#23/24 TEXAS A&M (8 - 2) (4-2)
DATE: NOVEMBER 11, 2006
TIME: 2:30 P.M. CST
LOCATION: COLLEGE STATION, TX (KYLE
Texas A&M Offense
The Texas A&M Aggies enter this week's game against Nebraska following a hard fought 17-16 loss to Oklahoma at home. The Aggies average 407.20 yards in total offense, placing them 17th in the nation. Texas A&M also ranks 61st in passing (194.50 ypg), 32nd in passing efficiency (138.65 rating), 8th rushing (212.70 ypg), 20th scoring offense (31.30 ppg), and 30th in turnover margin (+ 0.50). They have a dynamite rushing attack that is 1st in the Big XII.
QB: So. Stephen McGee (152 of 243, 1816 yds, 11 TDs, 2 INTs) has done very well in 2006, and because he is a viable dual threat QB, he has helped the Aggie offense become very successful this season. He has an accurate arm, a 62.5% completion percentage, and a quality group of receivers to throw to. McGee ranks third on the team in rushing, having rushed for 322 yards on 108 carries and 4 touchdowns this year. Sr. Ty Branyon (5 of 9, 89 yds, 1 TD) played well in his limited mop-up duties in two early season games.
RB: Texas A&M features a great one-two punch at running back with So. Javorskie Lane (137 carries, 616 yds, 18 TDs) and TFr. Mike Goodson (88 carries, 619 yds, 2 TDs). Lane is a 274 pound bowling ball that runs over and through tacklers in route to the endzone. Goodson has added a different dimension to the backfield, with his quick feet and good top end speed. Their contrasting styles make opposing defenses pay extra attention to who is lining up in the backfield. Goodson is also a threat as a receiver, catching 10 passes for 53 yards. Texas A&M's top back-up is Sr. Courtney Lewis (46 carries, 216 yds, 2 TD), who led the Aggies in rushing the past three seasons. Combined, these three backs have averaged 5.35 yards per carry on the season. At FB, Jr. Chris Alexander (9 carries, 65 yds, 1 TD) is a good receiving tight end, with 9 receptions for 58 yards and 3 touchdowns.
WR/TE: The Aggies have a quality group of receivers with some solid threats at wide-out as well as tight end. Texas A&M's top three receivers are Sr. Chad Schroeder (34 catches, 509 yds, 3 TDs) at "Z", Sr. L'Tydrick Riley (16 catches, 148 yds) at "H", and Jr. Earvin Taylor (13 catches, 107 yds) at "X". Schroeder has an ability to get open downfield, averaging over 14 yards per catch. Riley and Taylor are each 6'3", physical, and each possessing good hands. Top back-ups include Jr. Kerry Franks (8 catches, 219 yds, 1 TD) and So. Pierre Brown (10 catches, 86 yds). The Aggies have an excellent tandem of tight ends in So. starter Martellus Bennett (30 catches, 420 yds, 3 TDs) and Jr. reserve Joey Thomas (9 catches, 133 yds, 2 TDs). Bennett is a giant 6'7", 248 lb. tight end that has great hands, as well as blocking skills to boot.
OL: The Texas A&M offensive line has done a nice job this season. The Aggie line is helping the ground game average 5 yards per rush. Through ten games, the line has allowed 14 sacks. Starting on the line at tackle is Travis Schneider (6'8", 295 lbs) at left, and Jr. Corey Clark (6'6", 317 lbs) on the right. At guard is Jr. Kirk Elder (6'5", 298 lbs) on the left side, while Sr. Grant Dickey (6'5", 315 lbs) starts on the right. Finally, starting at center is Jr. Cody Wallace (6'4", 294 lbs). This is, for the most part, an athletic, quick footed line. They are a better run blocking unit than pass blockers, but because of QB Stephen McGee's mobility, it hasn't been a big issue for the team.
Texas A&M Defense
Entering week eleven of the season, Texas A&M's Wrecking Crew defense ranks 45th nationally in total defense (309.80 ypg), 38th pass defense (181.50 ypg), 44th pass efficiency defense (116.37 rating), 51st rush defense (128.30 ypg), and 37th in scoring defense (18.70 ppg). Overall, this is a good defense that, against top offensive units, has struggled.
