Manziel Messes With Saban

Johnny Manziel toys with Nick Saban: Texas A&M rope-a-dopes Alabama

Johnny Manziel toys with Nick Saban: Texas A&M rope-a-dopes Alabama

Johnny Manziel LSU
Johnny Manziel will be back running next week. Alabama can count on that. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Johnny Manziel throw
Johnny Manziel stayed in the pocket against Sam Houston State. The better to toy with Nick Saban and Alabama. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M
Nick Saban clap
Nick Saban can't stop thinking about Johnny Football. Photo courtesy of Bama Boys
Johnny Manziel LSU
Johnny Manziel throw
Nick Saban clap

Johnny Manziel made sure to be good. On the second Saturday of the college football season, Texas A&M University's SEC savior didn't disrespect anyone — especially those so-easily-offended middle-aged TV announcers.

Instead, he just screwed with football's modern day coaching God.

That's exactly what Manziel did in College Station against Sam Houston State. He might as well have tussled Nick Saban's carefully coiffed  hair. For The Most Interesting Man In College Football did his best to mess with mighty Alabama's coach even if the Crimson Tide was hundreds of miles away, hunkered down on Saban-mandated Manziel watch.

 It's a rope-a-dope Muhammad Ali himself would be proud of. And it's no surprise that Manziel is relishing playing his part. 

No. 1 Alabama's been thinking about Manziel for weeks now — months, really. Saban has highlights of Johnny Football's exploits against 'Bama running on a continuous loop in the Alabama weight room — and the Crimson Tide's target is reveling in the mind games.

Manziel made sure to stay in the pocket against Sam Houston, throwing the ball 41 times despite only playing about three quarters of a 65-28 win. He was the Aggies' fourth-leading rusher in the game, carrying the football only seven times.

In other words, Manziel showed Alabama exactly what it won't be seeing in this Saturday afternoon's highly anticipated rematch showdown in College Station.

When the true bright lights turn on, you can bet that Johnny Football will be darting here, no there — throwing on the run, out of the pocket and in positions only the most twisted contortionist could think of. CBS hasn't assigned a special Johnny Cam to follow Manziel's every move to capture a guy sitting contently back in the pocket. He'll be on the move. 

Manziel knows it. And Nick Saban knows it. But that doesn't make any less fun to mess with Nick.

"It feels like another game, feels like week three of the season," Manziel actually said, having been granted the rare opportunity to speak to the media by his ultra-protective Aggie overlords.

Why are those 'Bama guys stressing so much, anyway? It's just another game.

Ah, yes, just another tweak at Saban and his obsessive, paranoid preparation. It would seem that Johnny Manziel is playing with fire — if it somehow wasn't working so well.

 Saban runs the most respected, copied and feared program in generations. Still, somehow, this 20-year-old is in his head.

For there is Saban at his weekly press conference Monday, saying a defense's inability to sub against high-speed offenses like Texas A&M's creates a "competitive disadvantage."

Saban runs the most respected, copied and feared college football program in several generations. Still, somehow, one 20-year-old redshirt sophomore quarterback is in his head.

This is a credit to Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin. Forget the underlying ridiculousness (and hypocrisy) of suspending players for essentially meaningless games. The Texas A&M defensive player suspensions have managed to create more unwarranted doubt heading into the Alabama game.

It's turned into yet another thing messing with the heads of Saban's players. Not only won't they see the same Johnny Manziel they're watching on tape against Sam Houston State, but Alabama quarterback — and infamous Manning Passing Academy Manziel roomie — AJ McCarron won't see the same A&M defense either.

It's a rope-a-dope Muhammad Ali himself would be proud of. And it's no surprise that Manziel seems to be relishing playing his part.

"I just prefer scoring a lot of points," Manziel cracked when the reporters in College Station asked if he'd rather play the pocket style he did against Sam Houston State or his usual throwing-on-the-run game.

Why give anything away before the real game?

That Johnny Cam isn't the only thing that will be obsessed with Manziel this Saturday. Nick Saban is too. The Alabama coach just can't get Johnny Football out of his head. And that just may allow Manziel to make magic again.