Texas A&M Aggies: Clint Chelf

NORMAN, Okla. -- Johnny Manziel has won the Heisman. Beaten Alabama. Led the SEC in rushing.

But what has impressed Oklahoma’s defenders the most?

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireTexas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel presents a challenge for the Sooners with his arm and legs.
The Texas A&M quarterback’s verified, blue-checkmarked Twitter account.

“Dude. I was like, ‘Ahhhhh,’ said OU safety Tony Jefferson, replaying his expression when he noticed Manziel’s blue checkmark. “And he’s only a freshman. That’s tight, though.”

Since learning they would be playing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners have had to watch “Johnny Football” become a national celebrity. After becoming the first freshman to capture the Heisman, Manziel did the Top 10 list on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," where he hung out with actress Megan Fox.

HarperCollins is actually publishing an ebook on Manziel the day after Christmas. And in the last month, Manziel’s Twitter account has ballooned from 30,000 followers to more than 164,000, earning him the coveted blue checkmark.

“It’s extra motivation,” said OU defensive end David King. “We’ve had to sit around here for a month and watch ESPN and all they talk about is ‘Johnny Football,’ or ‘Johnny Heisman,’ or whatever they call him now. We sit around and we get tired of watching it. The whole national media is scrutinizing our defense and that we can’t stop the run. We’re underdogs in this game. We have a lot to prove and on Jan. 4 we’ll be ready to play.”

Yet the Sooners also realize stopping Johnny Football will be their biggest challenge of the season to date.

On his way to winning the Heisman trophy, Manziel threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, and rushed for an SEC-best 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns to break Cam Newton’s SEC single-season total offense record.

What ultimately delivered Manziel the Heisman, though, was his performance at Alabama. Facing the top-ranked Crimson Tide, Manziel led the Aggies on touchdown drives on their first three possessions to give Texas A&M an early 20-0 lead. He finished 24 of 31 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 92 yards, as the Aggies toppled Alabama 29-24.

“He can create so many issues,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “He can run you ragged. I’ve never seen anyone improvise and create like he can.”

Such quarterbacks have given the Sooners fits in the past. Collin Klein’s patient mobility doomed OU earlier this season. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf gashed the Sooners on the ground, too.

But with all attention on Manziel, the OU defense also realizes the opportunity is there to gain a little respect for itself.

“Winning the game and doing it on the defensive side of the ball would give us that nod,” King said. “We have to stop him.

“If we do, we’ll win the game.”
SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. give their thoughts on the AT&T Cotton Bowl matchup between Oklahoma (10-2) and Texas A&M (10-2).

1. What's your initial reaction to the matchup?
OU-Florida in the Sugar would have been one of the best matchups of any bowl outside the title game. But this one is about as good. The Sooners get a chance to face off against the Heisman favorite in Johnny "Football" Manziel, which probably means OU will have seen the top three Heisman contenders (Manziel, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o and Kansas State QB Collin Klein). The Sooners will have to play well, because A&M is one of the hottest teams in college football, coming off that win at Alabama.

2. Which team in the Big 12 does Texas A&M most resemble?
Can I say A&M? I mean, they were in the Big 12 just last year. If I had to compare them to someone currently in the Big 12, I'd probably say Oklahoma State. A&M's offensive line is tremendous, and Manziel has several playmakers to work with. Manziel is obviously more mobile than anyone OSU has, but the Cowboys present the dual-threat attack with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. That's where the comparisons end. Because the Aggies are much more formidable defensively than the Pokes with Damontre Moore, who is tied for third nationally with 12 1/2 sacks.

3. What's the most intriguing individual matchup?
Mike Stoops vs. Manziel. Stoops has struggled game-planning against prolific, mobile quarterbacks this season, and Manziel figures to be his biggest challenge yet. Will Stoops go back to the dime package, or will he use linebackers Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson to spy Manziel? Either way, Manziel poses plenty of problems for a defense that's been gashed late in the season.

4. Who's the most important player no one's talking about?
How about Landry Jones? All the focus will be on Manziel, and for good reason. But I'm not so sure there's an advantage at QB. Jones has been on fire the last month of the season, throwing for 500 yards twice. Jones is susceptible to interceptions. But lately, he hasn't allowed those plays to phase him. Jones is capable of putting the Aggies defense on its heel, too.

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