We've hit the midway point of the 2013 college football season and we're looking at midseason All-Americans.
They are the two most exciting players at their position, and both are on teams that could be playing in the BCS title game. But which one truly is No. 1? Well, Pac-12 reporter Ted Miller and SEC reporter Edward Aschoff decided to take this argument to the streets!
We made our cases for both, but you guys decide the winner:
Edward Aschoff: Well, this one really is an easy one for me.
Remember when we all buried Manziel for his off-field shenanigans? We wondered if he'd be focused enough to duplicate his record-setting, Heisman Trophy-winning first year. Well, through six games, Manziel has totaled 2,273 yards of offense and 19 touchdowns. He's averaging 378.8 yards and 3.2 touchdowns per game and has completed 73.2 percent of his passes. He's a little behind last year’s production, but he also has less receiving weapons this year and his line isn't as strong.
Watching Manziel is like watching poetry in motion. He's standing in the pocket longer, scanning the field, making reads and thinking about running second. And when he does run, watch out. He's easily the slipperiest player in the country. He jukes guys out of their shoes and can make NFL throws on the run or in the pocket. Nothing gets to this kid, and you'd be crazy not to have him No. 1 on any awards list.
Ted Miller: Over at the Pac-12, we respect good quarterback play, so we are excited the SEC is finally getting to see what good QB play can do. Further, we love watching that little spark plug Johnny Football play. He's a neat little guy. So please accept a pat on the head from us.
Why is Mariota the midseason first-team QB? It's because, well, he's so completely freaking better than anyone else.
We’ll start with QBR first.
Our boy Mariota is No. 1. Manziel is No. 6.
Mariota has 17 touchdown passes. Manziel has 14. Mariota has zero interceptions (no turnovers, in fact). Manziel has five.
Manziel is slippery. He slipped his way to 438 rushing yards, which beats Mariota by 12. Of course, Mariota averages 10.4 yards per carry compared to 6.5 for Manziel. And Mariota has eight touchdown runs compared to five for Manziel.
Heck, if we just went bottom line with points accounted for, Mariota has 150 compared to 114 for Manziel.
Oh, and Mariota is 6-foot-4 and a sure NFL first-round draft pick. Manziel is 6-1 if you measuring him while he stands on his tippy toes.
EA: What Mariota has done this year has been very impressive, but he's just not Manziel. He can't change games like Manziel does.
You never see Manziel hesitate in the pocket or on runs. He stands tall, even though he really does look like a kicker out there with his size, and isn't afraid to take a hit or two. Manziel just has a magical way of extending plays and turning trash into treasure. A switch goes on when he walks into a stadium and he immediately becomes the best athlete on the field.
Look at what he did against Alabama and Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide built a 35-14 lead early in the third quarter and Manziel did everything he could to break that lead down bit by bit. He threw for a school-record 464 yards and five TDs and ran for another 98 yards in the Aggies' 49-42 loss. What if Manziel got the ball back on that onside kick with 15 seconds remaining?
Remember his Eli Manning-David Tyree moment against Alabama? I mean, Manziel only slipped out of Jeoffrey Pagan's attempted wrap-up and heaved an errant pass off his back foot into traffic on third-and-8, only for it to fall right into the hands of wide receiver Edward Pope for a 12-yard gain.
By the way, that Alabama defense now ranks No. 8 nationally.
Against Ole Miss, Manziel had a scary left knee injury in the first quarter, missed a play and then proceeded to play better. He made PlayStation-like plays with his legs, delivered some beautiful throws and sliced his way through Ole Miss' defense to deliver a come-from-behind, game-winning drive. He accounted for 346 passing yards, 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with 177 of those yards and a score coming in the fourth quarter.
He's easily the most exciting player to watch and the toughest player to stop. He'll burn you with his feet and carve you up with his arm. There just isn't another gamer like Manziel.
TM: I do love watching Manziel play. There's not only something magical about his devil-may-care playmaking, it's also cool that he doesn't look like he was constructed in a lab.
Further, when taking a measure of both, it doesn't help that they haven't played through the meat of their schedules yet. The only good team Manziel has faced is Alabama. The only good team Mariota has faced is Washington. Heck, the big deal from the win over the Huskies was that Mariota threw his first pass of the year in the fourth quarter because it was the first time he was needed in the fourth. And, yes, No. 1 Alabama is a far greater test, even at home, than a visit to No. 20 Washington.
So what did Mariota do when the Ducks only led by seven entering their first meaningful fourth quarter? He was 5-of-6 for 75 yards with a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 5-yard touchdown run. Like Manziel, Mariota took over the game. He completed 24-of-31 passes for 366 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed 13 times for 88 yards and a score. Those numbers came against a defense that was playing at home and ranked 10th in the nation in total defense, 11th in scoring defense and third in pass efficiency defense.
It wasn't a Nick Saban defense. But if you ask around, a Justin Wilcox defense isn't too shabby either.
In the end, I see Mariota with significantly better numbers at midseason leading an undefeated, No. 2-ranked team.
Of course, we have two very good QBs who still have half a season to play. No one ever remembers the midseason MVP. It's all about where things stand in January.