DL: After ten games, the Texas A&M defensive line is allowing opponents 4.2 yards per rush. Against two of the better rushing teams in the Big XII, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, that average has been just under 5.5 yards per carry. Starting at defensive end is Jr. Chris Harrington (48 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) on the left, and Jr. Jason Jack (18 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) on the right. Top back-ups include So. Cyril Obiozor (30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) and So. Michael Bennett (20 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF, 1 PBU). In the trenches, Jr. Red Bryant (19 tackles, 1 sack, 5 PBU, 1 blkd kick) starts at DT, with Sr. Bryce Reed (10 tackles, 1 PBU) starting at NT. Top back-ups in the interior line are Jr. Henry Smith (17 tackles, 2 sacks) and Sr. Marques Thornton (21 tackles, 1 FF). Thornton started in place of Bryant in last week's game against Oklahoma.
LB: Since Texas A&M runs out of a base 4-2-5, you will see two traditional linebackers with a WHIP, which is a tweener position between the defensive backs and linebackers. Starting at linebacker for the Aggies will be Sr. Justin Warren (71 tackles, 3 PBU) and Jr. Misi Tupe (53 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FR, 2 PBU). Neither seems to miss tackles, and are having nice seasons. Top reserves include Jr. Mark Dodge (21 tackles, 1 FF), RFr Matt Featherston (23 tackles, 1 FR), and Sr. Nurahda Manning (12 tackles, 1 PBU). This is a good group of linebackers that are trying to get back to that "Wrecking Crew" style of defense that Texas A&M was famous for.
DB: Texas A&M's defensive backfield has been better than expected at the beginning of the season. Starting at cornerback is So. Danny Gorrer (41 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 3 PBU) and RFr. Jordan Peterson (23 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 4 PBU). So. Arkeith Brown (17 tackles, 3 PBU) started in place of Peterson last week against Oklahoma. Top back-ups also include Jr. Marquis Carpenter (15 tackles, 1 FF, 2 PBU) and TFr. Jordan Pugh (2 tackles). At safety, Sr. Melvin Bullitt (59 tackles, 1 FR, 7 PBU) starts at SS, with So. Alton Dixon (9 tackles, 1 QBH) serving as his back up . So. Devin Gregg (50 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FR) starts at FS, and backing him up is Jr. Johnathan Batson (12 tackles, 1 PBU) . Starting at the WHIP position is Jr. Brock Newton (34 tackles, 1 FR, 2 PBU), as Jr. Japhus Brown (11 tackles, 1 PBU) backs him up.
Texas A&M Special Teams
The Aggies' special team units have been pretty solid this season. Texas A&M ranks 16th in net punting (37.68 yd avg), 65th in punt returns (8.53 yd avg), and 2nd in kickoff returns (28.58 yd avg).
K: Sr. Layne Neumann has hit on 10 of his 12 attempts, with a long of 39. TFr. Matt Syzmanski handles kickoff duties and is averaging 60.3 yards, with 16 of his 57 kickoffs going for a touchback.
P: So. Justin Brantly has punted 37 times for an average of 45.7 yards. 11 of his 37 punts have been downed inside of the opponents' 20.
KR/PR: Jr. Kerry Franks (11 returns, 31.4 yd avg) and So. Pierre Brown (8 returns, 24.8 yd avg) handle kickoff returns duties for the Aggies. On punt returns, Sr. Chad Schroeder (14 returns, 7.9 yd avg) has been the top return man.
Coverage: The Texas A&M kick coverage team is allowing just 18 yards per return off of 43 kickoffs. Opponents are averaging 10.9 yards per punt return on 20 returns.
Nebraska is coming into Saturday's game with Texas A&M following a nice 34-20 victory over Missouri at home, giving the Huskers the inside track on the North division of the Big XII. Nebraska's 435 yards places them 10th nationally in total offense. The Cornhuskers also rank 23rd in passing (246.40 ypg), 4th in pass efficiency (167.67 rating), 17th in rushing (188.60 ypg), 12th in scoring offense (34.20 ppg), and 20th in turnover margin (+ 0.70).
QB: Sr. Zac Taylor (156 of 252, 2273 yds, 20 TDs, 3 INTs) has played well this year, positioning himself to break most of the Nebraska school passing records this season. He is just 110 yards shy of the career record for passing yards at Nebraska set by Dave Humm in 1974. This season, Taylor has tried too hard to make plays, sometimes forcing throws into double coverage, as well as throwing behind and over receivers. He seemed to be more poised last week against Missouri, with only a couple of poor throws. Typically, when he has time to throw he has been among the best in the conference. Zac also has one of the best touchdown to interception ratios in the nation. So. back-up Joe Ganz (6 for 12, 93 yds, 2 TDs) has looked decent in his three attempts at mop-up duties, but hasn't seen action since the Troy game.
