The first Heisman Trophy win by a freshman brings up the same question as the first Heisman Trophy win by a sophomore did when Tim Tebow claimed the award, and the question that has followed every junior winner who's decided not to enter the NFL Draft: Can he do it again? After all, only one player in the history of college football (Archie Griffin) has managed to claim the award twice.
Previous winners have found that winning again is easier said than done. Tebow was unable to win it again in either of his seasons after his Heisman victory. Matt Leinart arguably had better numbers in his senior year but lost the award to *. (He should have lost it to Vince Young anyway, but that's neither here nor there.) So what are the key factors in determining whether Johnny Manziel will be standing on the stage accepting a second trophy in 2013?
The competition. Both of the other finalists on Saturday night -- Manti Te'o and Collin Klein -- graduate this year. But the remainder of the Top 7 in vote getting will likely or certainly be back in 2013, and many of them are well-known names that will take a serious shot at the award: Marqise Lee (sophomore), Braxton Miller (sophomore), Jadeveon Clowney (sophomore) and Jordan Lynch (junior). Jarvis Jones also got some votes this year, but he's probably bound for the NFL Draft next year.
Clowney is the only one on the list who's a true defensive player, which could cost him some votes. Lynch will also have an uphill climb simply because he plays in the MAC, meaning he would have to put up gargantuan numbers to get serious consideration. But Lee and Miller could both be playing for conference title contenders, and Miller will be even more comfortable in the system that won Tebow the Heisman.
And Manziel should know better than anyone that next year's winner could come out of nowhere. After all, that's what he did in 2012.
The rest of the roster. The Heisman is supposed to be an individual award, and it should be awarded based on an individual's achievements. But we all know that football isn't quite that neat and simple on the field. Any player will rely on his supporting cast in 2013, and Manziel is no exception.
Much of the first-game starting lineup for Manziel's offensive line should return. His favorite target was not Ryan Swope -- who didn't have a bad year by any stretch -- but fellow freshman Mike Evans, who had 75 catches for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns. Still, someone will need to replace Swope's numbers (64, 809, 7) or at least come close for Manziel to make a successful return trip to New York City.
The picture in the ground game also doesn't change much. Ben Malena should be back. Christine Michael's departure could open up a few more carries for Manziel and/or Malena, but there won't be much of a difference.
The schedule. After getting a pretty brutal slate this year, Texas A&M's second year in the SEC should be a little more hospitable. The non-conference slate is a little less tough, with potential BCS buster Louisiana Tech and S.C. State out, replaced with Rice and New Mexico. Both Sam Houston State and SMU are back.
The conference schedule is also less strenuous. Florida falls off and is replaced by Vanderbilt in the rotation -- and while the Commodore's defense wasn't bad this year, it wasn't Florida's. Alabama and Mississippi State come to College Station, but the Aggies have to face LSU and a potentially dangerous Ole Miss team on the road. No one said it was easy, but it's not the hardest season you could draw in the SEC West.
More significant will be whether the teams that faced Texas A&M this year are ready to make the defensive adjustments necessary to contain him better than they did in 2012. Just like he did for the Heisman watchers this year, Johnny Manziel took a bunch of teams by surprise this season. And just like the experts who are already putting together their watch lists for 2013, Manziel will be on every defensive coordinator's radar next season.