OU football: Cotton Bowl gives Sooners opportunity to end season on high note
What: No. 9 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Oklahoma in the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl.
Time: 7:00 tonight (Fox)
Where: Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
Records: Aggies(10-2, 6-2 SEC); Sooners(10-2, 8-1 Big 12)
Latest Line: Aggies favored by 3.5 pts.
What’s at stake for Texas A&M: A&M has a chance to win 11 games for the first time since 1998, when it won a Big 12 championship game over a top-ranked Kansas State team. No one could have predicted the Aggies would have this much success after jumping ship to the become one of the SEC’s newest members, but the Aggies know that a win in the Cotton Bowl over national powerhouse Oklahoma would give the program an important stepping stone it needs to becoming a perennial national contender.
Final point for Texas A&M: After beating Northwestern last year in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Aggies are looking to win back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1985.
What's at stake for OU: For the Sooners, it's all about finishing out the season with a validating win over a quality SEC opponent. After national championship and BCS bowl aspirations were eliminated from the Sooners postseason plans, the Cotton Bowl ironically provides all of the glitz and glamor that this OU team needs to redeem itself. Facing a Heisman-winning quarterback won’t be an easy task, but if the Sooners can initiate a good pass rush while simultaneously taking away freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel’s wide receivers, OU could very easily handcuff A&M’s potent scoring machine that got the better of SEC teams like then-No. 1 Alabama earlier this season.
Final point for OU: The Sooners also have the opportunity to tie a school record by winning four consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1981.
Individual matchup to watch: Defensive end Damontre Moore versus quarterback Landry Jones.
Moore already decided the week before the Cotton Bowl matchup that he was heading to the NFL after the junior led the team with 80 tackles and eight quarterback hurries. Moore also led the team with 20 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Jones is known for his poor decision-making when he gets flushed out of the pocket, and there were several times this year when interceptions were dropped by defensive backs after the senior quarterback was forced to throw on the run. If Moore can do what he does best and put the pressure on Jones, the Sooner offense may be in for a long night against this A&M front four.
Key Stat: 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns.
That’s what Manziel needed to do in his first year in collegiate football to lead his team to a 10-2 record and become the first player in history to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman. He had almost as many passing touchdowns (24) as he did rushing touchdowns (19), proving Manziel is a dual-threat quarterback that can’t be given room to run. The Sooner defense said it wanted to contain Manziel and force him to make passes during this game, mainly because OU is best at sticking to its secondary assignments with this season’s arrival of new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Although OU has given up the long ball at times, the menacing running quarterback is something that the Sooners don’t want to deal with.
What was said about the Big 12 vs. SEC matchup this week:
“No one in the Big 12 was happy when we left, and it’s funny that we’re playing a Big 12 team in our first Bowl game (in the SEC),” defensive tackle Spencer Nealy said. “It’s going to be exciting because playing an old conference team who I guess is considered a little bit of a rival is really exciting.”
“I haven’t heard too much about the conference differences, mainly just about the good A&M team,” senior wide receiver Justin Brown said. “This game is going to bring a lot of attention, and we’re just ready to go out and win the game on Friday.”
Prediction: This game should be a high-scoring game if both quarterbacks start to get in a rhythm, probably sometime within the second and third quarters. Although OU has been able to put up the points needed to edge out the last second wins, Manziel and the A&M offense do their most damage--343 total points in the first two quarters this season---before halftime. Oklahoma 48, A&M 45.