RB: Nebraska has four outstanding backs at their disposal, and it is not unlikely to see all four get carries in a game. Jr. Brandon Jackson (125 carries, 695 yds, 6 TDs) has separated himself from the pack, showing excellent cut back abilities as well as an ability to break tackles and run over opponents. Brandon proved to be a workhorse last week, carrying a career-high 32 times. So. Marlon Lucky (100 carries, 567 yds, 6 TDs) has also appeared to take a step away from the other backs, establishing himself as the solid second back. So. Cody Glenn (65 carries, 345 yds, 6 TDs) now appears to be an exclusive short yardage or third-down back, seeing limited carries. Jr. Kenny Wilson (69 carries, 313 yds, 3 TDs) has also played well, but remains 4th on the depth chart. He has been banged-up this season, however. The backs are a critical piece in the passing game as well, as Brandon Jackson has caught 18 passes for 237 yards and 1 touchdown, while Marlon Lucky has caught 20 passes for 216 yards. Sr. FB Dane Todd (2 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD) is a solid lead blocker that rarely sees the ball.
WR/TE: Nebraska's receiving corps, top-to-bottom is one of the better in the Big XII, with a nice mix of deep threats and possession receivers. Jr. Maurice Purify (25 catches, 503 yards, 6 TDs) is the team's biggest target and has become the go-to guy for QB Zac Taylor. Jr. Terrence Nunn (30 catches, 472 yds, 2 TDs) had a nice day against Missouri last week, making a great grab in the back of the endzone for a touchdown from fellow receiver Maurice Purify. So. Nate Swift (15 catches, 272 yds, 1 TD) has not been as big a part of the offense as he was last season, but is a fine receiver. Jr. Frantz Hardy (12 catches, 273 yds, 3 TDs) is arguably the fastest wide-out on the team, a key threat in the open field. So. Todd Peterson (10 catches, 153 yds, 1 TD) is a tall receiver that has solid hands, but doesn't get many opportunities on the field. At TE, Sr. Matt Herian (12 catches, 150 yds, 2 TDs) has played tentatively when running after the catch after missing a year and a half due to a broken leg. Jr. J.B. Phillips (12 catches, 75 yds, 2 TDs) has been a solid second option at tight end, however, his hands may be in question after a big drop last week.
OL: Nebraska's running backs are averaging 5.34 yards per carry. The Husker's offensive line is young, and improved over last season's line. However, they still get beat far too often, especially by quick, athletic defensive linemen. Through ten games, the line has allowed 20 sacks. After giving up 13 combined consecutive weeks against Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma State, the Husker line didn't allow a single sack against Missouri last week. Starting at the tackle positions are Jr. Chris Patrick (6'4", 290 lbs) at LT, and So. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) at RT. So. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 315 lbs) and Jr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 325 lbs) will also shuffle in and see a lot of work. Sr. Greg Austin (6'1", 295 lbs), who has started at LG, strained his knee last week and will be out for a number of weeks. Taking his place is RFr. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 280 lbs.) at LG and So. Andy Christensen (6'3", 300 lbs.) starts at RG now, in place of So. Mike Huff (6'4", 305 lbs). Hickman made his first career start last week and had a gave a good effort, not drawing any flags. Starting center, Sr. Kurt Mann (6'4", 290 lbs), has struggled with a viral infection for over a month, and is close to 100% now. Jr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs), will remain the starter in his place until Mann is ready to go at full strength.
Nebraska's Blackshirt defense come into game ten ranked 73rd nationally in total defense (342.10 ypg), 86th pass defense (221.90 ypg), 40th pass efficiency defense (115.28 rating), 45th rush defense (120.20 ypg), and 30th in scoring defense (17.70 ppg).
DL: Nebraska's defensive line is anchored by Sr. Adam Carriker (35 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 11 QBH, 3 PBU, 1 blkd kick) at base end, and Jay Moore (32 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 QBH, 3 PBU) as the open end. So. Barry Turner (14 tackles, 1 FR, 5 QBH, 1 PBU) is a quick end, plays often and came in on the 3-4 situations last week. Sr.'s Ola Dagunduro (18 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 blkd kick) and Barry Cryer (23 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 3 PBU) start at nose tackle and defensive tackle, respectively, and have done a nice job this season. Back-up sophomore tackles Ndamukong Suh (17 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH) and Ty Steinkuhler (15 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF) have looked good this season, especially Suh, who is seeing more action as the weeks go by. Nebraska's opponents currently average 3.8 yards per carry on the season. This is one of the better defensive lines in the country, however, in a few games this season they have been neutralized.
LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps has been riddled with injuries all season long. It appears that they may get a couple of their best back this week, however. Jr. Corey McKeon (43 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at MLB for the Huskers. McKeon has been slowed by injury over the past few weeks, and sat out last week to get healthy. He is expected to be back this week. Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (32 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF), McKeon's back-up, played very well in his absence. Jr. Bo Ruud (53 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at WLB, with Jr. Steve Octavien (19 tackles, 1 FF, 1 PBU) currently serving as his back-up. Octavien has also been slowed by injuries, also missing last week's game. He is a dynamic player on the field, always flying to the ball, someone the Huskers will be happy to get back in the line-up this week. Sr. Stew Bradley (57 tackles, 2 FF, 3 FRs, 1 PBU, 5 QBH) starts at SLB, and rarely comes out of the game. Bradley's listed back-up, So. Clayton Sievers, has been injured most of the year. Lance Brandenburgh has also served as Bradley's back-up this year.
DB: Nebraska's much maligned defensive backfield is the biggest weakness of this defense. Cortney Grixby (35 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 8 PBU), a three year starter at WCB, is often picked on because of his 5'9" frame. Jr. Andre Jones (49 tackles, 1 INT, 6 PBU) starter at SCB, is a JUCO transfer that has done a fair job this season, but hasn't turned into a shut down corner just yet. Both corners tend to give up first downs, due to pillow soft zones, often allowing a 5-8 yard cushion to the opposing receiver. Jr. Tierre Green (54 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 PBU) starts at SS and Sr. Andrew Shanle (43 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 FR, 2 PBU, 4 QBH) is the starter at FS. Safety play hasn't been a strong suit this season, often taking poor angles and making poor decisions in coverage. True freshmen Major Culbert (9 tackles), Rickey Thenarse (4 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU), and Corey Young (11 tackles) are getting more playing time as back-ups, breathing some new life into the backfield. Major Culbert played a lot against Missouri and looked outstanding. Thenarse looks like he is going to be a future star for the defense with his speed and hard hitting. Depth is a major concern as injuries have riddled the defensive backfield, so the experience of these younger athletes is critical for the future success of this defense.
Nebraska Special Teams
Nebraska's special teams play has been very average this year, not nearly as prolific as they were a season ago. The Huskers rank 22nd in net punting (37.40 yd avg), 56th in punt returns (9.03 yd avg), and 104th in kickoff returns (17.89 yd avg).
K: So. Jordan Congdon is 5 for 7 on field goals, with a long of 40. After seeing Congdon struggle on kickoff duties, the switch was made to So. Jake Wesch last week. On the season, he has averaged 59.9 yards per kickoff, with 4 of his 18 attempts going for a touchback.
P: So. Dan Titchener has played well through ten games this season. He is averaging 39.5 yards on 45 punts with a long of 58, having 17 punts downed inside the opponents' 20. He has a great leg, and his consistency is improving.
KR/PR: Jr. Brandon Jackson has a 20.2 yard average on his five returns, So. Marlon Lucky has returned four kickoffs, averaging 17.8 yards per return, and Jr. Tierre Green has returned three kickoffs for an average of 19.7 yards. Punt returning has also been underwhelming. Jr. Terrence Nunn averages 8.5 yards on 18 punt returns, So. Nate Swift has returned 3 punts for an average of 16.7 yards, Jr. Cortney Grixby has averaged 10 yards per return on 6 returns.
Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been mostly solid this season, with just a few busted plays this season. The Huskers kick coverage unit is allowing 17.3 yards on 50 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team is allowing a 6.6 yard average on 8 punt returns.
Nebraska's Offense vs. Texas A&M's Defense
Nebraska's offense was "on" against the Missouri Tigers last week. For the most part, the blocking was there, as QB Zac Taylor was not sacked once in the game. The offense was able to take advantage of turnovers, and put points on the board. The most obvious mistakes on the day were two lost fumbles by RB Brandon Jackson, and a dropped 4th down pass by TE J.B. Phillips. Other than that, they were excellent. Nebraska sports one of the Big XII's better 3rd down conversion percentages, at 48%.
