The 2013 Cotton Bowl matchup between two former rivals will take place Jan. 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX. Of course, I'm talking about the showdown of the Texas A&M Aggies and the Oklahoma Sooners. This game seems to be getting less attention with it sandwiched between a powerhouse bowl matchup and the BCC National Championship.
Regardless, this should turn out to be an entertaining game with a lot of fireworks on the offensive side of the ball.
The Aggies have shown in one short season that they can hang with some of college football’s best in the SEC. But that doesn't mean everything will be smooth sailing; they are matched up against an experienced Sooners team.
Here is what Texas A&M has to do to win the big matchup tomorrow night.
Pressure Quarterback Landry Jones
Lisa Horne of Bleacher Report asked why there is no love for Landry Jones. It is a valid question considering he has thrown for 16,368 yards and 122 touchdowns throughout his brilliant four-year career at Oklahoma. He has deserved plenty more credit than what college football and Oklahoma fans at times have given him over the years.
However, Jones is terrible when the pressure gets to him. He is a limited athlete who doesn't do well when trying to elude defenders that are getting to him in the pocket. This is where his 51 career interceptions come into play, as he does tend to panic a bit and will make bad decisions with a defender in his face.
The Texas A&M defense has produced 30 sacks this season. If the Aggies can get to Jones with a consistent pass-rush, the chances of winning will increase as he is sure to make mistakes with the football.
The best pass rusher on the team, Damontre Moore---who has 12.5 sacks this season---is motivated for this game because it will be his last before entering the NFL draft. He told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News that he made his decision to leave school before the bowl game so it wouldn't cause distractions.
“It’s a good feeling to get it out of the way,” he said. “Now I can truly focus on beating OU. It really hasn't set in yet, it is still surreal this is an opportunity that I am privileged to be part of.”
The Oklahoma offensive line has really come a long way despite dealing with multiple injuries to the unit. Still, Jones is a quarterback that tends to become rattled when the defensive front can get to him. Texas A&M must take advantage of that and force the Jones to make mistakes.
Open Up the Running Lanes for Ben Malena
Yea, yea, I'm sure you want to see Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel run up and down the field and score 10 touchdowns in this game. It would be the perfect way to cap-off an amazing freshman season that included a Heisman Trophy.
The thing is that the Aggies may not need "Johnny Football" to bail them out of this game. Sure he is going to look to get his highlights in this contest, but the run-defense of Oklahoma was beyond horrible this season. I'm talking about a unit that is ranked No. 8 in the Big 12, allowing almost 182 yards on the ground. There have been 23 rushing touchdowns allowed by the Sooners and they are allowing 4.8 yards per rush.
When you hear numbers like that, the Texas A&M coaching staff has no choice but to run the ball right down the throat of Oklahoma. If teams such as Notre Dame, Baylor and West Virginia were able to have a field day on the ground, Texas A&M should have very little issues themselves. After all, this is a team that has two potential first-round picks on the offensive line in Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel.
Having success running the ball is a must for the Aggies in this ball game. Manziel can still make his jaw-dropping plays at times, but the main focus for this offense should be to gash an Oklahoma unit that couldn't stop a runny nose, let alone a running back.
Avoid Turning the Ball over
Avoiding turning the ball over really goes without saying if you want to win football games. Majority of college teams simply aren't good enough to overcome multiple turnovers and it does have a significant impact on who loses the game.
Who wins the game?
The Aggies know all too well what coughing the ball up can do to a team’s record. Their minus-five turnover margin is tied at No. 11 in the SEC and the 20 turnovers are ranked No. 8. The six turnovers made the game against Ole Miss a lot closer than it should have been. And if there weren't five of them in the game against LSU, I'm sure they would have won that game as well.
Texas A&M has shown that it is capable of holding onto the ball, as it has gone five games without one. However, when the team decides to give the ball away, things tend to get ugly, as they have come in bunches throughout the season. Oklahoma and its minus-four turnover margin aren't much better, but it has won every game this year when forcing at least one.
This game against two former rivals should come down to the wire, meaning that ever position is going to count in a big way. The last thing Kevin Sumlin and his team need are to give the Sooners talented team extra possessions.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.