SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. give their thoughts on the AT&T Cotton Bowl matchup between Oklahoma (10-2) and Texas A&M (10-2).
1. What's your initial reaction to the matchup?
OU-Florida in the Sugar would have been one of the best matchups of any bowl outside the title game. But this one is about as good. The Sooners get a chance to face off against the Heisman favorite in Johnny "Football" Manziel, which probably means OU will have seen the top three Heisman contenders (Manziel, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o and Kansas State QB Collin Klein). The Sooners will have to play well, because A&M is one of the hottest teams in college football, coming off that win at Alabama.
2. Which team in the Big 12 does Texas A&M most resemble?
Can I say A&M? I mean, they were in the Big 12 just last year. If I had to compare them to someone currently in the Big 12, I'd probably say Oklahoma State. A&M's offensive line is tremendous, and Manziel has several playmakers to work with. Manziel is obviously more mobile than anyone OSU has, but the Cowboys present the dual-threat attack with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. That's where the comparisons end. Because the Aggies are much more formidable defensively than the Pokes with Damontre Moore, who is tied for third nationally with 12 1/2 sacks.
3. What's the most intriguing individual matchup?
Mike Stoops vs. Manziel. Stoops has struggled game-planning against prolific, mobile quarterbacks this season, and Manziel figures to be his biggest challenge yet. Will Stoops go back to the dime package, or will he use linebackers Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson to spy Manziel? Either way, Manziel poses plenty of problems for a defense that's been gashed late in the season.
4. Who's the most important player no one's talking about?
How about Landry Jones? All the focus will be on Manziel, and for good reason. But I'm not so sure there's an advantage at QB. Jones has been on fire the last month of the season, throwing for 500 yards twice. Jones is susceptible to interceptions. But lately, he hasn't allowed those plays to phase him. Jones is capable of putting the Aggies defense on its heel, too.
5. What's one thing about the Sooners opposing fans would be surprised to learn?
These two fan bases know plenty about one another, having competed in the Big 12 for years. So I don't know there will be any huge surprises. But one area where the Sooners are better than they've been that maybe the Aggies don't realize or the stats don't show is the secondary. The Sooners have given up huge plays on the ground, but have been pretty solid against the pass. Aaron Colvin and Tony Jefferson could start for any team in the SEC. They will be looking to prove their worth.
-- Jake Trotter
Outside of getting a BCS game, which was a long shot going into the week, the dream scenario for Aggies fans would have been a showdown with Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Matching up against former Big 12 mate Oklahoma is a pretty good consolation prize. There's familiarity between the programs, they're both top-15 teams, the coaches are familiar (Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin was an assistant under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma before taking his first head coaching job at Houston) and there are two marquee-name quarterbacks in Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
2. Which team in the SEC does Oklahoma most resemble?
Actually, Texas A&M. The offenses are pretty similar (wide open, spread-it-out, up-tempo). Both teams can throw it around quite a bit. The difference is, Oklahoma hasn't run the ball (60th in the nation) quite as well as the Aggies (13th).
Jones vs. the Texas A&M secondary. Oklahoma is fifth in the country in passing offense (Louisiana Tech is the only team the Aggies faced that is ranked higher than the Sooners in that category, and the Bulldogs scored 57 points and threw for 450 yards against the Aggies). Texas A&M has gotten better in that area, only allowing a 300-yard passer once in the six games since the Louisiana Tech game.
Damontre Moore. Lost in Manziel's Heisman Trophy chase has been the play of the junior defensive end, who has been one of the best defensive ends in the country this season when it comes to production. He's tied for third nationally in sacks (12.5) and tied for fifth in tackles for loss (20), and if the Aggies are going to disrupt Oklahoma's passing attack, the pass rush, led by Moore, will spearhead that effort.
5. What's one thing about the Aggies opposing fans would be surprised to learn?
That they finish strong. In 2011, the recurring theme of Texas A&M's season was that they couldn't hold leads, as they relinquished double-digit leads six times in losses. The rumblings of that began when the Aggies lost to Florida to open the year, but they silenced those by coming back from being down double digits to beat Mississippi and holding off late charges from Louisiana Tech and Alabama to win those games.
-- Sam Khan Jr.