It remains to be seen whether Johnny Manziel plays in Texas A&M’s season-opener against Rice on Sunday, but Randy Cross doesn’t expect the NCAA to make any announcements about the reigning Heisman Trophy winner before then.
“I think (Texas A&M is) going to plan for contingencies,” the CBS Sports football analyst said on The John Feinstein Show. “That’s what Kevin Sumlin will sell. When’s the last time the NCAA moved fast? This whole thing is making the NCAA about as irrelevant as your sixth toe. They’re finally going to be completely shunted away, even as an enforcement agency, by major college football – and I think it’ll speed things along for major college football to have their top 50 and have their own enforcement agency.”
While the Aggies should handle Rice with or without Manziel, they’ll definitely need him if they have any hope of beating top-ranked Alabama in College Station on Sept. 14.
When asked which team has the best chance of ending the SEC’s run, which has included seven consecutive national championships, Cross gave a very simple answer, saying, “Anybody that goes undefeated.”
That includes Ohio State and, yes, Louisville.
Ranked ninth in the preseason poll, the Cardinals don’t play a single team ranked in the Top 25 this year. They also return quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a Heisman candidate who last year threw for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“I’m not going to give them that ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ treatment,” Cross said. “I saw them beat the snot out of Florida last year (33-23 in the Sugar Bowl), and I think if Charlie Strong and company can go 12-0 through that schedule, they deserve to be considered.”
So if Louisville goes 12-0, and Ohio State goes 12-0, where does that leave Alabama, which has won three of the last four national championships?
“That’s the problem Alabama’s going to have,” Cross said. “They’re going to probably have a loss like everybody else in the SEC – and one-loss teams might not get in it this year.”
Cross also shared his thoughts on the annual Army/Navy game, which will be played this year in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 14.
“I tell people all the time that ask me about the academy experiences and the kids and the people involved,” Cross said. “People are fans of teams everywhere. In college football, just rabid fans. But in a big way, we’re all sort of on the same team, and they play the most important part for that big team we’re all on in a (national) way.
“There’s no cookie cutter mold; these kids are from everywhere,” Cross continued. “But there’s such discipline demanded of these young men, such study demanded of these young men. Football is their getaway time.”
Indeed, for civilian students, football is the hardest part of their day; for service academy students, it’s the easiest part of their day.
In the NFL, meanwhile, Cross believes the Atlanta Falcons have a long way to go before being Super Bowl-ready this season – but he believes they can get there.
“The Falcons are hugely talented, and I think they’ll win one of the next couple Super Bowls; I hope one of them is when Tony Gonzalez is still there,” Cross said. “The worst thing you want to hear as a coach or as a fan is, ‘We were five yards away from the Super Bowl.’ Well, that doesn’t really matter. If the players buy into that crud, they’re in trouble. The Falcons are not a very good team right now. But I think they’re going to be solid by the end of the year.”