Tonight's Cotton Bowl has the feel of a BCS game, with Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M taking on Landry Jones and Oklahoma. The game is rapidly approaching, so let's not waste time. Here are last-minute predictions and my pick to win the game:
Matchups to Watch
Johnny Manziel vs Landry Jones
The Cotton Bowl features two of the elite quarterbacks in the nation, with Heisman winner Manziel leading the charge.
Manziel won the Heisman handily, thanks to an astounding 43 touchdowns on the season. He is a dynamic runner, with 6.4 yards per carry, and an efficient passer, with a rating of 155.9. Oklahoma will be hard-pressed to stop him.
Landry Jones, meanwhile, has not accumulated the postseason accolades that Manziel has, but the senior has been the latest in a line of great Sooner quarterbacks. He has an astounding 16,368 career passing yards heading into this game, a record for Oklahoma quarterbacks, with no one else close.
Jones has been knocked for his inability to win a big game. Well, this is a big game. He certainly has an opportunity to answer his doubters tonight.
Both of these offenses should score points in droves. The winner could be the team that has the ball last. Either way, both of these quarterbacks will be forced to keep pace with the other.
I like Jones in this game. He will have the extra motivation of playing his last game and improving his draft stock. A great game could push him into the first round. As good as Manziel is, the post-season press circuit could have taken its toll on him.
Jones should be the more effective quarterback.
Damontre Moore vs Lane Johnson
Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore broke out this season, establishing himself as one of the most feared pass-rushers in the nation, with 12.5 sacks on the season.
Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson is one of the premier tackles in the nation, projected as a high pick in this year's draft.
Something has to give.
This game will have a big role on both player's draft stocks. Moore is considered a top-five talent when he enters the draft, while Johnson is perhaps a second-day pick. A good game against Moore would boost Johnson's stock significantly, perhaps even into the first round.
This battle has meaning beyond draft stock. In a game that is sure to be high scoring, Johnson must be able to slow down Moore and give his quarterback Jones a chance. The more pressure Moore gets, the less likely the Sooners will be able to keep pace with Texas A&M's high-octane offense.
I like Moore to put constant pressure on Jones tonight. He has a similar skill-set to Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
As South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan showed, the pass rusher generally has the advantage in this kind of matchup.
That said, expect Moore to have a big game.
Passing: Johnny Manziel: 20-for-30 passing, 300 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing:Johnny Manziel: 20 attempts, 80 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: Mike Evans: 5 receptions, 75 yards
Passing: Landry Jones: 35-for-55 passing, 425 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Rushing: Damien Williams: 15 attempts, 50 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: Kenny Stills: 8 receptions, 120 yards, 1 touchdown
Texas A&M has the better overall quarterback, the better running game and the better defense. All the factors scream for me to pick A&M.
And I do expect them to run the ball more effectively, lead by Manziel and an underrated stable of running backs. But Landry Jones has really started to step up in big moments this season. He's won six close games in a row against quality, bowl opponents. I expect Jones and the Sooner's passing game to make it a sixth-straight win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 37, Texas A&M 35