After nearly ten months of talk, the rematch is finally here. Alabama. Texas A&M. College Station. Saturday.
And while, in the grand scheme of things, we still know relatively little about either team , one thing has been immutably hammered home, starting with my column from the Monday after the Rice game -- Johnny Manziel's heel turn is complete and thriving.
In fact, just to make sure, I went to the foremost authority on the topic, a man who has seen literally hundreds and hundreds of heel turns and heel pushes in his four decades in the wrestling business.
Yes, I asked WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross the age old question, "What makes a great heel?"
"Great heels are guys that fans will travel great distances and pay good money for tickets in the eternal hope that he gets his ever loving ass kicked."
Or should I say, Good God Almighty, that's the perfect answer!
Travel great distances?
It is expected that 300,000 people will be in College Station on game day. (The stadium holds 83,000.) Among them are thousands of Alabama fans who have already been camped out in College Station all week for the game.
Pay good money?
If you haven't been following the business side of this event on Saturday, the secondary ticket market is exploding. As of Thursday, the average ticket price online was $763, which makes this the most expensive regular season ticket in the history of college football.
Indeed, the world is lining up to see the Crimson Tide try to get their revenge after last season's 29-24 Aggie win in Tuscaloosa. That was the win that cemented Johnny Manziel as the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, and unbeknownst to us at the time, began perhaps the most scrutinized ten month period that any athlete has ever endured (a large part of said scrutiny admittedly invited willingly by Manziel via Twitter and Instagram as if it were a bikini clad coed).
Perhaps the greatest litmus test of Johnny Manziel's villainous stature was revealed this week, when Charles Barkley, himself one of the great heels during his playing days (he's since settled into a "lovable fat guy" role in recent years on TNT), said that he would rather root for Alabama than see Johnny Manziel lead the Aggies to a win.
Charles Barkley went to Auburn.
And maybe that's the funniest part in this whole thing, and the reinforcement that the "Manziel as Satan" narrative that ESPN and others have pushed so tirelessly has roots -- that a guy like Barkley, a pretty intelligent dude who loves booze, gambling, clubs, and women, would despise Johnny Manziel of all people. Why?
Because that's what the machine tells us to do.
So how does Saturday play out for our venerable heel, ol' number 2? Well, sticking with the wrestling theme, I've come up with seven scenarios, ranging from the outlandish to the unlikely to the favorite. I've also assessed the percentage chance of each of these happening.
So without further ado, let's do this!
THE HIGHLY UNLIKELY, SCENARIO 1 Johnny gets squashed by Alabama The script: I'm not sure if you all knew this, but Nick Saban's record when he's really, really mad (like against teams that beat him the year before) is like 231-0, or something like that. When it's time to exact revenge, Nick Saban is the college football equivalent of Mel Gibson during the last thirty minutes of Lethal Weapon 2. And unfortunately, Texas A&M, you are South Africa. The Tide come in all sorts of pissed off, follow LSU's script from last season on defense, force six Manziel turnovers, and collectively stand over his battered carcass after a 42-10 win.
WWE doppelgänger: Wrestlemania 28, Sheamus destroying Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds...
...up to and including the part where Manziel (played by Bryan) makes out with a smoking hot chick on the sidelines right before the beginning of the game.
Odds of happening: 12.2%
THE HIGHLY UNLIKELY, SCENARIO 2 Johnny squashes Alabama The script: The hatred for Johnny Football has only fueled his fire even more, making him even more powerful and more unstoppable than he was at the end of last season. His usual fast start in the game doesn't peter out this time, it sustains, and by the end of the afternoon, Johnny Manziel has gone 200/200 (283 yards passing, 215 yards rushing) on the supposed best defense in the country with the Aggies winning 38-13.
WWE doppelgänger: The end of every episode of Monday Nitro for the first year of the nWo angle
Yeah, yeah, I realize that the nWo was a WCW thing, not a WWE thing. Maybe the fact that I couldn't find a WWE video where a heel squashes the babyface in a title match tells you something about why their company survived the Monday Night Wars. Maybe....
