Folsom Field • Oct. 8 • 5 p.m. (MT) • FSN
Head Coach: Dennis Franchione (3rd year)
2005 Record: 3-1
Last Meeting: 2004, Texas A&M 29, Colorado 26 (College Station)
While UT's Vince Young gets most of the national hype, more than a few would pick Reggie McNeal if they needed a quarterback to build a team around. The Texas A&M offense revolves around McNeal, who can hurt you in the passing game and is a threat to take it to the house every down as a runner. His 227 yards passing/92 yards rushing per game attests to that.
A&M has been running the shotgun option effectively this season, the look that Urban Meyer turned into a trend at Utah. But the Aggies' offense has, perhaps, been most impressive in the passing game, where it's averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. That's tops in the Big 12, and three yards more per attempt than the Buffs.
When he hands the ball off, it's usually to tailback Courtney Lewis, the 6-foot, 204 pound junior. Senior wide out Jason Carter is a favorite target in the passing game, and leads the conference in receiving yards per game (107).
TAMU features one of the bigger offensive lines CU will face this season, including former CU verbal commit Corey Clark, who starts at one tackle for the Aggies.
Player to watch: Dennis Franchione calls Reggie McNeal a "once-in-a-lifetime player."
Matchup to Watch: Colorado Linebackers vs. McNeal. CU linebackers coach Brian Cabral said this week that playing a quarterback with McNeal's run/pass skills is always a tough test. "He's the guy we've got to stop," Cabral said of McNeal. "He can beat you throwing and he can beat you running. He beat us both ways last year."
KEY for COLORADO
Keep the Aggies in the Front Yard
CU defenders must keep the Aggies in front of them and not give up big plays. With explosive players like McNeal and Carter lining up across the line of scrimmage, a bend-but-don't-break mentality could come in handy.
Many Aggie loyalists think Texas A&M's defense has underachieved so far this season. They're ranked No. 76 in the country in total defense, as opponents are averaging 396 yards a game against TAMU. Those numbers were accrued against Clemson, SMU, Texas State and Baylor.
Former CU commit Lee Foliaki is a talent at linebacker, where he has 33 stops and 2.5 tackles for loss, while fellow ‘backer Justin Warren leads the team with 38 tackles. Just like their offensive counterparts, the Aggies are big up front, as A&M averages 296 pounds per man across the starting front four.
Player to watch:Six-foot-4, 310 pound senior defensive tackle Johnny Jolly has been a force this fall. The former high school teammate of Lawrence Vickers has been among the most active interior defensive linemen in the conference so far, and has three sacks and five tackles for loss to his credit.
Matchup to Watch: CU receivers vs. A&M pass defense. TAMU has struggled somewhat in pass defense this season, giving up 45 first downs through the air. They rank dead last in the conference in pass defense, as teams have averaged a hefty 7.5 yards per pass attempt. If Joel Klatt and his bevy of Buffalo receivers can take advantage of what appears to be an A&M weakness, it would mark a huge step forward.
Keys for COLORADO
Get Smart: The Colorado offense has shot itself in the foot with mental mistakes and untimely penalties in three of its four games this year. Texas A&M is too good a team to get away with that kind of behavior. Also, the Aggies have forced 11 fumbles in four games, recovering six. CU, which has lost six fumbles this season, can't afford to add to those numbers.
Field goal kicker Todd Pegram is solid from 40 yards in. Punter Justin Brantly has a good leg. CU should be back to using one punt returner (Stephone Robinson) this week. Carter handles most of the kick and punt returns for TAMU.
TAMU Statistical Leaders
Passing: Reggie McNeal, 48-95-908, 3 INT, 8 TD
Rushing: Reggie McNeal, 38-369/9.7, 1 TD
Receiving: Jason Carter, 20-431/21.5, 3 TD
Kickoff returns: Jason Carter, 6-123/20.5, 0TD
Punt returns: Jordan Chambless, 4-16/4.0, 0 TD
Punting: Justin Brantly, 13-581/44.7
Tackles: Justin Warren, 38
Tackles for loss: Johnny Jolly, 5-31
Sacks: Nathan Johnny Jolly, 3-20
Interceptions: Marquis Carpenter, 2
Prediction: Colorado 26, Texas A&M 19