Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (aka "Johnny Football") leads his Texas A&M Aggies against their former Big 12 rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners, in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
The bowl season continues tonight with another stand-alone game in prime time. It is not a BCS bowl, but with two power conference teams with a combined 20 wins between them, it has the feel of a game that could very well be a BCS game. In fact, Bill Conelly of SB Nation previewed this game and called this one "The Fifth BCS Bowl":
These teams' combined BCS ranking is 20. Only the BCS title game and one of four BCS bowls (the Fiesta Bowl) can trump that. Considering the size of the stadium, the success of the teams and what will likely be strong ratings (the day after the fourth BCS bowl), this will probably feel more like a BCS bowl than two of the actual ones did.
Another interesting sidebar about this game is the fact that Texas A&M and Oklahoma are former Big 12 rivals who played in some memorable games during their time as Big 12 brethren. Texas A&M's first season in the SEC was a successful one, as the Aggies not only secured a signature win against then-#1 Alabama (on the road, no less), but also introduced "Johnny Football" to the world. Quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Andy Hutchins at SB Nation says you ain't seen nuthin' yet: Johnny Football is the next step in college football's evolution.
Forget the Heisman for a second: has there ever been a better opportunity to do things with the spread offense than at A&M right now, and is there a better chance to make a name for yourself than by leading A&M's SEC insurgency to the top of the college football?
Manziel's Heisman season is a great thing even if he doesn't get another, and will be overrated because it is a grand step forward, but it seems a lot bigger if you're unaware of the greater seismic shifts in football and college football. The spread is winning its war against orthodoxy, and offense is evolving faster than defense, and the rate of change is only speeding up.
Either Alabama or Notre Dame will win a national title on Monday, and they will each do so with defense: even in the spread vs. spread showdown that was Auburn-Oregon in 2010, defense prevailed. But each team will run more than a few plays with spread concepts, and each year brings us inexorably closer to total spread hegemony.
It makes sense that a child with a name like Johnny Football would lead us all into the light. It's just wonderfully weird that his throwback name is married to the future of football.
How's that for build-up, huh?
While lots of the focus will be on Johnny Football tonight, Texas A&M will have its hands full against an Oklahoma team that had its sights set on a national championship run this season. The Sooners, however, ended up with two losses on the season, both of them at home. Oklahoma lost to BCS title contenders Kansas State and Notre Dame, ending the Sooners' quest for the crystal football of power. Still, Oklahoma finished the regular season as the Big 12 co-champion along with K-State.
This is your open thread for the Cotton Bowl. Enjoy the game.