Johnny Football Cometh: Your Complete Alabama-Texas A&M Primer

Virginia Tech v Alabama

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting the match-ups to watch and the keys to game (you know, the boring stuff), but this post will have the full feeling of a true game primer.

But let’s first start with some bold predictions:

  • This will be a competitive game. Shocking, I know. Texas A&M isn’t some slow Northern team like Michigan or Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s uniforms make the team look slower, also they probably are slower. A&M isn’t.
  • Johnny Manziel won’t be penalized for unsportsmanlike air-autograph-signing or scoreboard-pointing or actual autograph signing (I still think he should whip out a Sharpie, sign a ball, “Hey y’all, #SUCKIT. Signed, Johnny Football” and hand it to Nick Saban) or yapping. He, as petulant as some may think, lives for the big moment and won’t disappoint in this game. And can you imagine the parties in College Station if the Aggies win? Manziel is not missing the chance to party hard.
  • This game will probably take years off of Manziel and Nick Saban’s life. One due to stress, the other due to the crushing feeling of 300-pound people forcibly landing on him.
  • This will be the highest-rated regular season college football television broadcast in the last 10, maybe 25, years. The previous “Games of the Century” between Alabama and LSU did have national importance as far as national title implications go, but they had a strictly regional appeal. For a tabloid sports figure who also happens to be electrifyingly great on the field, the nation is interested. People in cities where there are better things to do will be watching this game.
  • Manziel is must-watch; As is Alabama. If only it could be Tim Tebow vs. LeBron James vs. Johnny Football vs. the New York Jets. An ESPN senior executive just passed out at that possibility.
  • This isn’t a bold prediction at all but Forbes is reporting that, with an average of $763 per ticket on secondary or resale markets, the Alabama-Texas A&M game is the most expensive college football game ever.

Before you watch the game, here is some mandatory reading

Sports Illustrated’s Lars Anderson, who is also an adjunct professor at Alabama, broke the 15th Commandment (‘Bama has 15 championships. Get it?) and actually wrote an article on the eight steps of how to beat Alabama. While it is a well-written and well-reported piece, Professor Anderson should not be allowed to give anyone homework for the rest of the semester because he’s helping the enemy. Roll Tide.

SBNation contributor and managing editor of Smart Football Chris B. Brown wrote one of the best game analysis pieces that I’ve ever read: “Alabama’s Johnny Football Problem.” It’s a complete breakdown of how Kliff Kingsbury, Kevin Sumlin and the offense of A&M was always one step ahead of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s defense in last year’s game. In no way am I an expert on X’s and O’s, but Brown simplifies it, uses GIFs and diagrams to explain the intricacies of the game that would make sense to anyone, even me.

A little while ago, GQ’s Warren St. John – a Birmingham, Ala. native – wrote an in-depth profile of Nick Saban and it is worth your time. Saban is the “scariest man in college football” and he eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, because deciding takes too much time; he was pissed at having to play the title game because “That damn game cost me a week of recruiting;” and he thinks that Mick Jagger can sing.

The SBNation Texas A&M site Good Bull Hunting does a preview infographic called “THE TAILGATE” and they have outdone themselves for this game against Alabama. It has every little piece of detail that you want from a A&M perspective, including some uniform suggestions for both teams. Here are a few of Alabama’s possibilites:

Darth Saban (Photo: Good Bull Hunting)

Roll Tide, Forrest Gump. (Photo: Good Bull Hunting)

The Media Angle

As I said in the bold predictions, I think this game will be the highest-rated regular season college football game in the last decade. It will also be one of the most heavily covered games in recent memory: before, during and after the game.

Sports Illustrated Media Critic and professional ESPN tweaker Richard Deitsch did some excellent reporting last week and gave a detailed account of how CBS will broadcast this “Game to End All Games.” Most importantly, there will be a permanent camera on Johnny Manziel. They’re calling it “Johnny Cam.” Wherever the Tyler, Texas Tantrum goes, CBS will be there. If he tweets something instead of going over the gameplan because he’s awesome and gameplans are for nerds, CBS will be there.

CBS will wheel out Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, and fans of both teams will claim that these announcers “hate their team.” They do not, even though Uncle Verne gets some names wrong every once in a while.

ESPN’s College Gameday will be broadcasting live from the campus and promises to not spend all three hours of airtime scolding Manziel.

“I can promise you the show won’t turn into ‘Manziel Mania’ for three hours,” ESPN Coordination Producer Lee Fitting told Deitsch. “Will the viewer get their fill of Manziel? Sure. Will we cover every angle of the game? Yes. But will we go overboard? Absolutely not.”

Luckily, CBS promises the same thing.

“We are not judge and jury. It is not our place, especially within the body of the broadcast, to state whether he should or should not be playing, should have been suspended or should not have been suspended,” Craig Silver, coordination producer for CBS Sports, told Deitsch. “The way I approach it is how has all this stuff affected him as a football player and affected his team.”

If you are a fan of over-saturation and hour-by-hour coverage, this weekend will be perfect. College Gameday should be interesting. Scott Van Pelt should have some great pieces, Tom Rinaldi will make us cry and both fanbases will root extra hard for Lee Corso to pick the opposing side with his headgear pick.

CBS has the halftime show covered, but ESPN will always be the destination before and after. If you care about this game at all, you’ll be able to watch people talk about it all day.

The Crazies 

Here are some of the crazier people surrounding the Alabama-Texas A&M game.

How does a dog bark “Roll Tide?”

First, whoever owns this poor dog should be turned in to the ASPCA for animal cruelty. Bear Bryant owned real dogs, named Crimson and Namath and he never put any paint on them, and if the Bear never did this to his dogs, you should not do this to your foo-foo dog. It would’ve been Bear Bryant’s 100th birthday on Wednesday. Cut it out, dog-owning ‘Bama fans. And Happy Birthday Bear.

Not to be outdone, the fine folks at Good Bull Hunting had their own animal-themed game preview. A&M’s dog wins, apparently.

Photo: Will Haver / Otey’s

Finally, a popular bar and grill – Otey’s Tavern – in Mountain Brook, Ala. have crafted a pretty decent looking Johnny Manziel piñata, complete with a full A&M uniform, big ears, Manziel’s acne and a Sharpie. The customers are encouraged to take a few whacks at it, and it supposedly contains gift cards and goodies.

The Twitterverse:

Here’s some of the best tweets (so far) leading up to the showdown.

My Pick: Alabama 30, Texas A&M 28. But I am in no way confident about this.

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