Odds of happening: 10.1%
THE OUTLANDISH, SCENARIO 1 Johnny refuses to play and rips the NCAA a new asshole The script: Before the captains for both teams can make it to the center of the field for the coin toss, Johnny Manziel walks over to the Alabama sideline, picks up A.J. McCarron and slaps a "Go To Sleep" on him, leaving him unconscious. As Nick Saban, Katherine Webb, and a tearful Dee Dee Bonner attend to McCarron, Manziel walks up and rips the in-stadium microphone off of the referee, attaches it to himself, walks down to the end zone, sits down cross legged and proceeds to rail on the hypocrisy of the NCAA, collegiate athletics, and the sham that is amateurism. WWE doppelgänger: C.M. Punk's shoot promo on Monday Night RAW back in 2011
Seriously, how great would a Johnny Manziel "shoot" on the NCAA and amateur athletics be? I'm picturing something like this:
A.J. McCarron, while you lay there, hopefully as uncomfortable as you possibly can be, I want you to listen to me. I want you to digest this because before I leave in 4 months with your BCS National Championship, I have a lot of things I want to get off my chest.
I don't hate you, A.J. I don't even dislike you. I do like you. I like you a hell of a lot more than I like most people in the back. Hell, we went on vacation together!
I hate this idea that you're the best. Because you're not. I'm the best. I'm the best in the world. There's one thing you're better at than I am and that's kissing Mark Emmert's ass.
You're as good as kissing Mark Emmert's ass as Greg McElroy was. I don't know if you're as good as John Parker Wilson, though. He's a pretty good ass kisser. Always was and still is.
Whoops! I'm breaking the fourth wall! (Manziel waves to the camera)
I am the best player in the world.
I've been the best since day one when I walked onto this campus. And I've been vilified and hated since that day because Kevin Sumlin saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That's right, I'm a Kevin Sumlin guy. You know who else was a Kevin Sumlin guy? Case Keenum. And he split just like I'm splitting. But the biggest difference between me and Case is I'm going to leave with the BCS National Championship.
I've grabbed so many of Mark Emmert's brass rings that it's finally dawned on me that there just that, they're completely imaginary. The only thing that's real is me and the fact that day in and day out, for almost two years, I have proved to everybody in the world that I am the best on this microphone, on that field, even in Cabo! Nobody can touch me!
And yet no matter how many times I prove it, I'm not on your lovely little collector cups. I'm not on the cover of the program. I'm barely promoted. Well, actually, I'm heavily promoted, I just can't get paid for it! I don't get to be in movies. I'm certainly not on any crappy show on the Longhorn Network. I'm not on Conan O'Brian. I'm not on Jimmy Fallon. But the fact of the matter is, I should be. Wait, actually, I was on Letterman...um, anyway...
This isn't sour grapes. Ok, maybe it is....
But still, let me get something straight. Those of you who are cheering me right now, you are just as big a part of me leaving as anything else. Because you're the ones who are sipping on those collector cups right now. You're the ones that buy those programs that my face isn't on the cover of. And then at five in the morning at the airport, you try to shove it in my face and get an autograph and try to sell it on Ebay because you're too lazy to go get a real job. Don't you know, I get PAID for autographs, BITCH!
I'm leaving with the BCS National Championship on January 6th. And hell, who knows, maybe I'll go defend it in Canada. Maybe...I'll go back to Cabo.
(Manziel looks at the camera and waves)
Hey, Uncle Nate, how you doing?
The reason I'm leaving is you people. Because after I'm gone, you're still going to pour money into this company. I'm just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel is going to keep turning and I understand that. Mark Emmert is going to make money despite himself. He's a millionaire who should be a billionaire. You know why he's not a billionaire? Because he surrounds himself with glad-handed, non-sensical, douchebag yes men, like Jim Delaney, who's going to tell him everything he wants to hear, and I'd like to think that maybe this company will better after Mark Emmert is dead. But the fact is, it's going to be taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family.
Let me tell you a personal story about Mark Emmert alright. One night, there's this tranny hooker.... (mic cuts off, Manziel walks out with double birds raised high in the air)....
