The No. 9 Texas A&M Football team will play the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners on January 4th in the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners are a very tough matchup for A&M, and the Ags will have to be at the top of their game in order to pull out a victory.
This game will mark the 18th year in a row that the two teams will meet. It will be the first time since 1994 that the teams have met as members of separate conferences.
The Cotton Bowl will be a battle for conference pride. Oklahoma will be trying to score a victory for the Big 12 over the SEC, while also getting some revenge on the Aggies for leaving the conference.
The Ags feature a great offense and a solid defense that has had issues against the pass. The Sooners feature a great passing offense but a defense that has struggled all year to keep teams out of the endzone. This game will be decided by whichever team is most able to take advantage of their opponents' weaknesses.
This is a look at a few keys to the Aggies beating OU.
Oklahoma senior quarterback Landry Jones has completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,989 yards and 29 touchdowns during the 2012 regular season. He is a streaky passer, but when he is on, he is as good as anyone in the country.
Jones has a tendency to struggle when he is forced out of the pocket. If the Aggies want to beat Oklahoma then they will have to make Jones uncomfortable in the pocket.
Aggie defensive coordinator Mark Snyder will have to move junior defensive end Damontre Moore around to get favorable matchups with the Oklahoma offensive line. Moore has 12.5 sacks on the season, and A&M fans will be counting on him to put pressure on Jones.
Dustin Harris celebrates after beating Alabama
Oklahoma has three receivers in Kenny Stills, Justin Brown and Jalen Saunders who have caught over 50 receptions on the season. Stills leads the Sooners with 75 receptions for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Aggies will need to mix up their coverages to confuse Landry Jones and the Oklahoma receivers. The Ags' biggest weakness in 2012 has been their pass defense. They will need to vary coverages and blitz packages in order to counteract the Sooner passing game.
The A&M secondary is not good enough to play OU straight up and win the battle. They need Mark Snyder to come up with a solid game plan. If A&M allows Jones to get hot, then the game will turn into a shootout which will play right into Oklahoma's hands.
Damien Williams vs. TCU
If the Aggies want to beat OU then they need to shut down the Sooners' running game. Oklahoma is known for the high-flying passing attack, but if you really want to beat them, you need to shut down their rushing attack.
The Sooners averaged 164 yards rushing per game. They rushed for 88 total yards against Kansas State and 15 yards against Notre Dame. They lost both of those games.
Damien Williams leads the Sooners with 905 yards and 11 touchdowns. If the Aggies can contain Williams and force the Sooners to be one-dimensional on offense, they will have a great chance to win this game.
The Aggies defense has only allowed 3.7 yards per rush for the season. They have held up against the best running games in the SEC in 2012. They should be able to hold up against the OU running game.
The Texas A&M offense was as hot as any offense in the country at the end of the season. They finished the year averaging 552 yards and 44 points per game. The Aggies have been especially effective during their final five games of the season.
During the last five games of the year, the Aggies offense averaged 32 points in the first half of every game. They have jumped on their opponents and put most of them away so quickly that Johnny Manziel and the starters have been able to rest for much of the second half.
If the A&M offensive line shows up and give Manziel time to run the offense, then the Aggies should have no trouble scoring a lot of points on the Sooners. The OU defense has allowed 24 points per game but gave up 48 points to Oklahoma State and 49 points to West Virginia going down the stretch.
The A&M offense should be able to put up a lot of points against the Sooners. If they give Manziel time to operate the offense and get out to a big lead early, they can force OU to pass the ball and make them one dimensional.
The Aggies should be able to outscore the Sooners.
In the Sooners' two losses they allowed 213 rushing yards to Kansas State and 215 rushing yards to Notre Dame. When OU is faced to play offenses straight up, their defense has struggled.
Oklahoma is allowing their opponents 4.8 yards per rush and almost two rushing touchdowns per game. The Aggies have rushed for 235 yards per game and 5.6 yards per rush. If they can get Ben Malena and Christine Michael involved in the offense early, the Sooners will have a very hard time slowing down the A&M offense.
If the Ags can effectively rush the ball, they will keep the Sooner defense off balance and they should not have any trouble scoring points. The Ags have an advantage up front in the matchup of the A&M offensive line and the Sooner defensive line.
If they take advantage of that matchup then they should win the football game.