Cotton Bowl Preview
January 4, 2013
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TEXAS A&M AGGIES (10-2) vs. OKLAHOMA SOONERS (10-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Texas A&M -3 & 72.5
Opening Line & Total: Aggies -5 & 71.5
Former Big 12 foes prepare to light up the scoreboard when Texas A&M and Oklahoma meet in Friday's Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.
Two high-powered offenses riding five-game win streaks renew their former conference rivalry in a venue that’s just a short drive away for both schools. These teams will play for the 17th straight year, with Oklahoma holding a dominant 11-2 SU (7-6 ATS) mark over Texas A&M since 1999. Heisman Trophy winning freshman QB Johnny Manziel has 4,600 total yards (3,419 passing and 1,181 rushing) and 19 total TD during five straight wins for the Aggies. But Manziel no longer has offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury who left to take the Texas Tech head coaching job. Sooners star QB Landry Jones has thrown for 396 YPG and 17 TD during his team’s five-game surge. Both schools average more than 40 points per game and 500 total yards per game.
The Aggies and Manziel have been a great story, but the Sooners are the more experienced team and appear to be more suited for the Cowboys Stadium fast track with all the great athletes they have. Also, Jones has already played in three bowls in his career, throwing for 1,008 yards (336 YPG) and 7 TD. Since 1992, the Aggies are a dreadful 5-19 ATS (21%) in non-home games following a bye week, while Bob Stoops is 33-20 ATS (62%) after losing 2 of 3 ATS as the Sooners head coach.
Manziel has topped 300 total yards in nine straight games, capping off his Heisman season with 439 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-29 rout over Missouri. During the current win streak, he's scored 19 times (10 passing, 9 rushing) with just two interceptions. Manziel usually looks for two receivers when he drops back, freshman Mike Evans (75 rec, 1,022 yds, 5 TD) and senior Ryan Swope (64 rec, 809 yds, 7 TD). Evans has 180 receiving yards and 3 TD over his past two games, while Swope has at least 110 receiving yards in three of his past five contests, scoring four times in these five games. Swope had a huge game in last year's Texas Bowl versus Northwestern, catching eight passes for 105 yards in the 33-22 victory.
Manziel leads the SEC in rushing, but the Aggies have three other capable backs in Ben Malena (752 rush yds, 7 TD), Christine Michael (417 rush yds, 12 TD) and Trey Williams (335 rush yds, 4 TD). The senior Michael has rushed for 6 TD in the past four games, and his lone bowl action was in 2009 when he rushed for 77 yards (5.1 YPC) and a touchdown in the Independence Bowl loss to Georgia.
The Aggies defense certainly gives up yardage (389 YPG, 58th in nation), but they surrender just 22.5 PPG (29th in FBS), as just one opponent has scored as much as 30 points against them this year, that being Louisiana Tech -- the highest-scoring team in the land -- in a 59-57 Texas A&M win on Oct. 13. The Aggies have 2.5 sacks per game this season (T-29th in nation) and have forced seven turnovers in the past three contests. They are playing in their 13th Cotton Bowl in school history, but have lost six straight games at this event.
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones ranks 11th in the nation in total offense (324 YPG), throwing at least two touchdowns in eight of the past nine games. He's also been outstanding in three career starts versus Texas A&M with 937 passing yards, 8 TD and just 2 INT. Jones will be starting a bowl game for the fourth straight year, but he wasn't great in last year's Insight.com Bowl against Iowa when he completed 16-of-25 passes for 161 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His favorite target in 2012 is junior WR Kenny Stills (75 rec, 892 yds, 11 TD), who has six 90-yard games this year with 7 TD during the five-game win streak. The Sooners have an average ground game (165 YPG, 59th in FBS), but Damien Williams finished the season strong with 317 rushing yards and 4 TD in the final four games.
Oklahoma does not possess the great defensive line that the school is usually known for, tallying just 2.0 sacks per game (T-61st in nation) and 4.3 Tackles For Loss per game (T-110th in FBS). The lack of pressure is a big reason why the Sooners allowed 30+ points in four of their final six games of the season, while generating just five takeaways during this six-game stretch. However, special teams could be key here, as Oklahoma has an outstanding return game, ranking fourth in the country in kick returns (26.5 average) and sixth in punt returns (14.9 average).