Arlington, TX (Sports Network) - Former Big 12 Conference rivals meet in the
77th Cotton Bowl Classic, as the Texas A&M Aggies battle the Oklahoma Sooners
on Friday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Both teams are riding five-game win streaks, and each went 10-2 during the
Texas A&M's 6-2 mark in its first foray into the SEC was good for second in
the Western Division behind Alabama. The Aggies are the only team to beat the
Crimson Tide this season. With Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at the
helm, the Aggies come into this contest seeking their first 11-win campaign
since 1998. A&M is led by head coach Kevin Sumlin, who spent five seasons
(2003-07) as an assistant at Oklahoma.
Texas A&M is appearing in its 34th bowl game (14-19), and is playing in its
13th Cotton Bowl (4-8). The Aggies, who were just here two years ago (41-24
loss to LSU), are playing in Cowboys Stadium for the fifth time, but have yet
to leave as the victors.
Sumlin spoke with reverence about playing a team he used to coach in one of
the nation's most prestigious bowl games.
"Our football team is excited to play another game against a storied program
such as Oklahoma. We have been led all year by a great group of seniors and to
be rewarded with a great experience like the Cotton Bowl is something they
will cherish. Plenty of their family and friends will be able to watch them
play as well, and the hospitality is second to none."
Oklahoma earned a share of its eighth Big 12 title this season, matching
Kansas State's 8-1 league ledger. The Sooners lost to the Wildcats, 24-19, in
their conference opener back on Sept. 22, thus giving K-State the league's
automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.
Oklahoma is led by Bob Stoops, who can notch his 150th career win in this
clash, and the team has been to a bowl game every year since his arrival on
campus back in 1999. Stoops' troops played in their only other Cotton Bowl
back in 2002, defeating Arkansas in a 10-3 final. Overall, OU is appearing in
its 46th bowl game (27-17-1), and the team is seeking its fourth straight bowl
win, which would match the longest streak in school history.
Oklahoma is 4-0 in games played in Texas this season, and a win here would
give the Sooners their 10th 11-win season under Stoops.
OU quarterback Landry Jones knows his team has its work cut out for it as it
gets ready to tangle with the high-octane Aggies.
"They have a very explosive offense," Jones said. "Manziel, obviously has done
a lot of great things for the game of college football, won the Heisman this
year and was an All-American so it's going to be a big challenge for us and
These two teams have faced each other every year since the inception of the
Big 12 in 1996, but this is their first meeting in a bowl game. Oklahoma leads
the series, 19-11, and the Sooners are 11-2 versus A&M under Stoops, winning
eight of the last nine meetings.
With Manziel leading the way, the Texas A&M offense was on point for much of
the season, averaging 44.8 points and 552.3 total yards per contest, both of
which ranked the team third in the nation. Manziel, who is only the second
Aggie, and the first freshman in history to win the Heisman, threw for 3,419
yards with 24 TDs and eight interceptions, while also serving as the team's
leading rusher with 1,181 yards and 19 scores.
There were other Aggies who had productive years as well, with RB Ben Malena
accounting for 752 yards and seven TDs, and RB Christine Michael reaching the
end zone 12 times. In the passing game, Mike Evans has 75 receptions for 1,022
yards and five TDs, and Ryan Swope is hot on his heels with 64 grabs for 809
yards and seven scores. Uzoma Nwachukwu has only 23 catches, but six of them
have been for TDs.
With Manziel and the A&M offense grabbing most of the headlines, the Aggies
defense has quietly gone about its business this season in yielding 22.5
points and 389.3 total yards per game.
Damontre Moore has been a man possessed along the defensive line, logging 80
total tackles, 20 TFL and 12.5 sacks. Overall, the Aggies have registered 30
sacks, but haven't proven to be all that opportunistic with a mere 15
takeaways, which includes only four fumble recoveries.
While A&M has a young, gifted QB calling the shots, Oklahoma relies on a
steady veteran in the senior Jones. A 65.5 percent passer who has thrown for
nearly 4,000 yards (3,989), 29 TDs and 10 picks this season, Jones is both
productive and calming in his demeanor, leading the team to the dizzying
heights it has achieved during his time in Norman.
The Sooners' leading receivers are Kenny Stills (75 rec., 892 yards, 11 TDs),
Justin Brown (66 rec., 822 yards, four TDs), Jalen Saunders (53 rec., 766
yards, three TDs) and Sterling Shepard (41 rec., 578 yards, three TDs), while
the OU run game is fueled by the exploits of Damien Williams who has amassed
905 yards and 11 TDs. Backup QB Blake Bell has also been effective on the
ground, scoring 11 rushing TDs.
For the most part, the Oklahoma defense has done a solid job this season in
permitting 24.2 points and 378.8 yards per game. The effort against the run
has been somewhat suspect though, as foes generate 181.1 ypg and have scored
23 TDs on the ground.
Although they posted wins in each, there was a late three-game stretch in
which the Sooners allowed 34, 49 and 48 points to Baylor, West Virginia and
Oklahoma State, respectively.
Tony Jefferson has had a tremendous season in collecting a team-high 113
tackles, while Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin have a combined nine
interceptions. Chuka Ndulue has five sacks.
A glaring lack of big plays on defense exists however, and it's hard to
imagine but the Sooners have even fewer fumble recoveries than do the Aggies,
coming up with only three in a dozen games. They also have only 12 picks.
The Sports Network