Johnny Manziel

Manziel handles himself well at SEC Media Days


South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney got the largest crowd and provided some beefy material for reporters on Day 1 of SEC Media Days.

That was small-time compared to the Sharknado* of attention given to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Heisman Trophy winner has had an interesting offseason fueled largely by polarizing opinions over his visibility on social media and rumors about his behavior away from the field. Manziel’s perception took another hit when a report over the weekend said the quarterback was sent home from the Manning Passing Academy, where he was a student counselor, for allegedly being hungover.

(*We had to get that reference in there somewhere.)

Speaking on ESPN Wednesday morning during SEC Media Days, Manziel had a chance to tell his side of the story. As one would expect, Manziel denied being hungover. “Absolutely not,” Manziel said, adding that nothing about last Friday night contributed to him missing meetings the following morning; rather, Manziel explained that he overslept the next morning. Manziel described the decision to leave the Academy as “mutual” but “disappointing.”

Maybe it was bogus. Maybe it wasn’t.

Joe Tessitore conducted a good interview with tough questions, but Manziel, who has always been good in front of cameras, handled himself relatively well.

His responses were a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, Manziel was engaging and seemed genuine when talking about the whirlwind of the past year. Manziel recognizes the missteps he’s taken, but he doesn’t necessarily apologize for them. He certainly doesn’t pretend to be something he isn’t. On the other, he gave some answers that sounded scripted (because they probably were) and skirted around other questions. For example, Manziel gave a “no comment” when asked if he was drinking at the Manning Academy.

That’s all to be expected. Manziel is in damage control mode now, even if the damage isn’t all that bad. This morning will be the first of many times the redshirt sophomore has to answer for something he did besides throwing a football. That’s the expectation that goes along with being the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and current face of the program, regardless of age.

Personally, it never felt like much of what Manziel did was all that bad (although if Manziel genuinely was hungover at the Manning Passing Academy, that’s a different story). As long as he’s a good teammate, respects his coaches, and prepares for each game the way he should, the other stuff will be quickly forgotten.

Will Manziel actually cut back or otherwise eliminate his visibility away from the field — the very thing that brings extra attention to him? Probably, at least for the immediate future. Fall camp provides some structure that helps with that.

But here’s hoping Manziel, a likable and interesting guy, doesn’t start putting up a wall when speaking to media. Even though he has every right to.

Big changes in AP poll, but Ohio State still comfortable on top

Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones

The Ohio State Buckeyes remain atop the AP Top 25 this week, but the Big 12’s top contenders have bumped Michigan State down two spots. No. 2 TCU picked up five first-place votes and managed to stay ahead of No. 3 Baylor despite the Bears getting 10 first-place votes.

No. 5 Utah picked up seven first-place votes and No. 9 Texas A&M received the last first-place vote available. The big mover in this week’s AP poll was No. 11 Florida, with the Gators jumping 14 spots in the poll after dismantling Ole Miss Saturday night. The Rebels dropped from No. 3 down to No. 14. No. 15 Notre Dame fell nine spots after losing at No. 6 Clemson. No. 19 Georgia also tumbled this week, down 11 spots after being blown out at home by Alabama. It was also a rough week for No. 20 UCLA, falling 13 spots after losing to Arizona State at home.

New teams in the AP poll this week include No. 22 Iowa, No. 24 Toledo and No. 25 Boise State. Iowa and Boise State also made appearances in the coaches poll earlier today, but Toledo did not. Memphis appears in the coach spill but is the third team in its own conference in the others receiving votes category, behind Houston and Temple. Memphis tied with division foe Navy in that category as well.

  1. Ohio State (38 first-place votes)
  2. TCU (5)
  3. Baylor (10)
  4. Michigan State
  5. Utah (7)
  6. Clemson
  7. LSU
  8. Alabama
  9. Texas A&M (1)
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Florida
  12. Florida State
  13. Northwestern
  14. Ole Miss
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Stanford
  17. USC
  18. Michigan
  19. Georgia
  20. UCLA
  21. Oklahoma State
  22. Iowa
  23. Cal
  24. Toledo
  25. Boise State

Group of Five update: Boise State still going strong, Navy creating a stir

Keenan Reynolds
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With conference play starting to pick up around the country, we should start to see some separation from some of these Group of Five contenders. The three-headed race in the American Athletic Conference’s West Division should be especially fascinating to watch unfold as Memphis, Houston and Navy are all off to undefeated starts and are a combined 13-0. Over the weekend Navy picked up a nice nonconference win against Air Force, which served multiple purposes of coming one step closer to winning the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, scored a nice win for the AAC and also knocked the struggling Mountain West Conference down another peg.

Of course, the Mountain West Conference still has Boise State, and the Broncos have been on fire lately. After the setback against BYU in Provo, Boise State has traveled to Virginia to put up 56 points in a 42-point victory and just blanked Hawaii in conference play, 55-0. Boise State is now locked and loaded for a run through the MWC as some of the perceived threats to the Broncos continue to scuffle. A road game to Colorado State is not as imposing as it may have been last fall, and the same can be said for a road trip to Utah State the following week. Air Force might be the biggest challenge left for Boise State in conference play, but that will be played on the blue turf. And let’s be honest for a moment. In the eyes of the selection committee, a 12-1 Boise State team at the end of the season might be difficult to pass on when it comes time to make a call on the New Years Six bowl spot.

That said, Boise State still has some serious competition completely out of their hands. Toledo continues to put together a solid season and has a pair of victoroes over FBS schools just like Boise State (and a road win at Arkansas likely is better than Boise State’s wins against Washington or at Virginia to some). If the Rockets can run the table in the MAC or even suffer one close loss along the way to a MAC title, Toledo may actually be the frontrunner. That, of course, could also change depending on what happens in that AAC West.

Memphis had a close call at USF this weekend but managed to escape with a win. The offense Memphis has rolling will still be a serious challenge in conference play, but pay attention to what Houston and Navy are also doing. Only one of those three will even be eligible to play for the AAC championship, which makes this the best division race to following the Group of Five. In the AAC East, Temple appears to be in good shape after a blowout win in rainy Charlotte this week. The Owls still have a leg up on Cincinnati, and look to have the best defense in the division. Every other team in Temple’s division has already lost at least one game.

Now with one week of October football under our belts, here is how I would rank the current Group of Five contenders at this moment if I had a seat on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

  1. Toledo: Still owns the best victory over a P5 school in Arkansas
  2. Memphis: Offense still scary despite tight one at USF, gets Ole Miss next after a bye.
  3. Temple: Wins against Penn State and Cincinnati look a little better now, could be undefeated when Notre Dame comes to Philly
  4. Boise State: The best one-loss team in the Group of Five field and surging, but how much will MWC hold Broncos back?
  5. Navy: Midshipmen letting Keenan  Reynolds do his thing, just beat Air Force by 22. Big win for AAC, tough loss for MWC

On the radar: Houston just misses my cut for now, but could easily work into the mix any given week. Keeping an eye on Western Kentucky, who plays LSU later this month. I’ll keep taking a flyer on Bowling Green but with two losses that leaves the Falcons with plenty of ground to make up. Not impossible, but certainly in need of some help in other places. Falcons also need to get by Ohio, who just barely puts a blip on the radar as well. Sorry Sun Belt. I just don’t see it happening yet.