Johnny Manziel

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Who would win the Sweet 16 matchups in football? Duke becomes Cinderella

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OK, so now we know which power conferences reign supreme in the Sweet 16 this season, but what would happen if this field were to be decided on the college football gridiron? Oregon and Oklahoma suddenly become the top threats in the field, while basketball strong Villanova takes a back seat and Gonzaga fails to show up.

BEST SWEET 16 FOOTBALL MATCHUP

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas A&M (West)

Truth be told, many of the matchups in the sweet 16 would lead to some ugly games and blowouts if they were to be played in football. Not so with this West regional matchup between former conference foes Oklahoma and Texas A&M. The two schools have some history as former Big 12 opponents, but more recently faced off in a Cotton Bowl when Johnny Manziel was running the Aggies offense and confusing Oklahoma’s defense. Texas A&M has fallen back to earth in recent years and would struggle defensively to slow down the Sooners, which makes Oklahoma among the strongest threats in the football version of the Sweet 16.

A strong alternative in this category might be Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin in the East Region. The Irish and Badgers may not be at the top of their respective games right now, but it would clearly make for one of the more attractive matchups on the schedule were it to be played in football.

WORST SWEET 16 FOOTBALL MATCHUP

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Maryland (South)

There is no way to dress this one up too nicely, not with the current state of each program. Kansas is at the bottom of the barrel not just in the Big 12, but FBS overall, and Maryland is not particularly strong either. This matchup gets the nod for worst Sweet 16 football matchup over Iowa State-Virginia because Kansas is that bad. The only reason Syracuse-Gonzaga didn’t get this mention is because Gonzaga doesn’t even play football, thus eliminating the game from consideration.

POTENTIONAL CINDERELLA

Duke

The Blue Devils would have a rough time stopping Oregon in the West Region, but considering how anemic Oregon’s defense was last year, it is possible Duke could put some points on the scoreboard as well. It is weird considering Duke a Cinderella in basketball, but David Cutcliffe’s program has come a long way toward earning respect among its ACC peers lately. Could they beat Oregon? Probably not, but hey, anything can happen in the tournament.

A win against Oregon would set Duke up against either Oklahoma or Texas A&M, another tough draw for the Blue Devils, but after that would be a likely matchup against Miami and, well, what could possibly go wrong there?

SWEET 16 FOOTBALL WINNERS

South: Maryland over Kansas, Miami over FCS Villanova

West: Oregon over Duke, Oklahoma over Texas A&M

East: North Carolina over Indiana, Notre Dame over Wisconsin

Midwest: Virginia over Iowa State, Syracuse over Gonzaga

Likely Final Four: Miami, Oregon, Notre Dame, Syracuse

Be sure to stay on top of all of the tournament madness with our friends over on College Basketball Talk.

Kyle Allen rips Texas A&M’s post-Johnny Manziel culture

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There was a time when being a part of the Texas A&M family was what Kyle Allen wanted out of his college experience, but his quick departure from the program raised more than a few eyebrows. The culture around the Aggies program following Johnny Manziel turned out to be something Allen was not comfortable being a part of, which is why he opted out and transferred to Houston.

“I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny’s era there — the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there,” Allen said in an interview with Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. “They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny … and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.”

“A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'”

Allen’s statements and explanations about his time in College Station shed some light on the state of the program under Kevin Sumlin, who himself has come under some heat in the last few months after losing both Allen and Kyler Murray to transfers after the regular season (Allen transferred to HoustonMurray ended up at Oklahoma). Given how much Texas A&M is paying Sumlin, the bar has been raised and the Aggies have struggled to live up to the hype it has generated the past couple of years without Manziel. As Allen describes it, Texas A&M’s players were going in too many different directions to allow Texas A&M make any run for an SEC division championship.

“When you don’t have players like Johnny and [others] there anymore, you have to really come together as a team and scrap for wins,” Allen said. “We had a lot of people who were talking about the same goal but weren’t all committed and on the same page to get to that goal. For you to win in the SEC — especially the SEC West — 10 games a year and be a controlling powerhouse in that conference, you can’t have a bunch of people going different ways.”

Allen wasn’t done. He also seemed to take a shot at Sumlin and the Texas A&M coaching staff.

“Everyone wasn’t in a straight line. Everyone was going this way, this way, this way. We had a ton of talent there. I think that, once you get all the right coaches there and get the vision right, you can do a lot of things.”

