Cotton Bowl preview
Jake Shaw previews Texas A&M's showdown with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
2013 AT&T COTTON BOWL CLASSIC
> No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2/6-2 SEC) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2/8-1 Big 12), 7 p.m. CST Friday, FOX
For all the fans in and around Texas that wanted a UT-A&M Cotton Bowl, you didn't get your wish. You got something even better.
No, the LoneStar Showdown won't be renewed this year, but that's probably a break for the Longhorns. I don't think they'd be ready to give this Aggie team a good game. But Oklahoma is a different story. Unlike Texas, the Sooners can rely on both their offense and defense.
Oklahoma finished a modest 45th in the country in total defense, but that's somewhat impressive considering the Sooners played four teams ranked among the top 13 teams in total offense. Had OU shown up against West Virginia (which put up 778 yards, nearly twice the 380/game OU allowed on the season), the OU defense would've ranked even higher.
It's this OU defense that will be under the microscope all game long. Usually the offense is the focal point for a team taking on the SEC in a bowl matchup. But Texas A&M, the newcomers in the Southeast, is an exception.
You might've heard of Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman who took both his conference and the country by storm. The Heisman Trophy winner is -- bowl-game performance pending -- leading the nation in total offense per game, just ahead of Baylor's Nick Florence. Nobody stopped Manziel for an entire game, so OU can forget about that. But a couple programs (namely Florida and LSU -- both bowl losers, coincidentally) slowed down Manziel for at least a half.
That's an acceptable goal for the Sooners. They can't expect to shut down Manziel all four quarters. He's too good, and Texas A&M has too many other weapons to prevent that. But OU must force Texas A&M into at least two unproductive quarters: Force him into a mistake in the first quarter or a three-and-out (or two) in the fourth. That's essential.
Because even if this is the offense-centric Big 12 going against the defense-first SEC, the Sooners just don't have the firepower to keep up with Texas A&M if this game becomes an offensive shootout. Oh, the irony.
Key stat: 1, the difference between the number of sacks by the OU defense (24) and the number of sacks allowed by the Texas A&M offensive line (23). The Aggies boast one of the best offensive lines in the country; OU needs an exceptional performance from its defensive line to win some battles against the Aggie OL so it can attempt to pressure Manziel.
The mob says: Texas A&M by 3.5
So says I: Texas A&M 40, Oklahoma 35
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com