Bill Shanks: Johnny Football shakes up the SEC

November 10, 2012 

Every once in a while we get a phenomenon in college football. It happened 32 years ago, when a kid out of Johnson County named Herschel Walker changed the sport and the Georgia Bulldogs with his awesomeness. Then a few years ago, the Florida Gators had some kid named Tim Tebow do the same for them.

You could even say two years ago when a junior college quarterback named Cam Newton created magic for a single season at Auburn, it qualified as something special, as well.

But this year, it’s all about Johnny Football.

That’s what they call the quarterback at Texas A&M. His given name is Johnathan Paul Manziel. But they all call him Johnny Football.

If you watched him beat Alabama on Saturday, you know why. He’s simply amazing. He did something no one thought could be done by beating the undefeated and top-ranked Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

And now, his legend will grow.

The loss by Alabama was shocking, just because no one would have dared picked Texas A&M in that game. Sure, it seemed like it would be a challenge for Nick Saban’s players, but after they dodged a bullet last week in Baton Rouge against LSU, you had to think they were going to somehow get by the Aggies.

But a 20-0 first-quarter hole was just too deep for the Crimson Tide to come back from. Texas A&M jumped on Alabama, and even the all-powerful Oz named Saban ran out of magic. And the magic his quarterback, AJ McCarron, had last week against LSU disappeared.

Magic is something Johnny Football has had all season long. He has scrambled his way to lead the SEC in rushing, total offense and scoring. Perhaps Saban was right last week when he compared Manziel to Doug Flutie, who also had some magic in his day.

Remember back before the season when everyone believed Missouri would be the better of the two new teams entering the SEC? Texas A&M had a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin. It had to replace a quarterback (Ryan Tanneyhil) taken in the first round of April’s NFL draft and simply had more questions than the Tigers entering the season.

One was at quarterback. We didn’t even know if Manziel was going to be the starter until mid-August, when the redshirt freshman beat out Jameill Showers. But now, Manziel has done so well that he better be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Manziel also did Georgia a favor Saturday by proving that Alabama could be beat. The Bulldogs had to wonder, after watching LSU almost do it last week, if it were possible. It’s Alabama. The Crimson Tide aren’t supposed to lose to a new team in the conference on their home turf. But they had never played Johnny Football before.

Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame now hope they don’t slip up and face some phenomenon. For the first time in seven years, we’re possibly looking at a national championship game without an SEC team. Georgia will have to hope those other three undefeated teams lose and then beat Alabama to have a miracle shot itself, but the Alabama loss did nothing to help that cause.

It might have been easier for Georgia to have defeated an undefeated Alabama team in the SEC title game. That might have made the Bulldogs’ case even stronger. Now that Alabama has lost, the one-loss Bulldogs might need even more help to have a chance at playing for the national championship.

Beating Alabama was perhaps unthinkable for Georgia, which punched its ticket to the Dec. 1 game at the Georgia Dome with a blowout win over Auburn. But Johnny Football showed the Bulldogs the unthinkable can be done. Georgia just has to hope some of his magic will be on its side in three weeks.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill on

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