Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Oklahoma Sooners [Print without images]

Monday, December 17, 2012
Cotton Bowl roundtable: Texas A&M-OU

By Jake Trotter and Sam Khan Jr.

To prepare for the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4, SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. answer a few questions on the matchup between Oklahoma (10-2) and Texas A&M (10-2).

1. Which team has more motivation in this game?

Jake Trotter: Already, this is one of the most successful seasons in Texas A&M history. The Aggies have been killing it on the field, and on the recruiting trail (a couple times at the expense of OU). The Sooners, meanwhile, have had to look on as Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel garner all the praise and headlines in the last month. That should provide the Sooners with plenty of fuel.

Sam Khan Jr.: The Sooners. Texas A&M is reaping the benefits of a 10-2 season that almost nobody expected in the Aggies' foray into the Southeastern Conference. Manziel has the Heisman Trophy and he and the Aggies have been told often how good they are in recent weeks. With OU missing out on a BCS bid, I'd think that provides more motivation to Oklahoma.

2. Which defender will have a bigger impact on the game, Damontre Moore or Tony Jefferson?

Trotter: The way to force QB Landry Jones into mistakes or inaccurate throws is to pressure him. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Texas A&M owns one of the top pass-rushers in the country in Moore. Jefferson, as he has all year, will have a big role on the OU defense, coming up to help against the Aggies run game. But Moore is capable of changing the game in one play.

Khan: I would say Moore. While the Sooners might be more motivated as a team, it would be easy to see Moore being perhaps the most motivated player on either side. After finishing tied for third in the nation in sacks and tied for fifth in tackles for loss and leading the Aggies in tackles, Moore received little by the way of postseason accolades. That can't sit well with the athletic pass-rusher.

3. Will this game have any effect on recruiting?

Trotter: An OU win will help stymie some of the momentum the Aggies have generated in recruiting this past year. But I have never subscribed to the thought that one game can have that big of an impact on the minds of recruits. Regardless of who wins, Texas A&M will continue pitching the chance to play in the SEC to Texas recruits. And OU will continue recruiting to its tradition and past successes.

Khan: I can't see it having a huge impact on recruiting unless the game is a blowout one way or another. If Texas A&M destroys Oklahoma, that will only hurt the perception of the Sooners by recruits and A&M had a ton of success going head to head with OU in 2013. Likewise, a little momentum could be lost if OU routs A&M. But if it's a close game either way, I can't see it having major significance.

4. Does Texas A&M have an advantage at quarterback?

Trotter: Because of undue criticism he receives, I seemingly always get drawn into being Landry Jones’ champion. Johnny Football is great. His mobility will give Mike Stoops fits. But no one – and that includes Johnny Football – was quarterbacking at a higher level than Jones the last month of the season. So I have a hard time giving either side an advantage at quarterback. Both guys come into this game having ended the season on fire.

Khan: Yes. The only way the Aggies won't enjoy an advantage here is if Manziel is still experiencing "Heisman hangover" or the loss of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury stymies the offensive plan. Landry Jones is a terrific quarterback, but in the times I've watched him, he leaves me wanting more in big games. Manziel didn't play great against LSU, but won on a huge stage at Alabama.

5. Which team has the better defense?

Trotter: I’m not sure this is even a debate. The Aggies aren’t exactly the ’85 Bears. But they’ve been far more consistent than the Sooners, who were an open sieve during the month of November. Texas A&M gave up 30 points only once all season. OU allowed at least that many points three times in November alone. The Sooners capable of playing good defense. But they are just as capable of not.

Khan: Texas A&M. The Aggies didn't allow a team to reach 30 points the entire last half of the season after the 57-point debacle against Louisiana Tech. The Sooners had trouble keeping teams to fewer than 30 in the final month. Playing in a tougher conference, the Aggies have a better scoring defense (22.5 points per game to Oklahoma's 24.1) and a much better third-down defense (30.6 percent to 41.3 percent) and the teams are virtually even in turnover margin.