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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Opponent film review: Texas A&M

By Brandon Chatmon

Oklahoma will face one of its biggest tests of the season when the Sooners battle Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Friday night. The Aggies feature Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, along with Damontre Moore, one of the top prospects for the 2013 NFL draft, and one of the nation's top offensive lines. Beating the Aggies won't be easy but it's not impossible, particularly with Sooners quarterback Landry Jones and their explosive passing offense. SoonerNation reviewed Texas A&M's biggest win of the year, a 29-24 win over BCS title contender Alabama. Here are three things to keep an eye on during the Cotton Bowl.
Slowing down Johnny Football

Johnny Manziel
Can the Sooners contain Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel?
Manziel presents all kinds of different problems for a defense. As a terrific runner and passer, he’s a “pick your poison”-type of threat. The Aggies don’t hesitate to spread the defense with four receivers then run the Heisman Trophy winner right up the middle. He’s a slashing, quick runner with good vision. It will be difficult to spy him and expect one defender to corral him every time.

When he drops back to pass presents even more problems. While he can keep you honest with his arm, OU coach Bob Stoops was on the money when he said “Sometimes the worst thing you can do is cover everybody,” when talking of Manziel. The Aggie quarterback is, by far, the most dangerous when a play breaks down or all his receivers are covered. Yet, a spy system would be tough to expect a defender to win consistently. Hence, the dilemma.

OU’s best bet could be trying to force Manziel to beat them with the pass. Put Demontre Hurst and Aaron Colvin on islands in man coverage then design a defense with the remaining defenders. Don’t be surprised if the Sooners lean toward coverage, reading their keys and don’t blitz a lot.

Dealing with Damontre

The Sooners offensive line against Moore and the Aggie front four could be the key to the game. Texas A&M tends to count on its front four to create havoc. That's good news for the Sooners who should like their matchups with Jones and the Sooners four receiver package against the Aggies secondary.

Yet, it won’t matter if the Aggies win the battle up front. Moore is explosive, long and athletic but the Sooners are fortunate to have Lane Johnson, who matches up better athletically with Moore better than most offensive tackles. Nonetheless, expect Moore to win his share of battles and the Sooners to use various tactics--chip blocks, power runs right at him -- to lessen Moore’s impact on the game. While known for his pass rushing abilities, Moore is incredibly disruptive in all aspects. He leads the Aggies with 80 tackles including 17 tackles against Louisiana Tech and 10 apiece against Florida and LSU.

...and friends

While Moore gets all the attention, defensive tackle Spencer Nealy can present problems of his own. Against Alabama, Nealy was extremely disruptive in the middle. His quickness could present problems for the Sooners interior, particularly with Moore on the outside. The Aggies can afford to rely on their front four because the other three members of their defensive line are active enough to keep teams from disregarding them while focusing on Moore. Nealy is a guy with the ability to command a double team, helping free Moore to make plays on the outside.

The bottom line for the Sooners: They’ll need their interior linemen to win their share of individual battles against Nealy and Johnson to win his share against Moore. If that happens, OU should have success. If it doesn’t, OU is in trouble because you can’t double both Aggie defensive linemen.