OK, this one really isn’t a BCS bowl, it is no longer on New Years Day, but the match up is every bit as good as the big ones, and with a little bit of star power to boot. Heisman winner Jonathan Football takes Texas A&M into Cowboys Stadium to square off against former Big 12 rival Oklahoma. This one figures to be one of the most exciting games of the bowl season with two top 10 offenses doing battle, each lead by a prolific quarterback.
How They Got Here
If anyone knew what to expect from the Aggies first journey through the SEC, they probably should have played the lottery or planned a trip to Vegas. The 2011 squad went 7-6 in the Big 12, fired their coach, and had to replace a first round draft pick at QB. All A&M did was finish 10-2, 6-2 in the SEC, knock off the top ranked Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, feature the first ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and all with a new coach. Things did not start out so rosy in the nations best league though, as Florida came into Kyle Field in what ended up as the season opener for the Aggies, and won 20-17, behind a 2nd half comeback. If you paid attention at all to the 2011 season, that 2nd half collapse wasn’t exactly confidence inspiring. Instead, Manziel and new coach Kevin Sumlin rallied the troops for 5 straight wins, before falling at home, to 6th ranked LSU. A&M was at 5-2, and staring 3 consecutive road trips (Auburn, #15 Mississippi State, and #1 Alabama) in the face. All they did was outscore those 3 teams 130-58, and go 3-0, capped with the thrilling 29-24 upset against the top ranked Crimson Tide.
Oklahoma entered the season as Oklahoma always enters the season, a top 5 team, loads of talent, and national title expectations. The Sooners have been good for at least one shocking defeat in recent seasons, and it looked like that was the case again after they fell to then 15th ranked Kansas State in their 3rd game. The Wildcats, of course, would go on to finish 11-1 with a Big 12 title, and only an upset loss at Baylor away from playing for the national championship on Monday. The Sooners would win their next 3 handily, setting up a prime time clash with Notre Dame in Norman. The game was much closer than the 30-13 final, as the Irish scored twice late, but Sooner fans were once again left wondering what might have been. Oklahoma wrapped up the year with 5 straight wins, including a thrilling 50-49 win at West Virginia, and a 51-48 OT win in the Bedlam game against rival Oklahoma State.
Offense vs. Defense
If that doesn’t get your pulse racing, I don’t know what will! But you have the 3rd and 10th offenses in both yardage and scoring, facing off against two pretty talented defenses. It’s hard to compare stats with Oklahoma in the high flying Big 12, and the Aggies in the more defensive minded SEC, but make no mistake, both defenses are good, and they will be challenged. Both teams put up over 500 yards total, over 300 yards through the air, and A&M goes for over 200 a game on the ground. They key for both will of course be shutting down the prolific quarterbacks, and making both offenses find other ways to beat you. Whoever does that, has the edge.
Johnny Football vs. The Heisman Hangover
If you’ve followed college football for any amount of time, you are hopefully quite aware of the lack of success Heisman Trophy winners have been known to have after winning the award. Whether it’s the month long hype machine, the buffets, or just the fact that everyone gets geared up to play the top player in the country*, the fact is the Heisman holder suffers. Manziel has been in the spotlight as much as any winner in recent memory. Heck, he made national news for sitting courtside for a Mavericks game last month. But the freshman will have the stay level headed on the big stage as Oklahoma will certainly be gunning for him. Don’t forget his offensive coordinator (Kliff Kingsbury) won’t be with him after taking the job at Texas Tech in December.
Points. Lots of points. Manziel has managed the expectations like a freshman that doesn’t know any better, and I don’t expect the Heisman hangover to really be much of a distraction for him. Oklahoma lost to the 2 best teams on their schedule, and the common theme was they shut down the Sooners high powered offense. I think the Aggies do just enough to slow down Landry Jones, and pull out a close one.
Texas A&M 38
Follow VBR Lead Editor Matt de Bear on Twitter for all the latest on college football and Penn State