Friday, September 21, 2012

Another college football post

Random thoughts on the last week or two of football and looking forward to this week. Last week was weird. To quote myself, "Dallas got crushed after looking great in week 1, USC lost to Stanford for the 4th straight year, A&M's top running back didn't play (and the fill-in only had 12 carries for 43 yards) yet the Aggies won by 45 points on the road, t.u. gave up 31 points to an SEC team yet won by 35 on the road, the Philly Eagles have turned the ball over 9 times in two games yet are 2-0, the Georgetown Eagles are undefeated and blowing people out, TCU struggled to beat Kansas, Kansas State struggled a bit with North Texas, Peyton Manning threw 3 interceptions in an 8 minute span... I think at this point, the only thing I know for sure is that Alabama is better than everyone everywhere. Every of the time." I should probably just stop there. But I won't.

A&M got off to a slow start but ended up doing exactly what they should do to a team of SMU's caliber. Johnny Manziel and the receivers made big, explosive plays like you'd expect out of this offense and the Wrecking Crew kept SMU's run and shoot attack in check all day. One thing to consider though is that their quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, formerly of the evil, devil beast Longhorns, is really, really bad. He was bad at Texas from the very first time he played significant minutes (turning the ball over 5 times against Alabama in a game that, for some odd reason, people thought he actually played well), and he was bad bad bad every time after that until he eventually left Austin and transferred to SMU. Well, he's still bad. 

One interesting stat I heard after that game: June Jones (SMU coach) has only seen his team go touchdown-less in three games in his entire coaching career, and last Saturday against A&M was one of them. That would suggest that this year's Wrecking Crew is, at a minimum, pretty good. Florida's 37 point outburst against Tennessee after only scoring 20 against A&M would also point to that. The season is young, but A&M currently ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense and 23rd nationally in yards per play defense, which are the two best defensive metrics in my opinion. (A&M has only played two games, while most teams at this point have played three. A&M also has not played an FCS school yet- they do this week- whereas many teams already have. My point? A&M's defensive (and offensive) rankings should all improve this weekend.)

Johnny Manziel, a.k.a. "Johnny Football," or "Johnny Freaking Football," had the first of what promises to be very many statistically impressive games, along with amazing highlight plays. If you ever have a few spare minutes, go look at his high school highlights on youtube. His best plays against SMU looked pretty much like those. He's innately slippery and hard to tackle. It's something that can't be taught, and he has it. Vince Young had it. Tony Romo has it. Not many people do. He's also incredibly fast and agile. If my memory serves me correctly, he ranked right up near the top of the Aggie team last year in all of their agility drills. That's a nice benefit for a quarterback. 

So when considering his performance, here are some numbers for you. He had over 400 total yards and accounted for six touchdowns. That has only been done one other time in Texas A&M history, by Reggie McNeal in 2005 (also against SMU, at Kyle Field). Reggie did it in his senior year, after four years of development. JFF did it in his second college game, on the road, in less than three quarters. 

Manziel has played two games now and still has not turned it over. His passer rating to start his career is higher than Ryan Tannehill's passer rating was in 2011. Tannehill was picked #8 in this year's NFL draft and is the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. I know it's early and the numbers don't mean much yet, but still, it is an impressive start. 

Assuming he stays healthy, Manziel will absolutely destroy just about every offensive record A&M has. From the "way too early to make projections file," here are some projections: if he just averages for his whole career what he's averaged in his first two games, which is not unreasonable at all considering the fact that his game one numbers were very pedestrian, he would pass for 12,600 yards and run for just under 5,000. That's assuming 13 games a year. That would make him the school's all-time leading passer and basically tied for the all-time leading rusher. Now, realistically, the running numbers should fall off as he becomes more comfortable as a passer. But the passing numbers should increase dramatically in this offense. 

Here are things to consider regarding that. In this offense, which is at least in part derived from Mike Leach's offense (A&M's offensive coordinatr is Kliff Kingsbury, who just so happened to be the first quarterback at Texas Tech to play under Leach), it takes a program a few years to really figure it out when they are switching to it from something drastically different. When Leach started at Tech, in year one, they only threw for 272 yards per game. In their first five games that year, Kingsbury threw nine interceptions and only had one game with a passer rating over 120. Two years later, as a senior, he passed for over 5000 yards and 45 touchdowns. There are plenty of other similar examples out there. We are seeing Manziel at what figures to be the worst part of his career. Barring injury, it should just get better and better as both he and the program overall learn the new system and learn how to execute it in different situations. The difference here is that Manziel is mobile. Sumlin and Kingsbury run a pass heave system that they perfected in Houston, but they didn't have the luxury of a mobile quarterback. The Aggies will incredibly hard to defend as Manziel figures out how to truly pass in this offense and then still uses his legs to convert third downs and keep defenses honest. A&M will be scary good over the next three years.

This week, it's an easy game again South Carolina State. A&M is favored by 51 points, so this is the type of game you hope to pull your starters in the third quarter and get the backup quarterbacks some quality reps. 

As for other football news, Alabama is so much the best team in America right now that they shouldn't even be ranked #1. They should be ranked higher. Like -3 or something. 

Texas got a big win, and it's obvious that they are a much, much better team than they've been the last two years, but we still don't know too much about them, because their schedule has been brutally awful. The three teams they've played have only combined for ONE win against an FBS school so far this year. Still, they blew out the teams they're supposed to blow out. After their bye this week, they play four straight games they could easily lose, so we'll see just how good they are. 2-2 is pretty realistic for that stretch.

And now I'm tired of typing.

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