Johnny Manziel is still the best player in college football and should be the Heisman front-runner

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace completed a 50-yard pass to Jaylen Walton to take a 37-31 lead on Texas A&M with six minutes and five seconds remaining at Vault-Hemingway Stadium Saturday night. Was there any doubt about who was going to be in charge of orchestrating an Aggie comeback? Was there any doubt about what the outcome of that would be?

Johnny Manziel had a tumultuous offseason, but through his play on the field this year, he has reminded us of why he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. The comeback at Ole Miss was just another piece of the tapestry of his exhilarating college career.

Saturday night, Texas A&M was in trouble late in the game in a hostile SEC road environment. Manziel found a way to lead his team to a come from behind win in dramatic style. A year ago, Texas A&M had similar issues at Ole Miss. In fact, the final deficit, three points, was the exact same in both games.

To me, this should serve as a statement to the college football world that Johnny Manziel is fully able to compete for another Heisman this year. Quite incredibly, his ridiculous stats are better at this point than last year’s. He is averaging 457 yards of total offense per game, which is more than the total offensive output of eight SEC teams. Those yards have been well-balanced between run and pass. Most importantly, who is better than Manziel in a clutch situation?

ESPN’s Mark May and Lou Holtz debated Saturday night on the network’s “College Football Final” whether Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is more valuable to his team than any other competitor in college football. While I understand the argument and have great respect for what McCarron has accomplished, how can someone argue that any other player is more important to a team than Manziel is to Texas A&M?

His Heisman campaign this season will be more difficult. This is largely due to the numerous offseason headlines that were created as a result of a number of poor choices by Manziel.

Did Manziel take money from an autograph broker? Perhaps. Was the half-game suspension at the beginning of the season a slap on the wrist? More than likely. But between the white lines, Johnny is still doing what Johnny has always done, and maybe even better.

Will Johnny Manziel win the Heisman this year? I have no idea. There is a seemingly greater amount of competition among top players in college football this year, particularly at the quarterback position. Another factor working against Manziel is that Texas A&M seems to be out of the BCS Championship race at the moment. As we know, that can change. But without a lengthy list of upsets, the Aggies won’t be playing in Pasadena.

Still, there are points on the schedule that could be very advantageous for Manziel and A&M. The biggest one of those is LSU. The November 23rd matchup will have a lot of implications. And if Alabama were to fall to LSU at home, Texas A&M can run the table and be in a three-way tie for the SEC West. So there is still a ton left for Manziel and the Aggies.

To be clear, there’s no way that I can say on the 15th of October that Johnny Manziel should win the Heisman. But his play does not seem to be attracting the amount of respect from the college football world that it did a year ago. That’s difficult to comprehend, given that it looks even better this year. To me, Manziel was the best player in college football last year, and he remains the best player this year.

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