This week’s game: No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 17 MSU (7-1, 3-1), Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe)
Bring on Johnny Football.
The Bulldogs have been spending all week devising ways to hem in Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, a guy who can burn you throwing it or running it. Certainly not anything MSU hasn’t seen before.
“He’s an athlete playing quarterback,” safety Corey Broomfield said. “We played Denard Robinson about two years ago, and the coaches came up with a great game plan. He reminds me of him a lot, a guy that can run and can throw.”
Cornerback Johnthan Banks described Manziel exactly the same way. “That kid, he’s an athlete playing quarterback. Really good football player. He makes stuff happen for his team, and we’ve got to try and contain him.”
And that’s the rub: How do you contain Manziel? Well, watching tape of A&M’s losses to Florida and LSU would be a good start. Manziel looked human in those two games. Of course, those were two of the best defenses in the country.
“They put a lot of those five-star players out there on the field and they just ran down right next to him,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said.
MSU has no five-star guys on defense, but it has a lot of well-developed skill there. The defensive line will need to generate some pressure on Manziel, the linebackers will need to keep track of him in the run game, and the defensive backs have to know when to stay in coverage and when to drop off once Manziel starts scrambling. Johnny Football can turn a busted play into a big one with just a few strides.
MSU seems resigned to the fact that A&M’s offense, the most prolific in the SEC, is going to get its yards. What’s important is not giving up all the touchdowns, too.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to be really good in the red zone, because they’re going to move the ball,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “They’re going to get yards. Where you’ve got to be different is how you treat them in the red zone.”
OK, let’s check out the rest of this week’s SEC schedule (South Carolina is off).
• Missouri at Florida, 11 a.m., ESPN2
• Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 11 a.m., ESPNU
• Troy at Tennessee, 11 a.m., Fox Sports Net
• Tulsa at Arkansas, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network
• New Mexico State at Auburn, 11:30 a.m., CSS
• Ole Miss at Georgia, 2:30 p.m., CBS
• Alabama at LSU, 7 p.m., CBS