the forefront of the Heisman Trophy race for a second-consecutive season.

On the entirety of Saturday afternoon, Manziel completed 30-of-39 passes for 446 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions and 47 more yards rushing the football. While on the surface of things, three turnovers will not look very good, but it certainly did not tell the true tale of the impact that Manziel had on Texas A&M.

Throughout the game — and subsequently the entire season — there has not been a single player in college football who has had as big of an impact on his team’s fortune as Manziel. On Saturday, this impact was exemplified by the quarterback picking up 493 of his team’s 537 total yards via the passing and running game.

For the larger scope of Texas A&M’s 10 games, Manziel has thrown for 3,313 yards, 31 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, a 73 completion percentage and 611 more yards and eight more touchdowns rushing the ball. To put this into perspective, 61.9 percent of the team’s touchdowns and 67.6 percent of their total offense this season has come via their quarterback either running or throwing the ball.

Upon looking at these numbers, it would be an understatement to say that Manziel has been a focal point of his team’s offense because without him, their would be no offense. This does not mean that teammates such as wide receiver Mike Evans are not talented, but it is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that the man known as Johnny Football is the most valuable player of any sporting team in the world.

Some will certainly attempt to point out the exploits of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston as players who have had an equal impact to Manziel, but upon an examination of the real impact that each has on their offense, it is easy to see that this is simply not true. Furthermore. both of the two play on team’s that have great defenses — Oregon and Florida State each rank in the top 12 in the nation in points allowed — while Texas A&M has allowed the 80th-most points in the league.

While these statistical factors are certainly impressive — and in fact, mind blowing — they will not win Johnny Manziel the Heisman Trophy Award in 2013 by themselves. What will do this is that he accompanies his play with such a swagger and wow factor that you either love or hate the guy, and furthermore can’t change the channel if your life counted on it.

And come this December, your eyes will again be glued to the television as Johnny Football accepts the award as college football’s best player, even if you rip your hair out in anger during the process.

Tyler Leli is a Washington Capitals writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or join his network on Google.

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Florida State: Not Ranking Seminoles No. 1 In BCS Would Be Foolish





When the Florida State Seminoles took the field against the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night, there was a lot on the line.  As the no. 3 team in the country, they were invariably the favorites in the last matchup of undefeated teams, and a loss would all but dash any hopes of making the National Championship game this season.

Once the game began, it quickly became clear that the two teams did not belong on the same field. Miami did pick off Heisman Trophy contender Jameis Winston twice in the first half and went into halftime down only 21-14, but in terms of talent on both ends of the ball, the game was no contest.

When halftime broke, this talent gap translated into a blowout as each of Florida State’s games have been in 2013. Running backs James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman each scored a touchdown. Winston also provided an ever-steady hand, finishing 21-of-29 passing with 325 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on the night, while the team’s defense brought any offense to a halt.

It is safe to say that the end score of 41-14 was justified, and it should ring loud and clear to voters around the country about Florida State’s merit in the National Championship race. The Seminoles have now beaten the third and seventh-ranked teams in the nation by a combined score of 92-28, making them the only undefeated team who has beaten even a single team ranked top-five nationally and two teams ranked in the top-10.

When looking up and down the Seminoles roster, it is clear that the team has gotten to this point because it does not have a weak spot on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Starting on offense, it is easy to see that Winston has a cannon of an arm that forces teams to stay on their toes, but he is not the only star performer. The team’s stable of running backs led by Freeman, Wilder and Karlos Williams has averaged 209.8 yards per game, which has helped to keep games out of reach after the passing game has established a dominant lead in nearly every game.

And as every good offensive unit does, the Seminoles would not be averaging an astounding 51.1 points per game without the help of an offensive line that makes holes as big as the grand canyon for the run game and gives Winston ages to pass the ball.

On the defensive end of the ball, the Seminoles are almost equally as dominant on the backs of an incredibly athletic group of players. This group has put an immense amount of pressure on any quarterback, in turn forcing teams to throw shaky balls or try and run through a line of brick walls on the defensive line. Suffice to say, neither option is a smart one, which has been defined by the team’s 13.1 average points allowed per game.

Both of these units rank in the top-five of any in the country, and they have already been through a row of tough teams that could expose nearly any other team in the country. This domination of tough teams should gain more merit than the fact that Alabama and Oregon have been among the best teams in the nation in the past, and vault the Seminoles to the no. 1 spot in the BCS rankings.

Tyler Leli is a Washington Capitals writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or join his network on Google.

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Johnny Manziel Should Sit Rest of 2013 Season





Over the last two college football seasons, there has not been a single player that has been more exciting to watch than Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 off the back of 47 touchdowns and 5,116 total yards, and in 2013, he has come back stronger than ever with 24 touchdowns and 2,775 yards through seven games.

