Cotton Bowl 2013: Keys to Victory in Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M Showdown

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to pass during their game against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on November 24, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

One of the best bowl matchups of the year, BCS or otherwise, takes place in Dallas, when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas A&M Aggies reignite their old Big 12 rivalry in the 2013 Cotton Bowl.

This used to be one of the most anticipated games on the schedule when Texas A&M was in the Big 12. Bolting to the SEC was supposed to be bad news for the program, as it was supposed to struggle in the best conference in America. 

Leave it to a tenacious defense and the emergence of a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to squash any doubts about where Texas A&M is. 

Oklahoma remains of the best and most consistent programs in the country. The Sooners' only losses this season came against No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 5 Kansas State. They have to find a way to beat those elite teams once again if they want to be in that elite category. 

Here are the keys to victory for both Oklahoma and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night. 

Keys to victory for Oklahoma

Balance on offense; Keep Johnny Manziel in the pocket

Oklahoma boasts one of the best passing attacks in the country, with more than 341 yards per game. Landry Jones is just 11 yards shy of his third-straight 4,000-yard season. 

The problem the Sooners have run into this season is trying to find a way to integrate the running game into the offense. In their two losses, they combined to run for just 103 yards. Overall, they were just 60th in the country in rushing offense. 

Jones is capable of winning games on his own, but it takes a lot of pressure off him and opens things up in the passing game if the Sooners at least make a commitment to the run. Even if it doesn't yield great results, Texas A&M still has to respect it. 

On the defensive side of things, it sounds simplistic, but keeping Manziel in the pocket is the easiest way to beating Texas A&M. In the two games Texas A&M lost this season, Manziel had just 87 rushing yards. He has to be able to move around to open up the offense. 

Creating pressure up front with the defensive line, allowing the linebackers to sit back and spy on Manziel, is the best way to stop him. That is, obviously, much easier said than done, but that's what the Sooners must do. 

Keys to victory for Texas A&M

Ride Johnny Manziel as far as you can; Stop the aerial assault

When you have an asset that no one in the country knows how to stop, you might as well keep riding it as hard as you possibly can until it breaks down. Manziel is Texas A&M football right now. He is the face of the program, and arguably all of college football right now. 

During the Aggies' five-game winning streak, Manziel has had 230 passes and runs combined. His lowest yardage output in a game during the streak was 345 against Alabama. He is going to keep making spectacular, breathtaking plays, so Oklahoma has to prove it can stop him. 

One area of weakness for Texas A&M this season has been in pass defense. It allowed 450 yards and five touchdowns to Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron in a 59-57 victory. 

Considering there aren't a lot of dynamic passing offenses in the SEC, the Aggies were able to survive a lot longer than they probably would have in a better passing conference. 

We know that Oklahoma can spread the field and throw the ball at will, so it is on head coach Kevin Sumlin to devise a scheme that, if not completely shuts down Jones, gets the defense off the field a couple of times.