The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: The 2013 Texas A&M Aggies

Want to know the most impossible task in sports this summer? Writing anything Texas A&M-related and not mentioning Johnny Manziel, so screw that, I won't even attempt to act like I'm not.

Johnny Football isn't black. His mother wasn't a Black Panther (to my knowledge). He never grew up poor or slept on a mattress with wires poking out. He never had the Vice President of the United States breathing down his back for his music. And given how he narrowly escaped a racially charged shitstorm last fall, going all Riley Cooper on us and dropping the "N-bomb" at a frat party probably isn't on his to-do list, especially after the summer he's had. To make a long story short, Johnny Football isn't Tupac. He's more of a Drake fan, actually. Yet, chances are he'd find some solace in this Tupac clip that recorded in 1993 when Manziel wasn't even a year old yet.

Johnny Football is his own lightening rod in a culture obsessed with his every move. He can do right, but his wrongs are much more polarizing to discuss. He lives by the beat of his own drum. He's misunderstood. He's unapologetically himself even as he runs the risk of coming off arrogant and unappreciative (in other words, a dick). He — somewhat, sorta-kinda in the vein of Shakur — "never had a record until I had a made record," or became a national commodity, in Manziel's case.

OK, this Stretch Armstrong-reach met its expiration seven sentences ago, but love or hate Manziel, yesterday's decision to punish Johnny Heisman with a "30 minute timeout" was bigger than what it reads on paper. The NCAA, for the 785, 237th time, proved consistency is far from its strong suit. Unless, of course, we're discussing consistently asinine decisions. The governing body also proved, once again, these "investigators" couldn't investigate their way out of a wet paper bag if given the "OJ knife."

Because what sort of investigation was implemented as to where they were unable to find a money trail with Manziel? Meanwhile, in 2010, Georgia's AJ Green was suspended four games for selling his 2009 Independence Day Bowl jersey to former UNC  defensive back Chris Hawkins, who the NCAA "described as an agent or someone who markets amateur athletes." Hawkins denied any and all allegations. The NCAA disagreed and the rest was history. Dez Bryant lost an entire season because of lying about a dinner with Deion Sanders. A DINNER?! To be fair, he shouldn't have lied, but unless that dinner was marinated in deer antler spray, the punishment far outweighed the crime. And Manziel sits out a half? He should have the words "TEFLON JOHN" tatted across his stomach while killing time on the sideline Saturday vs. Rice. And have a scout pay for it.

The lesson is the same as its always been. The NCAA is so drunk off its own power that it's not even attempting to remedy its own hangover. And the funny thing is, they attempted to sneak the news at a time when President Obama was honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 50th anniversary of the "March On Washington." Talk about content of character, huh?

Again, love or hate Manziel, but he's better off served on the field. Not only for Texas A&M because most of us don't have a damn invested in the program, but we do in the enjoyment of our Saturdays. And Manziel's entertainment. But you know what? AJ Green was, too. So was Dez Bryant.

Despite Johnny Heisman, however, Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M Aggies still field the #7 team in the country. They're pretty good away from the guy lining up under center, too. And more than any team in the country, this time of the year couldn't have gotten here a practice sooner.


The Good: Here's the funny thing. While another position on offense is receiving the media hype/public strip search, it's A&M's wide receivers who could have defensive SEC coordinators having their blood pressure checked early and often this season. Mike Evans has All-American written all over him, returning after a freshman season that saw him tally over 80 grabs for over 1,100 yards. From there, it's a potluck of speedsters and possession wideouts like true diaper dandy Ricky Seals-Jones, sophomore Sabian Holmes and crop of freshman the experts are having fangasms over. They'll make up for a running game expected to simply "lighten" the load.

Jake Matthews will protect Manziel from the left tackle position this year, too. This is important and positive for A&M for two reasons. One, he replaces Luke Joeckel, who went #2 overall in this year's draft. And two, Matthews is expected to be a first-round pick himself. Replacing a lottery pick with another lottery pick? Well this only gets better because ...

Anytime a program can return the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, that's always a trump card no other program in the solar system can replicate. Even if he is Public Undergrad Enemy #1 at this point.

The Bad: This isn't necessarily "bad" — as in A&M's doomed even before stepping on the field — but it's one hell of a itch to have to scratch while the NCAA does whatever it's doing with Manziel. Having to replace two bloodthirsty defensive linemen in tackle Spencer Nealy and pass rusher savant Damontre Moore is perhaps the biggest side eye the country is giving A&M from a non-Johnny Football observation. How big of a loss is losing Moore to the "legally" paid football league where he's now suiting up for the New York Giants? According to USA Today, Moore was the product of nearly a third of the Aggies' tackles for loss last season and nearly 40% of its sacks.

Let that marinate for a moment. In terms of the "Ugh, this isn't good for business" scale, that's how damming it would be for the creators of Catfish if their "clients" found out how to use Google.

This isn't saying defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is f*cked, but relying on production by committee of Julien Obioha, Tyrell Taylor and Tyrone Taylor could very well be the recipe. Even while replacing starters in the linebacking corps and secondary remains imperative, A&M stands better equipped to transition into new faces in familiar places than on the defensive line. So to recap, as a top 10 team in the country, Texas A&M isn't necessarily "bad" anywhere. Filling gaps and answering questions in the trenches, however, is imperative if they plan on closing the season with as much hype as they started it with.

Here's what was truly "bad" for Texas A&M, having to bury redshirt freshman Polo Manukainiu following a car accident. Put that in perspective with everything else. As Shawn Carter of Brooklyn said earlier this summer on an album that's still a 3.5 out of 5, "This fame hurt but this chain worse, I think back you asked the same person/If this is all you had to deal with, n*gga deal with, this sh*t ain't work/This light work..."

The Ugly: Aside from the obvious, like injuries and subpar play from any position stemming from the weight of pressure looming over the program, let's call a spade a spade. Everything was riding on whether or not Manziel was suiting up in shoulder pads or street clothes this season. Now, with that gorilla off their shoulder, Texas A&M can actually invest in something totally different for a change. Football.

Prediction: A&M's in the same division (SEC West) as Alabama. I damn-near crowned Nick Saban as the social media age Bear Bryant/Eddie Robinson/Coach Carter all-in-one a few weeks back. So even while their match-up on September 14 will be must-see TV, it's impossible to go against Alabama at this point. And even if they did finish ahead of 'Bama, a potential looming SEC Championship game versus Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina awaits (which would be the most hyped college game of the season off Manziel vs. Clowney alone).

Texas A&M finishes 11-1 or 10-2 (I can't decide which). A game behind Alabama either way. Evans and Matthews receive serious All-America consideration. Manziel pushes the bad press of drunk nights before passing academies or rouge autograph signing sessions aside to lead yet another national title-contending season. Because, you know, that's what Heismans do.

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