The Texas A&M defense has been outstanding this season. The Wrecking Crew ranks first in the Big XII in 3rd down defense at 27%. The pass rush could be better for the Aggies, as they have accumulated just 14 sacks this season. In addition, they have amounted for just 44 tackles total behind the line of scrimmage. They will be up against a very inconsistent and young Nebraska offensive line that was near its best last week against Missouri.
Nebraska could have success running the football, as Texas A&M gave up 224 yards on the ground to Oklahoma last week, and 226 yards to Oklahoma State three weeks ago. With Nebraska's talent at running back, the Huskers could pound the rock for over 200 yards as well.
Nebraska might have their work cut out for them against a tough Texas A&M defensive backfield. Last week, Oklahoma managed to throw for just 39 yards while QB Paul Thompson went just 3 for 12. However, two weeks ago, Baylor was able to cash in for 260 yards passing on just 14 completions against the Aggies in a losing effort. One thing that a lot teams that have failed against the Aggies haven't had is balance. As always, balance will be key for Nebraska. QB Zac Taylor completed 62% of his passes last week against Missouri, and was a dropped pass from 67%, which is where he needs to be. There were shake-ups in the offensive line last week, and they seemed to come together and play better as a whole.
Texas A&M's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
Texas A&M will run a spread offense, but with different goals in mind than that of Missouri's spread attack. The Aggies will work hard to get their running game moving through a series of options. Texas A&M was able to put up 204 yards on the ground last week against Oklahoma, but never got into a groove passing the football, going 8 for 18, 63 yards, and 1 interception. That effort didn't get it done against the Sooners, and won't get it done against the Huskers either. On the positive side, Texas A&M leads the Big XII in 3rd down conversions, picking up 51% of them.
The Nebraska defense will need to keep QB Stephen McGee under lock and key rushing the football much like Oklahoma did a week ago. Oklahoma allowed McGee to rush for just 28 yards in last week's game. The Husker defense couldn't stop Oklahoma State QB Bobby Reid from running all over them in the second half two weeks ago, but outside of one big run, kept Missouri's mobile QB Chase Daniel at bay last week. The Husker defense was able to dominate a good Missouri team despite having 2 of their best linebackers sitting out with injury. If they are both back to 100% by game time, it will be a huge plus for the Big Red. Nebraska's defense has one of the better 3rd down defenses in the Big XII, allowing opponents to convert on just 33%.
It's no secret that the strength of Texas A&M's offense is its running game. The Aggies tandem at tailback will likely be used throughout the day, trying to wear down the Husker defensive front. Nebraska's typically good rush defense has struggled against quick backs as of late, with Missouri's Tony Temple picking up 99 yards last week, and Oklahoma State's Dantrell Savage carrying for 117 the week before.
In the passing game, McGee will have to do a better job than he did a week ago against the Sooners. One positive is that the Nebraska defensive backfield isn't nearly as good as Oklahoma's, so he isn't necessarily headed for Round 2 in another 44% completion percentage bout . With Nebraska's less than stellar defensive backs, Texas A&M would be smart to hit TE Martellus Bennett often, who will give Nebraska's smallish DB's fits with his 6'7" frame.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Establish ground game in crucial road game. Oklahoma was able to smash and slash for over 220 yards last week in Kyle Field.
2.) Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee must be kept in the pocket and behind the line of scrimmage.
3.) Must win turnover battle. Kyle Field is a tough place to win, the Aggies don't need more help.
4.) Pass Protection has to be there for QB Zac Taylor like it was a week ago.
5.) Better tackling needs to be present. This Nebraska defense has tendencies to arm tackle and not wrap up. This is a physical team they will be up against, it won't cut it.
For Texas A&M to Win:
1.) Pressure on Nebraska QB Zac Taylor needs to be there. Nebraska's been at their worst when opponents have stacked 8 in the box and dared the Husker offensive line to block.
2.) Passing game must be present. Can't beat the Huskers with 60 yards passing.
3.) Get the ball to TE Martellus Bennett - Nebraska's defensive backs don't match up well with him at all.
4.) The smoother running Mike Goodson will likely have more success against Nebraska's defense - get him involved more.
5.) Continue 3rd down success on both sides of the ball.
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Texas A&M
Latest Line - Nebraska by 1.
OL: Texas A&M
DB: Texas A&M
Special Teams: Texas A&M
CB - Zack Bowman - knee - out for season
CB - Isaiah Fluellen - knee - out for season
MLB - Phillip Dillard - knee - out for season
OLB - Nick Covey - knee - out for season
OG - Greg Austin - leg - out indefinitely
C - Kurt Mann - virus - probable
MLB - Corey McKeon - leg - probable
OLB - Steve Octavien - leg - probable
No injuries to report.
