From a team standpoint a loss for either Texas A&M or Alabama would be a devastating blow to their national championship hopes. However, from an NFL draft standpoint would A.J. McCarron or Johnny Manziel come out for the worse in a loss?
NFL draft stock of Manziel strong enough to absorb loss if he plays well
Will teams tread lightly with Johnny Manziel because of his questionable behavior on and off the field? Possibly. Still, many franchises in years past have overlooked such things as long as he continues to perform at a high level. The thing about Manziel is that his success is largely individual in nature. Virtually nobody is talking about Texas A&M as much as they are Johnny Football. NFL draft stock is centered around singular players, not teams. So if Manziel lost the pivotal game against the Crimson Tide, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, especially if he plays well. That is what teams look for after all. Did the player do his job in big games? For example, if Manziel scored three touchdowns but the Aggies lost by seven, the game would merely be a blip on the radar because the stats show the player did all he could. It’s when the turnovers and limited production happen that Manziel should be worried.
McCarron can’t afford losing given how Alabama uses him on offense
The same doesn’t go for A.J. McCarron. His NFL draft stock is almost entirely based on winning. As the starter at Alabama he has two national championships but up until recently little recognition because of how the Crimson Tide win games. Under head coach Nick Saban is has always been a team built around defense and the running game. McCarron is in charge of steering the ship, working off play action while moving the chains for first down. It was a big reason he had 30 touchdown to just three interceptions. He simply wasn’t asked to throw it much last year. That was proven again in the season opener. McCarron sat back as the defense and special teams overwhelmed Virginia Tech 35-10. He finished the game with 110 yards passing, a touchdown and interception. Another clunker like that against A&M followed by a loss would devastate the fragile stock he has. Scouts have wondered whether he’s a real contributor to Alabama’s success or merely a fringe player reaping the benefits.
One thing is for sure. As good as the teams are, most of the attention will center on the duel between Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron. Both need to play well, but it’s clear which of them has to win.