Odds of happening: 2.77% Odds that this would be AWESOME: Infinity percent
THE OUTLANDISH, SCENARIO 2 Evil twin referee screws over Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide The script: Down by four with no timeouts left, Texas A&M furiously drives down the field into Alabama territory. With ten seconds to go at the Alabama 40 yard line, Manziel drops back and with nobody open decides to scramble. As he's weaving in and out of Alabama defenders, the clock hits 0:00. Manziel is tackled five yards short of the goal line, but the referee signals touchdown! What the hell?!? Nick Saban stomps onto the field to bludgeon the referee with his bare fists when out of nowhere an exact twin of the referee who made the terrible touchdown call appears, trying to calm things down. Chaos ensues, and Saban tears each of their hearts from their chests with his bare hands and bites into them like an apple.
WWE doppelgänger: The Main Event, 1988. Ted Dibiase's evil twin referee screws Hulk Hogan out of the World Title (fast forward to 17:15)
The post match interview with Nick Saban (blood still streaming down his chin from the heart chomping) asking Tracy Wolfson"How much did the Aggies spent on the plastic surgery?!"
would get roughly five billion hits on YouTube by Monday.
Odds of happening: 1.22%
THE OUTLANDISH, SCENARIO 3 Johnny joins forces with the NCAA The script: Tie ball game, Manziel is driving the Aggies down the field. One the final play, he has only one man (Alabama cornerback Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) to beat to get into the end zone. Out of nowhere comes NCAA president Mark Emmert who blasts Clinton-Dix in the head with a chair, allowing Manziel to score the winning touchdown. Manziel autographs the ball, hands it to Emmert, Emmert gives Manziel an envelope with $7,500 in it, the two embrace and stand in the end zone with their arms raised. The Aggie fans simultaneous cheer their lungs out for the win while pegging Manziel and Emmert with various glassware and batteries.
WWE doppelgänger: Wrestlemania 17, Steve Austin joins forces with Vince McMahon (fast forward to 5:00 mark)
Somehow, Jim Ross' description of "Satan himself" seems to fit Mark Emmert even better than it fit Vince McMahon...
Odds of happening: 0.01%
THE SEQUEL Johnny leads the Aggies to an upset (with an odd call at the end) The script: We all remember last year's game ending on a somewhat controversial offsides call that prevented Alabama from getting one final crack at the end zone, right?
Well, this season, in a tight back and forth battle that sees each team get the upper hand on multiple occasions, a potential game winning touchdown by the Crimson Tide on the final play of the game is thwarted by a phantom holding call. Nick Saban is looking around for a referee to strangle, but all of the officials are sprinting off the field. Aggies win 29-24, again!
WWE doppelgänger: 1997 Survivor Series, The Montreal Screwjob (fast forward to 23:40)
The visual of Johnny Manziel grabbing the BCS title trophy and grabbing Katherine Webb (the de facto BCS title trophy) and making a beeline for the locker room amidst a cascade of empty whiskey bottles from whatever Alabama fans are there is pretty entertaining to me.Odds of happening:
THE FAVORITE Alabama wins a bloodbath, Johnny gains respect The script: Unlike last season, when Johnny Manziel was largely allowed to run wild, especially early in the game, Alabama manages to keep him in the pocket and force him to do some very un-Johnny like things. Trailing 37-35 and in the midst of getting the tar beat out of him by the Tide defense, a bloodied, bruised, and punch drunk Johnny Football leads the Aggies down to the Alabama 21 yard line with two seconds to go in the game. Out trots field goal kicker Taylor Bertolet for the game winner, but oh NO....WIDE RIGHT! Game over! Tide wins.... Despite the loss, the college football world gains huge respect for the toughness and grit of Johnny Manziel, who throws for 421 yards and four touchdowns despite enduring eight sacks, ten hurries, and 16 knockdowns.
WWE doppelgänger: Wrestlemania 13, Stone Cold Steve Austin passes out in a pool of his own blood in the sharpshooter to Bret Hart (fast fwd to 25:32)
I can hear JR screaming it now --"Manziel never gave up! MANZIEL NEVER GAVE UP!!"Odds of happening:
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MY ACTUAL PREDICTION As a neutral observer, my "concern" factor is much higher for the A&M defense than it is for the Aggie offense. The venue, and A&M's pace in that heat are factors to consider, but in the end, I like the Crimson Tide and I love Nick Saban in a revenge situation like this...
Alabama 34, Texas A&M 24
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.