Guerry Clegg commentary: Nick Saban has chance to humble Johnny Manziel

sports@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 10, 2013 

It’s all up to Nick Saban now. He is college football’s last hope. Saturday in College Station, Texas, Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have a chance to do what no one else has even come close to doing.

Humble Johnny Manziel.

Some believe that if Manziel played for Saban, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Manziel would shut up or sit down. Maybe, maybe not. But it's a moot point. Manziel plays for Texas A&M, and so far no one has been able to get their arms around him. Heck, they haven't even been able to lay a finger on him.

A year ago he was Johnny Football.

Fun. Exciting. Refreshingly different.

Then Johnny Football became Johnny Heisman. And now, he's … take your pick.

Johnny Hancock. Johnny Paycheck.

Bratty. Arrogant. Irritatingly indifferent.

Now, most college football fans outside of College Station are ready for him to be Johnny B. Gone.

Just. Go. Away.

But Manziel is not going anywhere, at least not until after the season is over. So we're stuck with him and his arrogant ways for at least another season.

So far, Manziel has eluded all attempts to wrap him up off the field. His head coach. His father. Virtually every football analyst who has weighed in. Even the NCAA. People want to just snatch a knot in him, but there's just one problem. Even those closest to him can't get a hold on him.

Joe Theismann was the latest to rip Manziel. (Well, as of two minutes ago. That's subject to change.) Theismann, not exactly Mr. Humble when he played for the Washington Redskins, went on a three-minute rant about Manziel on Yahoo!

"You go out and get to show everybody that the things that happened, the things that were said about you, really aren't you. And then what he does is he just goes out and he just confirms that he's not a very mature young man. And that he's not a very good leader of a football team. There are a lot of guys that have a lot of talent that play at our level. There are a lot of guys that have a lot of talent that play at the college level - Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, the quarterback at Clemson (Taj Boyd), the quarterback at Florida State (Jameis Winston) -- I'd take any of those guys over Johnny Manziel in a heartbeat. In a heartbeat."

But you think you're tired of Johnny Football? Try being a defensive coordinator tasked with stopping him. Or slowing him down. Or just keeping him from completely dominating a football game. He has been just as impossible to contain on the field.

So that's where Saban and Alabama come in. The memory last year's 29-24 loss to the Aggies provides extra incentive. The lasting image of that game is of Manziel running and passing all over the Bama defense. In truth, he did most of his damage in the first quarter. He had 74 yards rushing in the first quarter and just 18 -- on 13 carries -- for the rest of the game. He completed 10 of his first 11 passes for 76 yards, compared to 14-of-20 for 177 yards over the final three quarters. But 66 of those yards came on two passes in the fourth quarter for what proved to be the winning touchdown drive.

With the possible exception of LSU, Alabama has the best defense Manziel will face this season. With NO exception, there's none better at devising a game plan when given ample time than Saban. Yeah, Kirby Smart runs the defense. But you know that since the final seconds of Alabama's BCS win over Notre Dame ticked off, Saban has been studying Manziel more than anyone in college football. Saban would do that any way.

On top of all that, a convenient bye last week gave Saban extra time to prepare. If that's not good enough to find a way to stop Manziel, nothing will be. Saban is college football's best hope to administer a long overdue dose of humility to Manziel.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service