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Very rarely do you get to use the words “defensive battle” and “Big 12” in the same sentence.
That was exactly what we saw Saturday night in College Station. Nebraska made its final regular-season trip to Texas, losing 9-6 to Texas A&M. Taylor Martinez left the field early in the game with an ankle injury and missed the remainder of the first half. With the score tied at three after halftime, Martinez returned to try to lead his team to victory on one leg. Unfortunately for Nebraska fans, he was only able to gain 124 yards (107 passing and 17 rushing) for the game.
Earlier this season, the Aggies lost three in a row to Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Missouri (all in the AP Top 15). Head coach Mike Sherman’s job was on a less-than-firm foundation.
Since that losing streak, junior Ryan Tannehill took over at QB and has led TAMU on a five-game winning streak, including two wins over Top 10 opponents—Oklahoma two weeks ago and now Nebraska.
Mike Sherman’s boys now have a chance to end rival Texas’ season early next week in Austin. With Oklahoma State and Oklahoma’s blowout wins this weekend, a trip to Dallas for the conference title game seems to be out of the question. Stranger things have happened, though.
There are some programs that, when they are winning, make college football more fun to watch. Texas A&M is one of those programs. Watching the game, the intensity of the 90,000-plus fans in Kyle Field could be felt through the TV over 1,000 miles away. When the Aggies are good, the 12th man makes for one of the best game-day environments in the country.
The sudden resurgence of the Texas A&M program came at just the right time. Next year, the Big 12 is losing two of its historically strong football brands. A strong Texas A&M gives the conference more marquee games to sell when looking for its next TV deal.
In spite of its loss, Nebraska remains in control of its own destiny in the Big 12 North. Now in a tie with Missouri, the Cornhuskers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. A win at home against Colorado will send Nebraska to one final Big 12 Championship game.
Don’t discount Colorado, though. CU won a big game against Georgia earlier this year. With their bowl hopes on life support, the Buffs have pulled consecutive upsets against Iowa State and Kansas State. Thanksgiving weekend in the Big 12 is starting to look like a great one.