John Klein: Johnny Manziel is OU's focal point in Cotton Bowl
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Thursday, January 03, 2013
1/03/13 at 5:41 AM
Click here to read more stories on OU's upcoming bowl game.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: A&M's Manziel is focal point for OU
IRVING, Texas - There may be subplots, but there is only one major storyline to the Cotton Bowl, and it is Johnny Manziel.
"His ability to extend and create plays, there's not a defense created to defend against that," said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
You can analyze the Oklahoma offensive evolution with Landry Jones' growing confidence in a handful of receivers.
You can debate the improvement of OU's secondary in a league loaded with superior passers.
However, in the discussion of the Cotton Bowl, everything seems to revolve around Texas A&M's Manziel, who went from winning the starting job two weeks before the season to winning the Heisman Trophy two weeks after the season.
"I haven't had anybody, and I've been around a bunch of really good quarterbacks, with his skill set," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
"A lot of that I would like to take credit for as a play designer, but we have a quarterback that has the ability to ... go rogue on us. We can't take credit for everything. He is a very, very dynamic and special player. As the season went on we understood him a little better."
It is an unlikely story, probably just as unlikely as Texas A&M going from Big 12 also-ran to Southeastern Conference powerhouse in one season.
Oklahoma and Texas A&M, two teams with plenty of offense and 10 victories, meet in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.
Manziel is not only the focus of Texas A&M's offense. He would appear to be the focal point for OU's Cotton plans, too.
"He just has a knack for making something happen even when you have played well," said OU coach Bob Stoops. "It is hard to explain. He just has a way to make plays."
Manziel is obviously OU's biggest challenge.
However, it is not an unfamiliar spot for Oklahoma's defenders.
Manziel might be the best quarterback Oklahoma has faced this season, but the Sooners have seen plenty of similar offenses quarterbacked by high-level players.
Late in the season, the Sooners faced West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, considered by some the top prospect in this year's NFL draft, Baylor's Nick Florence, who quarterbacked the nation's top offense, and Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf, who led perhaps the nation's most balanced offense.
In other words, Texas A&M's offense might be the best Oklahoma has faced this year, but the Sooners have plenty of practice against high-level offense.
Plus, the Aggies run a very similar offensive style to OSU, Baylor and West Virginia. OU also runs that same style.
Yes, Manziel's ability to run and make plays out of nothing sets him apart.
Yet, in how Texas A&M wants to attack, the Aggies will be similar to a trio of teams OU faced late in the season.
"When you look at them, they are a Big 12 offense," said Stoops. "We run a lot of the same plays. Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Baylor, we all run the same plays. Call it what you want as to how they look, but they are an SEC team now."
It would be unfair to say Texas A&M's offense is the same as OSU, West Virginia or Baylor. It isn't.
It isn't because there was no one in the Big 12 with a player as dynamic as Manziel.
Still, Oklahoma did not fare well in three late-season games against those spread offenses, giving up 131 points and nearly 1,700 yards.
In addition, Texas A&M seemed to grow into its offense late in the season against some of the top defenses in the SEC.
"It has been quite obvious to everyone that they brought a Big 12 offense to the SEC and have lit it up," said Bob Stoops. "The way they have spread it out. They've handled those SEC defenses fairly well.
"In the end, that is what you notice. Johnny Manziel, the spread attack, no huddle, throwing the football around and Johnny pulling it down and running when he doesn't like what he sees. It is a challenge."
It is a challenge, but it won't be something Oklahoma has not seen. The Big 12 is full of that type of offense.
A year ago, the Big 12 even had a similar player - Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Manziel may be a better runner, but Griffin was considered a better passer.
Either way, this game probably comes down to OU's plan to slow Manziel.
Oklahoma, through a handful of seasons in the Big 12 with these type of offenses, should have a blueprint for its defense.
However, containing Manziel when those plans go out the window and Manziel gets loose will decide this game.
Defending Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (above) is a top priority for OU's defense in the Cotton Bowl. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World