By Kevin McGuire
There is no higher individual honor in college sports than the Heisman Trophy. The unique fraternity of college football elite is a highly selective group and winning one Heisman Trophy travels with a player for the rest of his life. This year’s Heisman Trophy race is already off to a fast start and as you might have expected, it is quarterbacks leading the way after just two weeks of play. Here is a look at one of the top candidates heading into week three of the season.
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has certainly made the most of his abbreviated time on the field this season. Johnny Manziel sat out the first half of Texas A&M’s season opener against Rice as a result of a violation of rules related to signing autographs, but as soon as he did enter the game, the fun began. Manziel accounted for three touchdowns in his shortened season debut but received more attention for his antics on the field instead.
Last week against FCS power Sam Houston State, Manziel passed for more than 400 yards for the second time of his career (403 yards; passed for a career high 453 last year against Arkansas), passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. Manziel will face his biggest challenge of his career this weekend when top-ranked Alabama visits College Station. Manziel came through with his Heisman moment last season against the Crimson Tide and could be in a position to jump into the pole position of the early Heisman race if he can pen another signature Heisman moment against A&M’s new SEC West rivals.
Only one player has won the Heisman Trophy twice (Ohio State’s Archie Griffin), and if voters take into account Manziel’s demeanor on (and off) the field, it could prevent the Aggies quarterback from becoming the second to achieve the high honor more than once. But when it comes to naming one of the most valuable players on the field any given Saturday, it is tough to find many that can top what Manziel has to offer.
Heisman Match-Up of the Week
Alabama vs. Texas A&M: Manziel will get plenty of attention, of course, with CBS unveiling the Johnny Cam for the game, but Alabama has some players worth watching as well. Quarterback AJ McCarron often gets overshadowed in this type of conversation, but with a win Saturday, could easily find himself moving up the ballots for some voters. The quarterback has become a proven winner after leading Alabama’s offense to two straight BCS titles, yet he may lack a true Heisman moment to date. Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon is another player to watch, as the sophomore is the Crimson Tide’s top running back. If Yeldon has a big game against Texas A&M’s shaky defense, he could make a serious push in the Heisman race as well.
Alabama had a bye week heading into this game, which means head coach Nick Saban has had plenty of time to prepare his game plan and his team for what would be a revenge situation. Texas A&M handed Alabama its only loss a season ago, and Saban has a knack for not losing to the same team twice in a row since taking over at Alabama. This game has been in the mindset for Alabama all off-season as well, with tape of last year’s loss playing on loop in the weight room.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.