In fact, during this reign of dominance, there has been no player in all of sports that has been more of a must-watch player, not even LeBron James, Miguel Cabrera, Lionel Messi or Alexander Ovechkin. This is not a knock on any of these players, but the fact is that they cannot combine the on-field success with the off-field drama to create the all-around hype machine that Manziel has become. In fact, maybe no one has compared as someone so exciting since Tim Tebow during his college years.

All of this praise for Manziel will then make it entirely surprising that I believe he should simply not be on the field during the rest of the 2013 season. This is not because he has done some questionable things off the field, or because of some inner hatred for the quarterback, but simply because it would be in his best interest to stay away.

Heading into the 2013 season, Manziel made it utterly clear that he would be declaring himself eligible to be picked in the 2014 NFL Draft almost immediately after the collegiate season concluded. In the midst of this, Manziel did not fail to make it known that he had become fed up with being a rock star as the Texas A&M quarterback, just as the media had not failed to let everyone know he had become a pariah off the field.

On the field, this apparent lack of interest has obviously not shown through Manziel’s peripheral statistics, and furthermore has been tabled by the way he has thrown his body around. Throughout the year, Manziel has played through a balky knee that looked liable to snap in half during a Week 7 victory over Ole Miss, and then during Saturday’s 45-41 loss to Auburn, he picked up an apparent shoulder injury. Neither of these injuries could keep the star off the field for long, though, as in both instances, he came back after a brief period to again look like a superstar.

But what each further knock does begin to show is a crack in Manziel’s armor. Each hit also takes him one snap closer to a career-threatening injury, which is only further exasperated by the fact that he is likely over compensating for other previously stated injuries.

It is clear that NFL executives cringe every time they see Manziel and his minute 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame pick up another knock, and it is feasible that every hit pushes him further down draft boards. After all, these executives have seen that other running quarterbacks who feel they are superman on the field — calling you, Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III — tend to go down with injuries quicker than their counterparts who stay in the pocket.

So, for the betterment of his career at the NFL level, it should be called upon Johnny Manziel to call it quits on his days as a quarterback at Texas A&M. Surely, this would not be a move that would bring on a popular reaction amongst fans of college football –after all, he is the most exciting show in sports today — but the right thing to do is not always the popular thing.

Tyler Leli is a Washington Capitals writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or join his network on Google.

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Tight Win Can Be A Positive Going Forward For Miami





After winning a surprisingly close 27-23 game over the University of North Carolina on Thursday night there were a number of things that could, and should, worry Miami fans. In fact, after a thorough look at the game the case could be made that fans should be pulling their hair out in angst over how a team ranked No. 10 could play so poorly on offense and defense.

On the offensive side of the ball the troubles surrounded the play of Stephen Morris, who had by far his worst game of the 2013 season. During the game Morris completed a mere 54.3 percent of his passes, threw four interceptions, and no touchdowns, a far cry from the nine touchdowns and four interceptions he contributed during the team’s first five games. These statistics make it painfully obvious that his accuracy was erratic at best, which was partially the result of an effective UNC pass rush.

Defensively the woes of the team may not have looked as worrying as the play of Morris, but in hindsight the unit’s play may have been more troubling.  They allowed 500 yards to a UNC offense that ranked 95th in college football in points per game and 75th in yards per game prior to Thursday night’s game.  To say that they got worked by a passing game led by Bryn Renner would be a vast understatement, and some at home were surely wondering if this was the same defense that had previously been dominant.

But despite this gruesome performance that had Miami a mere 16 seconds away from a debilitating loss, the end result of the game was a victory which takes their record in 2013 up to 6-0. And while this may not console some fans at home, the fact that the offensive and defensive unit can not conceivably be this bad again surely will.

In the five games prior to Thursday night, Miami’s offense had scored 45.2 points per game, which ranked ninth in college football.  This game will serve as a lesson to Morris that he must keep the ball out of the opposition’s hands, as even with the poor play the team combined to rush for 234 yards.  This shows that the offense was not as bad as it seems, and relying on the running unit seems likely to be a recipe for success going forward.

Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Miami should take consolation from the fact that they held 23 points despite letting up 500 total yards, largely due to holding UNC to three field goals.  Along with this they were able to force two turnovers, courtesy of Tracy Howard interceptions, continuing to show a ball hawking ability that ranks with any unit in the nation.  Holding top teams to field goals and forcing turnovers is a recipe for success later on in the season and also shows that Miami has the ability to keep teams from racking up huge yards when they want to.  While it is never fun to get lit up for huge yards in any game, learning from it and getting the defensive unit going for 60 minutes will result in Miami being a shut down group when it really counts.

At the end of the day many people will look at Miami’s narrow win against UNC on Thursday night and simply shake their heads out of frustration.  After all a team ranked tenth in the country should beat a team with a 1-5 record, and even the players on Miami would surely admit this.

An ability to admit this and come back to practice working hard will ultimately benefit the team as it brings them back to earth a bit and reminds everyone that much must be worked on prior to facing Florida State and Virginia Tech in the coming weeks.

Tyler Leli is a Washington Capitals writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook or join his network on Google.

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