Landry Jones, Johnny Manziel
USA TODAY Sports, AP Photo

OU's Landry Jones vs. A&M's Johnny Manziel


Senior could cement OU legacy

Trotter By Jake Trotter

Here's what Landry Jones did not do this month: He did not go to the national awards in Orlando, Fla., or the Heisman ceremony in New York. He did not hang out with Megan Fox at "The Tonight Show," or do the Top Ten list on Letterman. He did not sit courtside at NBA games, or ham it up with LeBron James or James Harden afterward. And he most definitely did not play 18 holes with the Jonas Brothers.

Johnny Manziel is a fabulous quarterback with a snappy nickname, a charismatic personality and a bright future in college football. But does anyone really believe that a freshman who's been this busy living it up away from football, who by the way will be without his position coach and offensive coordinator, is 100 percent focused for this bowl game?

Landry Jones
Landry Jones
Before Cam Newton, Heisman-winning quarterbacks had a track record of flopping in their bowl games for this reason. In 2008, Sam Bradford threw two interceptions in a national title loss to Florida. The year before, Tim Tebow finished with a season-low 211 total yards in a defeat to Michigan. And in 2006, Troy Smith was a complete disaster as the Gators destroyed Ohio State to capture the national title. Jason White, Eric Crouch and Chris Weinke were all shut down as well in national championship losses.

Winning the Heisman is such a life-altering experience that it's incredibly difficult for these quarterbacks to come back to earth so quickly and lead a team to a bowl win. Texas A&M capitalized on this in 1990 when the Aggies obliterated BYU and Heisman winner Ty Detmer 65-14 in the Holiday Bowl.

Maybe Johnny Football is up to the challenge that's doomed Heisman winners before him. He'll have to overcome other history, too. Oklahoma has dominated the Aggies over the past decade. Bob Stoops is 11-2 against A&M, including a comfortable victory last year in which the Sooners led 41-10 going into the fourth quarter.

And while Manziel will be making his bowl game debut, Jones will be making his fourth bowl start and 50th overall start. Jones is 3-0 in bowl games and has played very well in all of them. He also enters the bowl season on fire, having thrown for more than 500 yards twice in November. And he won't be overwhelmed by the Cowboys Stadium stage, either. He quarterbacked the Sooners to a comeback victory over Nebraska there in the 2010 Big 12 championship.

Jones also understands he'll be remembered in Norman in part by his performance in this game. Manziel will have many more chances to cement his legacy in College Station. This is Jones' final shot. He has been focused on nothing but this bowl game the past month. Which is why I think he outplays his counterpart, who's had one fun December away from football.

Freshman could cap dream season

By Sam Khan Jr.

So you've probably heard that Johnny Manziel's been a few places in the past month. Award shows. The Heisman Trophy ceremony. Letterman. Leno. Cowboys Stadium. Courtside at NBA games. You name it, Johnny Football has done it.

Yes, Manziel spent the month on a tour around the country doing stuff most of us only dream about. Good for him. What he did -- winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman -- has never been done before. Might as well enjoy it.

For those thinking that tour is going to lead to a subpar performance against Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, I'll borrow Chad Johnson's favorite phrase to respond:

Child, please.

Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel
Don't forget why Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in the first place. Plenty of people have told him before that he can't do something. There were plenty of schools in Texas that passed on him as a quarterback coming out of Kerrville (Texas) Tivy. Several observers assumed he wouldn't win the A&M quarterback competition in fall camp after a spring that included as many reckless turnovers as "Wow" plays and a summer arrest for getting into a bar fight and carrying a fake ID. But he still found a way to win it.

Manziel's competitive drive is strong. While people see the highlight reels that make Manziel look like a character in a video game, what they don't see is the intense drive inside of him that helps create that special quarterback.

Oklahoma senior Landry Jones is a good quarterback, a very good quarterback. His numbers speak for themselves. But he's not a better player right now than Manziel, and Texas A&M has the better defense of the two teams. So it stands to reason that Manziel will have the better game of the two.

As coach Kevin Sumlin said, no moment is too big for the 6-foot-2, 219-pound quarterback. There wasn't a bigger stage or tougher test this season than the Aggies' game at then-No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He shined that day. The Cotton Bowl won't be bigger than that, so he shouldn't have a problem.

Former offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury won't be there, but Clarence McKinney -- who has spent five years in this offense with Sumlin -- knows the offense and will call the plays. And if things break down, that's when Manziel's at his best.

Sumlin noted that a team can have too much practice or install a game plan too early for a bowl. Players don't start getting really fired up for the bowl game until they get to the site. Well, they're there now and Manziel's not doing a talk show or chatting up LeBron James anymore. He's practicing and preparing with his team, and when he has spent a whole week doing that this season, more often than not he played pretty well. He knows when to dial it back.

Manziel made a year's worth of highlight reels making seemingly impossible feats possible. So a few weeks of R&R isn't going to slow him down come Jan. 4.