Cotton Bowl Preview
January 2, 2013
By Christian Alexander
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Matchup: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
Venue: Cowboy Stadium, Arlington, TX
Date: Tuesday, January 4, 2013
Time/TV: 8:00 pm. ET – FOX
Line: Texas A&M -3 ½, Over/Under 72
Last Meeting: 2011, Oklahoma 41 Texas A&M 25
Simply put, this is the biggest game of the year for Texas A&M and its fan base. Sounds crazy right?
Well, it’s not entirely crazy. Here’s why:
This was the year that Texas A&M moved on to the SEC and put the 15 years of the Big 12 and its 54% conference winning percentage behind them. This was its fresh start, and did it ever take advantage of it.
Texas A&M went 10-2 in their inaugural season in the SEC including knocking off the defending National Champion and current SEC Champion Alabama; in Bryant Denny stadium no less. Go ahead and throw in the first freshman Heisman Trophy winner ever and any Aggie in the country would have signed off on that before the season started. Hell, 99% of the country would have signed off on that for their alma mater before the season started. And in any other year, for any other school, that would be more than enough. The problem is, this isn’t any other year and this isn’t any other school.
Now the Aggies find themselves less than one year after leaving the Big 12 on the heels of their best season in decades facing a team and a coach that owned them for over a decade in the conference they wanted so badly to get away from in the first place. Bob Stoops was 11-2 against the Aggies after he took over at Oklahoma.
This is about pride; this is about revenge on a team and a conference that use to feast on you for the better part of 15 years. Texas A&M is like the little brother that left the family business to go out on his own and prove to his family and everyone else for that matter that he could succeed on his own.
Beating OU in the Cotton Bowl would do just that. It would send a message to the Big 12 that they are not only fine on their own; they are even more successful…at least for now. It would be the perfect ending to the near perfect season for Texas A&M.
However, a loss to OU in a bowl game so soon after leaving the Big 12 and on the heels of such a successful season would be absolutely devastating to the Aggie alumni; and anyone that tells you differently is either lying or doesn’t understand the true ramifications behind this game. Like I said…this is the most important game of the season for Texas A&M.
It’s also a big game for each conference. Make no mistake, the SEC is still king of the hill winning six national championships in a row, and going for seven in a row three days after the Cotton Bowl. But according to Jeff Sagarin, who has provided ratings for USA TODAY Sports since 1985 the Big 12 was the top rated conference in the NCAA this year overall.
In fact, the SEC was extremely top-heavy this year and was bad to awful from the middle of the conference down. Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri went a combined 19-41 for the season and Mississippi, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt weren’t much better at 22-14. In fact, those eight teams finished a combined 0-30 against the other six SEC teams. The SEC actually couldn’t fill their bowl obligations this year because not enough teams were bowl eligible.
As for the Big 12, other than Kansas, every other team went bowling, with Iowa State (6-6) the only team with less than seven wins. However, the Big 12 has lost 8 of the last 9 Cotton Bowl games to the SEC with its sole win coming in 2008 when Missouri (who is now part of the SEC) beat Arkansas 38-7.
From the coaching side of things, it’s also a game which features Kevin Sumlin facing his old mentor Bob Stoops where he was a member of Stoops' staff from 2003-07 prior to leaving to become Houston's head coach. Sumlin will also be without offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury who left to take the Texas Tech head coaching job. It might not sound like much, but you take the offensive coordinator away from the Heisman trophy winner, any Heisman trophy winner, and that’s a huge impact.
Kingsbury was behind a Texas A&M offense that was third in the country in yards per game (552.3) and scoring average (44.8), while Oklahoma was not far behind on offense with averages of 505.9 yards per game and 40.3 points per game.
OU is led by senior quarterback Landry Jones, who is the Sooners' career leader in passing yards, TD passes, wins, completions and attempts and he is the first FBS quarterback to throw for at least 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in four seasons.
The Aggies are of course led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel who simply passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns while running for 1,181 yards and 19 TD’s as a freshman. He is also the first freshman, first SEC player and fifth player overall to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season. Not a bad start to a career.
How does Johnny Manzeil’s Heisman factor into this game? Probably not at all to be quite honest, but Heisman winners in bowl games went 2-7 from 2000 to 2009, the only two winners both played at USC. Carson Palmer beat Iowa in 2002 and two years later Matt Leinart beat OU; both in the Orange Bowl. However the last three Heisman winners (Ingram, Newton and RGIII) all went on to win their bowl games, including two straight National Championships for Ingram and Newton.
Oklahoma is 27-17-1 in bowl games and will be trying to match a school record with a fourth straight bowl win. The Aggies are 14-19 in bowl games overall and Texas A&M is in the Cotton Bowl for the 13th time. They lost 41-24 to LSU following the 2010 season for their sixth straight Cotton Bowl loss. This of course means absolutely nothing in my opinion.
Of the 35 bowl games that will be played this year the BCS Championship has the most at stake, and some would argue that the Fiesta Bowl between Oregon and Kansas State might be the most intriguing; but none will be more entertaining or have more subplots than the Cotton Bowl.
These two teams lost four game combined this season to teams currently ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 8th in the BCS. While I’m looking forward to watching Notre Dame and Alabama play grind it out, smash-mouth football for all the marbles, for my money, this is the game that I think will provide the most entertainment of all the major bowl games this year.