It is a shame Texas and Texas A&M aren't playing this season, as it would have been arguably the most hyped meeting between these former rivals in recent memory. With the Aggies leaving for the SEC, this matchup likely won't take place for a long time.
So the next best thing is a hypothetical matchup. Texas A&M and Texas square off sometime in mid-October on a neutral field, who you got? Unless you are a diehard Longhorns fan or a supporter of a SEC West team, you are probably going to pick the Aggies.
Even though Texas has won three of the final four meetings against Texas A&M, it has struggled mightily the last three years, which includes finishing with a 2-3 record against ranked teams last season. This is not the same Longhorns program of old and it certainly isn't the same Texas A&M squad with quarterback Johnny Manziel running the show.
The Aggies were able to win 11 games in their first season in the toughest division in the country. Being the only team to knock off the national champion Crimson Tide, Texas A&M is a team that should be considered a national title contender this season. With that said, most would assume the Aggies would win this hypothetical showdown.
But how would the Longhorns stack up?
Much like the last two meetings between these two teams, which were decided by a touchdown or less, this would be a highly competitive meeting. Although the Longhorns haven't fared well as of late in big games, they are still a team that returns the most starters in the country, with 19. This includes 10 starters from an offense that averaged nearly 36 points per game and nine starters from a defense that really has no choice but to improve.
Arguably the most talented team head coach Mack Brown has had in recent memory, and with depth from top to bottom, there is no reason this club can't contend for a BCS bowl. Sure, this is what we have heard the last three seasons, but when the pieces are in place you would be foolish to look away.
Texas A&M will remain an offensive juggernaut, but that defense that finished ninth in the SEC remains a huge question mark. Missing seven defensive starters, including sack leader Damontre Moore, this will be the Aggies' weakness until proven otherwise. A Texas offense that scored more than 40 points five times last season would be able to capitalize off of this issue.
But the only way to beat the Aggies is to do what few teams have been able to do: Slow down Manziel. Can a defense that allowed 403 yards a game be one of the first to keep the reigning Heisman winner in check? Not hardly, although there is a thing leaning in the Longhorns' favor: A great pass rush.
Last season Texas led the Big 12 with 34 sacks and will have defensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat back from injury. Even without sack leader Alex Okafor, there is still enough speed and athleticism to penetrate a Texas A&M offensive line that no longer includes Luke Joeckel.
Even with the first-round pick on the line last season, the Aggies allowed 23 sacks, 10 of which came against elite defenses in LSU, Florida and Alabama. Two of those three games resulted in losses, while the Alabama game came down to the the wire. If you can pressure Manziel and rattle him in the pocket, you have a chance to beat Texas A&M.
This game would be a lot closer than most think due to the Longhorns pass rush, but it is hard to bet against a team led by Johnny Football. He is the difference-maker and the reason the Aggies win a well-fought, tight contest.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
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