We get a break from the ACC on this Thursday’s ESPN national television college football game as Texas and Texas A&M face off in their annual Thanksgiving showdown.
Well, it used to be annual. The Aggies, of course, are off to the SEC next season, pretty much because they were tired of being in UT’s shadow and envious of the Longhorn Network. Thus, these very heated rivals may be facing off for the final time in the foreseeable future in this one at Kyle Field.
Neither team is particularly good, but it should be an electric atmosphere just because it’s the final game. It will be meeting No. 118 of a series that began with a 38-0 Texas win in 1894. Texas A&M officials have said they are interested in keeping the rivalry alive, but arrogant Texas says its nonconference schedule is booked at least until 2018.
Really, this game is just for bowl positioning—the Horns (6-4) were expected to land in the Cotton Bowl before losing 17-13 on Saturday at home against Kansas State (the Holiday Bowl could be in their future now).
The UT offense has vanished in a two-game losing streak, totaling 18 points. Texas outgained KSU 310-121 but had two turnovers. UT was around midfield and snapped the ball as time expired, but inexplicably QB Case McCoy ran around for several seconds before throwing a short pass that fell incomplete nowhere near the end zone.
This is the final game of the regular season for the Aggies (6-5), who broke a three-game skid on Saturday with a 61-7 win over a Kansas team that might be the worst BCS conference club in the nation. Defensive end/linebacker Damontre Moore had one of the best games of any defensive player this season against the Jayhawks, with eight tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Scoring hasn’t been a problem this season for A&M but stopping teams and keeping big leads have been.
Texas at Texas A&M Betting Storylines
Let’s start with the big injury heading into this one. Aggies running back Cyrus Gray has a stress fracture in one of his shoulders and is listed as day-to-day. He was hurt in the first half against Kansas after rushing for 94 yards and three scores on nine carries. Gray has 1,045 yards rushing, his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
The Aggies are already without fellow tailback Christine Michael, who ran for 899 yards before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 5. If Gray can't play, the Aggies will rely on sophomore Ben Malena and freshman Will Randolph, who made his collegiate debut on Saturday.
UT has been using both McCoy and David Ash at quarterback most of this season, but it is expected that McCoy will start this game. After being listed second behind Ash on the Texas depth chart at quarterback ever since the Oklahoma State game, McCoy is now listed first heading into this game, though he and Ash are still technically co-starters.
Ash, the starter for the last five games, had two interceptions against Kansas State. The freshman has nine total turnovers on the season. He didn't lead a touchdown drive for the second straight game and hasn’t thrown a TD pass since the fourth quarter of the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma.
The Horns managed just 111 yards on 41 plays Ash was in for vs. KSU. McCoy led Texas to its two longest drives vs. the Wildcats and its lone touchdown. He hasn’t thrown a pick yet this year and is 2-1 in his three starts (Ash, who is more mobile, is 2-3 as a starter but hasn’t thrown a TD pass as a starter).
Overall Texas will arrive at Kyle Field having managed one touchdown in its last 28 possessions.
The Aggies are No. 15 in the country in rush defense, allowing just 108 yards per game. But they are 118 out of 120 teams in pass defense, allowing 292 passing yards per game. The Longhorns allow just 294.5 yards a game, the best in the Big 12 by more than 90 yards.
A&M ended a two-game skid in this series last year with a 24-17 victory in Austin. Gray ran for 223 yards, the most allowed by Texas to an A&M player, with TD runs of 84 and 48 yards. That loss meant Texas wasn’t bowl eligible.
Texas at Texas A&M Betting Odds and Trends
The Aggies opened as eight-point favorites, according to college football odds, and there is no total yet on the board.
A&M is 3-8 ATS this season and 3-3 ATS at home. UT is 5-5 ATS and 2-1 on the road. The Horns are 4-5-1 on the ‘over/under’ while A&M is 7-4. Texas is 0-5 ATS in past five as a dog. A&M is 1-5 ATS in past six following a win.
The ‘under’ is 4-1-1 in UT’s past six as a dog. The ‘over’ is 6-1 in A&M’s past seven as a favorite. A&M is 5-1 ATS in past six meetings.
College Football Picks: Texas at Texas A&M Betting Preview
I might hold off here and hope this line drops to a touchdown, but the early action is on A&M so that’s probably not going to happen.
I just don’t think Texas can keep up with the Aggies offensively and that it’s actually a benefit for the Aggies that this is their final regular-season game, while Texas still has to go to Baylor.
This will be bigger than any bowl game that A&M would play in. So take them. I’m taking the ‘over,’ too, as I presume it will be low-to-mid 40s.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.