For all the off-season drama, NCAA investigations and arrests, once college football season does start, there are days and moments that make you remember why we all love the sport the way we do. Why, on its best day, there really is nothing better than college football.
One of those days was Saturday, and the final scoreboard in Tuscaloosa said more than the written word ever could:
Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24.
A new college football power has arrived, right as another one was knocked off their perch at the top.
Simply put, Texas A&M-Alabama was one of the best games, of one of the most compelling seasons in recent college football memory. It had everything: Drama, back-and-forth battling, two teams who refused to quit.
It also had Johnny Football. And in the end, it was the Texas A&M quarterback who was the difference in the game. The Aggies had Johnny Manziel, and the Crimson Tide didn’t. The entire college football world has now been flipped on its head because of it.
On his biggest stage and under the brightest lights, Manziel played the best football game of his college career. He finished the afternoon completing 24 of 31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for 92 yards as well. But the story wasn’t that he got the yards, but how he did. It seemed like every time A&M needed a play- I mean truly needed one- Manziel delivered.
The two biggest plays may have come on A&M’s final scoring drive.
With the Aggies clinging to a 23-17 lead, Manziel opened the drive by hitting Ryan Swope on a beautifully executed, perfectly thrown 42-yard pass down the sidelines that, in one play, put Texas A&M in Alabama territory. One play later he hit Malcome Kennedy for a touchdown pass which that gave the Aggies a 29-17 lead, they’d hold onto for good. It was a two-play, 66-yard drive, against the best defense in college football, and gave the Aggies the cushion needed to survive a late A.J. McCarron touchdown to seal the victory.
And with that, the entire college football landscape has been turned on its head. In more ways than one.
For starters, you don’t need me to tell you that the BCS title race is more open now than it ever has been before. We entered Saturday with four undefeated teams occupying the top four sports of the BCS standings, but with Alabama’s loss it opens things up for Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame to all make a run to Miami for the championship game. All three are playing Saturday night, and you’d have to assume that if all three were to win, they’d jump Alabama in the standings.
It also means that unless the last three weeks of the college football season prove to be utterly insane, it will be the first time since January 2006 that any team other than one from the SEC wins the BCS title. If any combination of the three teams mentioned above were to win out, it would eliminate any SEC team from the title picture, marking the end of a six-year run of college football dominance.
But beyond just Alabama, the college football landscape changed Saturday in another way too: There’s no denying A&M has arrived as a college football power. Remember, this is just year one of the Kevin Sumlin era at A&M and he’s winning games with a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Ideally, there could be three more years of Sumlin and Manziel together making college football magic.
But that is in the future and this is now: No. 1 went down.
And it was courtesy of Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.