Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma: Biggest Keys to Cotton Bowl Victory for Aggies

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Trey Williams #20 of the Texas A&M Aggies works out during warmups prior to the start of the 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

The No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies have experienced one of the most exciting and surprising seasons in college football, but they'll have to execute on these main keys for a Cotton Bowl victory over the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners.

Led by Heisman quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Aggies aren't short on firepower and look to have enough talent to oust their former Big 12 rival. But that's easier said than done against the 11th-best team in the nation.

Here's a look at the biggest keys to the Cotton Bowl that could sway the game in Texas A&M's favor.


Running the Rock

With their leading rusher taking the snaps, the Aggies certainly boast an interesting rushing attack. But that doesn't mean it's any less effective.

Manziel has amassed 1,181 rushing yards on the year, to go along with three Aggies running backs that have put together a combined 1,500 yards on the ground. It's safe to say they can run the ball 10 times on a 15-play drive and get into the end zone. 

The more the Aggies move the chains on the ground, the more it opens up those deadly play-action-passing situations for Manziel. He rarely misses, with a 68.3 completion percentage, which is a tribute to the efficiency of the Aggies' play-action game in 2012.

They may have a Heisman-winning quarterback at the helm, but that doesn't mean they can simply gun it on every down.

The Aggies can't get away from their bread-and-butter attack.


Trusting Ryan Swope

Heading into 2012, Texas A&M wideout Ryan Swope was expected to be the top pass-catcher in College Station. And while he's had some help from Mike Evans and a balanced wide-receiving corps, he's been the top target, with seven touchdowns.

Manziel must look to Swope for the big plays in this one. One of Swope's four 100-yard receiving games this season was against Alabama, a game in which two of his 11 grabs were in stunning fashion against a swarm of elite Crimson Tide defenders. It's obvious that Swope can be trusted with the deep ball in tight coverage.

Oklahoma's defense may not be elite, but it has talent in the secondary, and Swope won't easily be getting open.

Rolling the dice on big plays has been how Manziel has succeeded most this season, and he can't become hesitant just because he has more eyes on him than ever before.


Keeping Landry Jones in Check

Look across the landscape of college football, and it's hard to find an active quarterback who has had a more illustrious career than Landry Jones. He'll be hungry to end his career in a big way, but that doesn't mean he'll reign supreme in his final game.

We know the Aggies defense can shut down the run, but questions have been raised about their pass coverage.

Jones and the Sooners know this, and they'll be looking to expose Texas A&M on the national stage.

Jones is likely to pass 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns in this game, regardless of his performance, which is a tribute to his immense ability. He also has two 500-yard passing games this year and four receivers with more than 40 catches.

It's safe to say the Aggies defense will have its hands full with one of the elite passing attacks in the country. Just because they have the Heisman-winning one on their side doesn't mean it'll be any easier to stop Jones and company.

If Texas A&M can keep Jones from gashing its secondary and keep him in check, the Aggies will undoubtedly win this big Cotton Bowl clash.