It's time for another edition of the mailbag as we move closer toward season's end. Enjoy it while it lasts, because we're in the home stretch of the college football season. Thanks for the questions, as always.
GRIPR (@GRIPR08): Do you think this year's Iron Bowl is going to be as epic as 2010?
I certainly hope so, and based on the way the seasons have gone, but I think it might be hard to match because of everything that surrounded that game. There are some similarities: There weren't a ton of expectations for Auburn coming into this season, which was similar of the case in 2010 (though they were 8-5 in 2009 and 3-9 in 2012). There's a junior college transfer at quarterback for Auburn (Cam Newton then, Nick Marshall now) who can run the read-option well. And Alabama was favored going into that game, even though they had two losses and Auburn was undefeated. (I'm assuming Alabama will be favored this time around, too.) But when you think of the controversy that surrounded Newton at the time, the Tigers falling behind 24-0 and having to come back to win by a point with national championship dreams and a potential Heisman Trophy hanging in the balance, the 2010 game was one for the ages. If Auburn pulls off an upset this time, maybe it could get into the conversation, but the fashion in which the Tigers won in 2010 really made it special. Either way, it should be a great game because Auburn has a legitimate shot and Alabama has history in the balance as they try to continue marching toward a third consecutive national title.
Ethan Desai (@EDiddy8): Does an 10-2 A&M team go to the Sugar Bowl over a 10-2 Auburn? The Manziel factor has to play a big role for TV purposes.
If it plays out that way -- Auburn loses the Iron Bowl and Texas A&M finishes off by beating LSU and Missouri -- I do think it's very possible that A&M gets chosen for the Sugar Bowl over Auburn, even though the Tigers defeated Texas A&M earlier this season. The reason could be for the very one you stated: the Johnny Manziel factor. The allure of having Manziel for potentially his last college game is intriguing for a bowl game. And depending on how the BCS standings shake out, it's possible Texas A&M could finish the regular season ranked ahead of Auburn. I think both programs would be great choices because both are great stories: A&M with Manziel and Mike Evans and Auburn with the best turnaround of the season after going 3-9 in 2012. But I think you're intuition is correct if it plays out that way and Alabama punches its ticket into the BCS championship game.
Joe Losoya (@thirdcoastcoog): Is Manziel a system QB?
I don't think so. I know there have been quarterbacks who have carried that label after playing in the style of offense that Texas A&M employs (which can also be seen in variations at Texas Tech, Washington State, Houston and other places). People tried to give Case Keenum that label at Houston when Kevin Sumlin was the coach there. Does that offensive scheme make it easier to produce bigger passing numbers? Absolutely. The object is to get the ball out quickly to your good athletes in space, creating a high completion percentage and passing yardage. But if you watched Manziel at Kerrville (Texas) Tivy High School (where "Tivy Fight Never Dies" is the rallying cry) or just watched him in general throughout his A&M career, I think it's clear that he's a special talent. The Aggies actually modified their offensive scheme to fit what Manziel does well, adding designed quarterback running plays that you don't normally see in an "Air Raid"-style offense. Manziel, in my opinion, is a one-of-a-kind player at quarterback who has so many tools and incredible athleticism, it makes him almost impossible to defend. I think he'd succeed in any offensive system you put him in.