Texas A&M Aggies: Tony Jefferson

Pregame: AT&T Cotton Bowl

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
9:00
AM ET
No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12)

Who to watch: Who else? Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will attempt to put the finishing touches on his freshman season. "Johnny Football” broke Cam Newton’s SEC record for offensive yardage and accounted for 43 touchdowns while becoming the first freshman to capture the Heisman Trophy. Manziel, however, will be facing one of the better defensive backfields he’s seen all season, led by free safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Aaron Colvin -- both All-Big 12 performers. Manziel will also have to overcome the distractions of a whirlwind month in which he not only won the Heisman but hung out with actress Megan Fox and played golf with the Jonas Brothers.

What to watch: The Aggies boast Manziel, but the Sooners counter with one of the top wide receiving corps in the country. Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard all have more than 500 yards receiving this season. Texas A&M is stout up front, but the Aggies have been vulnerable at times defending the pass, ranking 82nd nationally in pass defense despite competing in the run-oriented SEC. If OU quarterback Landry Jones gets rolling with his talented pass-catchers, this game could tumble into a shootout.

Why to watch: Outside the BCS National Championship, this is as good a matchup as any out there. This Cotton Bowl also features two of the top quarterbacks in the country, with the hotshot freshman in Manziel facing off against the elder statesman in Jones, who will be making his 50th career start on the same field in which his career began four years ago. There should be plenty of energy inside Cowboys Stadium, too, as the Cotton Bowl is expecting a record crowd of 90,000. This will be a BCS-caliber bowl in every way except in name.

Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Oklahoma 31. Coach Bob Stoops has a dominating 11-2 record against Texas A&M, including an average victory margin of three touchdowns. These, however, are not the same Aggies the Sooners faced in the Big 12. Manziel and coach Kevin Sumlin have brought a new attitude to Texas A&M, and the Aggies will be motivated to prove this on the field against their former conference foe.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Johnny Manziel has won the Heisman. Beaten Alabama. Led the SEC in rushing.

But what has impressed Oklahoma’s defenders the most?

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireTexas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel presents a challenge for the Sooners with his arm and legs.
The Texas A&M quarterback’s verified, blue-checkmarked Twitter account.

“Dude. I was like, ‘Ahhhhh,’ said OU safety Tony Jefferson, replaying his expression when he noticed Manziel’s blue checkmark. “And he’s only a freshman. That’s tight, though.”

Since learning they would be playing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooners have had to watch “Johnny Football” become a national celebrity. After becoming the first freshman to capture the Heisman, Manziel did the Top 10 list on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," where he hung out with actress Megan Fox.

HarperCollins is actually publishing an ebook on Manziel the day after Christmas. And in the last month, Manziel’s Twitter account has ballooned from 30,000 followers to more than 164,000, earning him the coveted blue checkmark.

“It’s extra motivation,” said OU defensive end David King. “We’ve had to sit around here for a month and watch ESPN and all they talk about is ‘Johnny Football,’ or ‘Johnny Heisman,’ or whatever they call him now. We sit around and we get tired of watching it. The whole national media is scrutinizing our defense and that we can’t stop the run. We’re underdogs in this game. We have a lot to prove and on Jan. 4 we’ll be ready to play.”

Yet the Sooners also realize stopping Johnny Football will be their biggest challenge of the season to date.

On his way to winning the Heisman trophy, Manziel threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, and rushed for an SEC-best 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns to break Cam Newton’s SEC single-season total offense record.

What ultimately delivered Manziel the Heisman, though, was his performance at Alabama. Facing the top-ranked Crimson Tide, Manziel led the Aggies on touchdown drives on their first three possessions to give Texas A&M an early 20-0 lead. He finished 24 of 31 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 92 yards, as the Aggies toppled Alabama 29-24.

“He can create so many issues,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “He can run you ragged. I’ve never seen anyone improvise and create like he can.”

Such quarterbacks have given the Sooners fits in the past. Collin Klein’s patient mobility doomed OU earlier this season. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf gashed the Sooners on the ground, too.

But with all attention on Manziel, the OU defense also realizes the opportunity is there to gain a little respect for itself.

“Winning the game and doing it on the defensive side of the ball would give us that nod,” King said. “We have to stop him.

“If we do, we’ll win the game.”

Cotton Bowl roundtable: Texas A&M-OU 

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
8:05
AM ET
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.

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.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Drive Through: Playoff Fallout for Gamecocks
After a defeat that left Steve Spurrier searching for answers, have the Gamecocks playoff hopes already come to an end?
VIDEO PLAYLIST video