There are always two sides to every story, of course.

Kyler Murray impresses in first start as A&M holds off Gamecocks

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For those wondering and/or worried about the stage being too big for Kyler Murray, fret not.  Well, for one game, at least, you can be fret-free.

Knowing full well the kind of defense it came against, and armed with the knowledge of the dangers of over-projecting the initial success of a Texas A&M quarterback, the true freshman Murray was borderline stellar in the 35-28 win over South Carolina, using both his arms and his legs to show that the quarterback of the future is here in the present.  Before the season began, some observers said he had some of the traits that made Johnny Manziel a Heisman-winning quarterback in College Station; at least statistically, Murray was Johnny Football-esque in his first collegiate start.

All told, and going up a defense that’s 82nd nationally, Murray accounted for 379 yards of offense — 223 passing, 156 rushing — and one touchdown each running and throwing.  The yards rushing are the most for an Aggie quarterback since, you guessed it, Manziel put up 181 yards on the ground against Louisiana Tech in October of 2012.

Most importantly/impressively, Murray didn’t have a turnover via either an interception or a fumble.  It was interceptions, of course, that helped trigger a change from starter Kyle Allen to Murray — although a shoulder issue that’s not being discussed publicly could’ve played a role in that move as well.

The 544 yards of total offense served as a season-high total for the Aggies.  Somewhat concerning, though, were the 445 yards given up by the defense, although there were several key sacks as well as a pair of turnovers that helped offset the yardage allowed.  The red-zone defense needs some work, though, as USC, which came into the game with the worst offense inside the 20, scored on all three such possessions in the first half.

With the win, A&M is now bowl-eligible for the fifth straight year.

Brian Kelly, Jim Mora and Kevin Sumlin enter NFL coaching rumor mill

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It is that time of the year again when the coaching rumor mills start turning at full speed in college football and in the NFL. That means Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and UCLA head coach Jim Mora are once again being connected to various NFL coaching discussions, which has been the norm the past few years. Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin is also in the NFL rumor boat.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported this morning, via Twitter, Kelly would be a name of significant interest for the New York Giants if a vacancy opens up. Tom Coughlin is currently still the head coach, but speculation is a change could be coming in New York at some point, and the Giants would be a good coaching job to take on for the right candidate. Kelly has long been seen as a coach with the right approach to the NFL and will surely have his name connected to a handful of NFL coaching rumors in the months to come.

Mora has previous NFL experience, which is commonly seen as a benefit for any coaching candidate in the NFL. Mora has been the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks. Mora was initially seen by many as a questionable hire at UCLA, but Mora has done well in holding his own on the job despite not leading the Bruins to a Pac-12 title. Mora was a name floating in the NFL coaching rumor pool last season along with Kelly, so neither should be a surprise to be connected to NFL talks now.

Texas A&M’s Sumlin has also been seen as a trendy coaching candidate with the right kind of swagger to take on an NFL gig should the right opportunity come along. Sumlin has done a solid job in helping Texas A&M build its program during the transition into the SEC. Sumlin helped pave a path to the NFL for Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel. Neither has panned out at the next level, but they got there thanks in part to Sumlin’s coaching.

Pinpoint Kyle Allen passing pushes A&M to halftime lead on Miss. St.

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Throughout August, many comparisons were made between Texas A&M’s quarterback of the future, Kyler Murray, to its Heisman-winning quarterback of the near past, Johnny Manziel. Meanwhile, A&M’s quarterback of the present and foreseeable future, Kyle Allen, seems to be coming along just fine, thank you very much.

Thanks in large part to Allen’s pinpoint accuracy, as well as a much-improved defense, No. 14 Texas A&M has been able to handle No. 21 Mississippi State and take a 24-10 lead into the halftime locker room.  While it wasn’t all about the sophomore signal-caller, it was a lot about him.

Allen finished the first half with 226 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns on 19-of-25 passing.  He threw no interceptions, and added 42 yards on the ground for good measure.

The defense, though, merits mention.  As its offense was rolling up 330 yards, the Aggies were limiting the Bulldogs to just 173.  75 of those yards, though, came on MSU’s lone touchdown drive of the half.

The Aggies did lose Ricky Seals-Jones to what some would consider a questionable targeting penalty on a late second quarter block.  Seals-Jones had five receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

Mississippi State will get the ball to open the second half.