OU football: Cotton Bowl Classic quick facts, figures and key matchups
77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic Podcast
IRVING, Texas —What: No. 10 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Oklahoma in the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.
Time: 7 tonight (FOX)
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
Records: Aggies (10-2, 6-2 SEC); Sooners (10-2, 8-1 Big 12)
Latest Line: Aggies favored by 3 points.
What’s at stake: Texas A&M has a chance to win 11 games for the first time since 1998 when it won the Big 12 Championship game over Kansas State. No one could have predicted the Aggies would have this much success this quickly after jumping ship to the SEC, but the players know a win in the Cotton Bowl over national powerhouse Oklahoma would give the program an important stepping stone it needs to becoming a perennial national contender.
Final point: After beating Northwestern last year in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Aggies are looking to win back to back bowl games for the first time since 1985.
For OU, its all about finishing out the season with a validating win over a quality SEC opponent. After the Sooners' national championship and BCS bids were eliminated, the Cotton Bowl ironically provides all of the glitz and glamor this OU team needs to redeem itself. Facing a Heisman-winning quarterback won’t be an easy task, but if the Sooners can initiate a good pass rush while simultaneously taking away freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel’s passing options, OU very easily could handcuff Texas A&M’s potent scoring machine that got the better of SEC teams, including then-No. 1 Alabama in November.
Final point: The Sooners also have the opportunity to tie a school record by winning four consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1981.
Individual matchup to watch: Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore versus quarterback Landry Jones.
Moore already decided the week leading into the Cotton Bowl he was heading to the NFL after the junior led the team with 80 tackles, eight quarterback hurries 20 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Jones is known for his poor decision making when he gets flushed out of the pocket, and there were several times this year when interceptions were dropped by defensive backs after the senior quarterback was forced to throw on the run. If Moore can do what he does best and put the pressure on Jones, the Sooner offense may be in for a long night against this A&M line.
Key Stat: 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns.
That’s what Manziel needed to do in his redshirt freshman campaign not only to lead his team to a 10-2 record but also to become the first player in history to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman. He had almost as many passing touchdowns (24) as he did rushing touchdowns (19), proving Manziel is a dual-threat quarterback who can’t be left alone in the backfield. The Sooner defense said it wanted to contain Manziel and force him to make passes during this game mainly because OU is best at sticking to its secondary assignments with this season’s arrival of new defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Although OU has given up the long ball at times, the menacing running quarterback is something the Sooners don’t want to deal with.
What was said about the Big 12 vs. SEC matchup this week:
“No one in the Big 12 was happy when we left, and it’s funny that we’re playing a Big 12 team in our first Bowl game (in the SEC). It’s going to be exciting because playing an old conference team who I guess is considered a little bit of a rival is really exciting.” -Texas A&M defensive tackle Spencer Nealy
“I haven’t heard too much about the conference differences, mainly just about the good A&M team. This game is going to bring a lot of attention and we’re just ready to go out and win the game on Friday.” -OU senior wide receiver Justin Brown
Prediction: This game should be a high-scoring affair if both quarterbacks start to get in a rhythm, probably sometime within the second and third quarters. Although OU has been able to put up the points needed to edge out last-second wins, Manziel and the Texas A&M offense do their most damage before halftime — the Aggies have scored 343 total points in the first two quarters. Oklahoma 48, Texas A&M 45.