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Game Preview: Cotton Bowl

Damontre Moore

No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2)
77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
Jan. 4, 7 p.m.
Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
TV: FOX
Line: A&M -3

Series: OU leads 19-11 (11-2 under Bob Stoops)

GAME PREVIEW

It seems the Sooners have been inundated with awesome offenses this year… The Aggies ranked 3rd nationally with 552.3 yards per game (317.2 passing and 235.1 rushing)… They also sit at 3rd in scoring with 44.7 points per game… If you haven’t heard already, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel leads the team and is a dual threat who should give any defensive coordinator fits.

Manziel is the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy... He also garnered the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, as well as every other offensive award imaginable… He has completed 68 percent of his 400 passes for 3,419 yards with 24 TDs an 8 INTS, and he’s A&M's top rusher with 1,181 yards (6.4 per tote) and 19 TDs… He also set the SEC record for most total yards (4,600) in one season… Left tackle Luke Joeckel, this year’s Outland Trophy winner, leads an o-line that averages 308 pounds per man… Fellow tackle Jake Matthews joined him on the all-SEC first team this year.

Tailback Ben Malena is the team’s second-leading rusher with 752 yards and seven scores… Mike Evans leads the receiving corps with 75 catches for 1,022 yards and 5 TDs… Ryan Swope had 64 grabs for 809 yards and 7 TDs.

Stopping the Sooners’ offense will be a chore for the A&M defense, which ranks 56th in yards allowed (389.3 per game) and 79th in pass D (248.4 per game)… The defense has allowed 22.5 points per game this year.

Damontre Moore is a beast at defensive end, and he is the Aggies' lead pass rusher with 80 tackles, 20 for loss, including 12.5 sacks and 8 quarterback hurries… The linebacker trio of Jonathan Stewart, Steven Jenkins and Sean Porter has combined for 202 stops, including 13 behind the line and 7 sacks… The Aggies have only picked off 11 passes, but cornerback Dustin Harris leads with 10 passes broken up.

Special teams is nothing to really crow about … Punter Ryan Epperson averages 42.8 yards per kick… Taylor Bertloet has connected on 91 percent of PATs and 59 percent of FGs… The Aggies average 20 yards per kickoff return with no TDs… Dustin Harris is the leading punt return specialist with an 13.2 yards per return and one score… A&M allows 18.7 yards per kickoff return and 5.9 per punt return, giving up only 1 TD on a punt return.

With 32 days since the TCU game, Mike Stoops should have had plenty of time to come up with a defensive plan to stop Manziel & Co… Someone will have to key on the Aggies’ QB… If the Sooners can put a cork on Manziel, they will win… Stacy McGee’s suspension leaves the tackle position thin – expect David King to play there some… A&M’s offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury took the head coaching job at Texas Tech… Should be interesting if the play-calling changes for the Ags.

Lane Johnson and/or Tyrus Thompson will be given the duty of protecting Landry Jones’ blind side and keeping Moore out of the backfield… A great pass rusher doesn’t bode well for Oklahoma, as Jones gets rattled under pressure, so neutralizing Moore will be key to OU’s offensive success… Right tackle Daryl Williams will miss the game due to a knee injury, which means another shuffling of linemen to get the right fit… Seems to have worked this year, unlike 2009.

Jalen Saunders’ reinstatement will provide OU with another weapon in the receiving corps… OU has the nation's sixth-ranked passing offense, and the Aggies are 89th against the pass.

This should be another shootout…The quarterback who has a great day will lead his team to victory…. And likely to be the one who has the ball last.

ETC.

*Both teams had five-game win streaks to close 2012 and both have won all their games away from home.

*OU is the home team and will wear crimson jerseys.

*OU is 15-14-1 (52 percent) in bowl games when wearing crimson jerseys; 14-3 (82 percent) when wearing road whites.

*OU is 27-17-1 (61 percent) in all bowl games, including three straight wins.

*Bob Stoops is 7-6 in bowl games; Sumlin is 2-1 in bowl games (all at Houston).

*A&M is 14-19 (42 percent) in all bowl games.

*A&M is 4-8 in the Cotton Bowl, including six straight losses.

*OU is 1-0 in the Cotton Bowl.

*OU is 1-1 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

*A&M is 0-4 at Cowboys Stadium.

*In the 14 years since having the Big 12-SEC match up, the Big 12 team has won five times.

*Landry Jones, Joseph Ibiloye, Demontre Hurst, Tress Way and Jaydan Bird began their careers and will end their careers at Cowboys Stadium.

*OU is 0-2 on January 4th (BCS Championship Game losses to LSU in 2004 and USC in 2005)

*A&M has never played on January 4th.

*Johnny Manziel is the third of the top three Heisman contenders to face OU, and the Sooners lost to the other two.

*Heisman Trophy winners' teams are 23-22 in bowl games the year they win the award; 3-4 in the Cotton Bowl.

*A&M is favored for the first time in this rivalry since 1999; OU clobbered the Aggies 51-6 that year.

*OU has won 33 straight when leading at halftime (8-0 this year).