Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By CORY McCARTNEY  |  Last updated 9/18/13
He was exceptional, Johnny Football doing Johnny Football things against Alabama as he produced the second-most yards by any player in SEC history. But as captivating as he was in racking up those 562 yards in Texas A&M's loss, it doesn't change the fact that Johnny Manziel is not going to win another Heisman Trophy. As detailed here, the path to a second trophy has only grown more difficult in the years since Archie Griffin made history in 1975 with a stigma surrounding returning winners. Simply put: it's not how you're going to win it, it's how you're going to lose it. History already had him playing from behind as no past winner has finished higher than third since Oklahoma's Billy Sims in 1979 and then there was Manziel's offseason exploits, which fair or not, didn't help in turning him into the most polarizing player in the game. To join Griffin, Manziel was going to have to be better than a year ago and while he's on pace for a season that would include less total yards -- 4,404 after a SEC record 5,116 in 2012 -- and more touchdowns -- 39, compared in 32 last season -- he was going to need a resume that included beating the top-ranked Crimson Tide. As good as Manziel was, and frankly he couldn't have played any better, but he threw two interceptions that directly led to Alabama points. It would be stunning if Manziel weren't in New York in December for the ceremony; he's simply good TV -- just ask CBS and its "Johnny Cam." But another trophy? Manziel raised the bar in his record-breaking debut season and climbing over it is going to mean convincing voters he's deserving of being not just a Heisman winner, but, arguably, one of the greatest players of all-time. That's a task that seems more daunting than when he became the first redshirt freshman to win, because Manziel isn't just battling the rest of this year's candidates -- he's taking on college football ghosts. Before we look at this week's players who are rising and falling in the race, here's a look at where things stand after Week 3: 1. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon, RS Soph. 2. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama, Sr. 3. Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson, Sr. ON THE RISE 1. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama, Sr. He went toe-to-toe with Manziel and emerged from College Station as the SEC's best bet to make it five winners in the last seven years and left little doubt he's no longer a "game manager." The award has trended away from going to the best player on the best team and there hasn't been a recipient who falls under the career achievement category since Ron Dayne in 2000. But if McCarron continues to come up big in marquee games (the Tide still have No. 21 Ole Miss, No. 6 LSU and potentially the SEC title game), he will at the very least earn a trip to New York. 2. Brett Hundley, QB UCLA, RS Soph. Having Mariota as the dominant contender in his region hurts, but Hundley has established himself as Los Angeles' top choice over USC's Marqise Lee. With his Bruins down on the road against Nebraska and six days removed from the death of teammate Nick Pasquale, Hundley was stellar in leading them to 31 unanswered points. Like Michigan's Devin Gardner the week before, Hundey took advantage of a spotlight game to increase his chances, but can he avoid Gardner's follow-up week against Akron and dominate against a lesser opponent in New Mexico State? 3. Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin, RS Soph. Looking for someone with sleeper potential? This Badger is second in the nation with 447 rushing yards on just 37 attempts -- that's 12.9 yards per carry for those without a calculator handy -- and puts him 46 yards behind Rutgers' Paul James, the nation's leading rusher, and on 24 less carries. Gordon does have the problem of another strong option in his own backfield with James White, who has eight more carries and 180 fewer yards, but with Ohio State's Braxton Miller out of the race (more on that later) and Gardner not fully taking charge, the Midwest voting region is there for the taking. FALL GUYS 1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville, Jr. Facing a Kentucky defense that was promised it would bring pressure, Bridgewater struggled, posting season lows in yards (250) and completion percentage (57.1) and he was held to just one TD pass for the first time in 11 games. As the only non-conference opponent from another AQ league on the schedule -- and one that came in 54th in total defense and that had allowed 487 yards to 1-2 Western Kentucky -- this was a game that Bridgewater needed to dominate and he didn't do it. 2. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State, Jr. It's over for the preseason favorite. He sat out against Cal with a knee injury that limited him to one series the week before vs. San Diego State and as previously discussed (here and here), one game spent largely on the sideline was difficult to overcome, but a second was the death knell for his hopes. If going from Vegas' choice to out of the race in three weeks wasn't bad enough, there's actual debate now whether Miller or Kenny Guiton, who has been strong in Miller's place, should be the Buckeyes starter. 3. De'Anthony Thomas, RB Oregon, Jr. After generating plenty of preseason buzz last summer, Black Mamba fell apart after a hot start, averaging 52 yards over the last 10 regular-season games. There doesn't look to be any impending drop-off this time with Thomas leading the No. 2 Ducks in rushing yards (338), attempts (42) and TDs (six). That being said, Mariota has solidified himself as Oregon's top choice and in the era of dual-threat QBs, who have won the last three years with Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Manziel, it will be hard for Anthony to steal attention from his teammate.
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