If last season was the appetizer, this year is the main course.
After reigniting a regular season rivalry that lay dormant for 15 years, LSU managed a thrilling 24-19 victory over Texas A&M last year in a game that welcomed the Aggies into the SEC.
However, when the Tigers host the Aggies on Nov. 23 in Baton Rouge the headlines will be focused squarely on public enemy No. 1: Heisman winner and sophomore wunderkind Johnny Manziel.
But what should LSU fans expect? Read more past the jump.
Will the Aggies roll into Tigers Stadium with hopes of a national championship and talk of a second Heisman Trophy for Johnny Football? Or will the turmoil and off-the-field nonsense that seems to follow Manziel finally rip this team apart?
Manziel wants us to believe it will be the first scenario.
"At the end of the day, I hope people still see that I’m a 20 year old in college,” Manziel told reporters during SEC Media Day on July 17. “I’m just trying to enjoy my life. Hopefully, that doesn’t upset too many people. I’m continuing to learn as the days and the weeks go on. I’ve made mistakes, obviously. I’m trying to learn from them and not make the same one twice."
During a day that is typically reserved for talk about new formations and opposing defenses, the electric quarterback was defending a rough summer.
In June, the sophomore tweeted that he couldn't wait to "leave College Station," after he had earned himself a parking ticket.
In July, he followed that up by leaving early from Peyton Manning's prospects camp for high-school aged quarterbacks – after it was learned he had missed some practices and overslept. On top of all of this…the partying.
Before Manziel even played for Texas A&M he already had a mugshot for underage drinking during the summer of 2012 and, if reports are accurate, that drinking behavior has continued amid his new-found fame.
Just one year after breaking the SEC record for total offense with over 4,600 yards and charming fans with his wide grin and boyish face, the nation is wondering: Who is this guy?
When told that NFL scouts are beginning to raise eyebrows over his behavior, Manziel admitted. "I absolutely understand that."
Now, with a target already on his back from a sensational freshman season, Manziel has the pressure of defending his character. The obvious question of how this attention will affect his Texas A&M teammates is a fair one, and one to still be determined. But what is for certain is that this level of distraction never plagued Aggie football last year.
To put that into perspective, at this time last year at SEC Media Day, coach Kevin Sumlin had still not even determined who would be his starter after the departure of Ryan Tannehill.
Yet, despite the negativity, the Aggies are still better than LSU – in the eyes of the media. Alabama (again stacked with projected all-SEC members
) is the favorite in both the league and Western standings, followed by Texas A&M and LSU, who are separated by just nine votes (1,333-1,324).
A large factor that could explain the small difference between these rivals is that the Tigers are losing many of the defenders who kept Manziel under wraps last season.
But “rebuilding” is not a term used in Baton Rouge.
One thing that serves the Tigers well in this year's matchup is that all they have to do is go out and perform. That is not so with the Aggies who, while talented, are a team with non-football question marks everywhere.
Listening to Manziel, one would think things will not change on the field – even as everything has changed around him personally. He knows his performance this season could make or break an Aggie team that needs to overcome depth issues on both defense and special teams.
While Sam Bradford was the last Heisman quarterback winner (2008) to return to school, Tim Tebow is someone who Manziel looks to emulate now. The two men have never formally met, but have reached out each other recently in the midst of Manziel's issues. Tebow had a similar rise to fame after winning the Heisman in 2007 – and won a national championship the following year.
Then again, Tebow was squeaky clean off the field. Manziel simply isn’t that guy.
"My teammates know where my heart and my head is at, my coaches do, my family does and that’s all that matters to me," said Manziel at SEC Media Day. "Let’s play football and let our play do the talking for us like we did last year." Wise words from Manziel. But maybe he should take his own advice, first.
If not, LSU fans who buy tickets to see that Texas A&M Aggies football
game will see a team filled with turmoil and controversy come Nov. 23.