Game Breakdown & Outlook
In one of just three games this weekend involving two top 25 teams, the Texas A&M Aggies will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the 12th meeting between the schools. Nebraska currently holds a 9-2-0 record over Texas A&M, with Nebraska winning the last meeting 42-12 in 2003. Texas A&M last defeated Nebraska in 1998 in College Station. This is the first meeting between Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione and Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, however the Aggies are 0-1 under Franchione as head coach against the Huskers. A win for Nebraska Saturday will win the Big XII North division, something the Huskers haven't been able to do since 1999.
Nebraska and Texas A&M do match-up well statistically, as the Huskers and Aggies are each in the top 5 in the Big XII in total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency offense, scoring offense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, net punting, and turnover margin. These two teams share similar numbers through the stat sheets, helping make this look like one of the most exciting conference games of the week.
Nebraska's offense will be the most affluent offense Texas A&M has faced since Texas Tech earlier in the season. With the way RB Brandon Jackson has been running (293 in past two games), along with the rest of the quality Nebraska backs, Texas A&M will have to be at their best to slow them down. Nebraska will need to have the balance shown in last week's Missouri game, among others to get a win in College Station. The Husker receiving crew needs to be as consistent as they were last week as well, and not drop passes like they did against Oklahoma State. Nebraska has a lot of talent within the first string of starters, but that talent doesn't matter if they aren't playing as well as they are capable. Nebraska's focus cannot be lost after the big Missouri win. Instead of looking at the rest of the season as a "have to win one more" there needs to be the determination to win out. Just winning the North by a hair shouldn't be the goal.
Texas A&M, whose offense has been pretty special as well this season, had a lackluster game against Oklahoma last week. The Aggies couldn't get any sort of aerial attack moving, which hurt their chances of beating the Sooners greatly. Although Nebraska's defensive backfield isn't quite as good as Oklahoma's, they did handle Missouri's crew of receivers last weekend very well, not giving up many big plays. Texas A&M's receiving corps, while very good, isn't as rich as Missouri's. If Texas A&M cannot throw the football against the Huskers with a fair amount of success, there will be little chance for them to win this ball game, no matter where it is located. They must get their ground game established, however, to get Nebraska on its heels, much like Oklahoma State was able to do to them two weeks ago.
So much in college football is gained and lost through emotion and momentum. It is sometimes surprising how much of a factor it truly is, how quickly it can turn, and how difficult it can be to get it back - especially on the road. Texas A&M's Kyle Field is credited as the "12th man" and with good reason, it is one of the loudest venues in college football. This becomes particularly important for Nebraska when considering the fact that the Huskers haven't beaten a ranked opponent since September 9th of 2000 when they defeated #23 Notre Dame 27-24 in overtime. It could just be a coincidence that Texas A&M is ranked #23 as well coming into this game. It is also worth pointing out that Nebraska is 0-2 this season in games against Big XII South opponents. Nebraska, in the history of the Big XII, has never lost all three games to the South division. Losing all three is hardly something a North team wants on its resume, especially if that team is going to Kansas City to play for the Big XII championship.
Nebraska will look to establish their ground game to start things off, to wear down the Texas A&M defensive front and keep that clock going. If Nebraska is able to have the type of success that Oklahoma State and Oklahoma had on the ground versus the Aggies, the Huskers will likely win the time of possession battle keep the crowd quiet. Texas A&M will also want to open up with their ground game, however, will quickly find themselves in trouble if QB Stephen McGee is unable to find his receivers in the passing game. Nebraska's QB Zac Taylor looked to be near top form last week against Missouri. If he is on target again this week, Nebraska can score in a hurry. Nebraska badly wants this victory to claim the North crown and not have to put all the pressure on the final game against Colorado to seal the deal. For Texas A&M, this game is also big for their program, especially coach Dennis Franchione, whom has never coached his team to victories over Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Texas. He lost to Oklahoma last week, plays Nebraska this week, and then plays Texas next week. Losing out will keep him on a toasty seat. In this game, both teams should be able to have some success on the ground with the main difference held in the passing game. Nebraska has a better passing attack than Texas A&M, which should give them the edge in this game. The Aggies main advantage is playing at home at Kyle Field, a place that good Aggie teams don't traditionally lose in. Look for Nebraska to win a close game to claim the Big XII North title, accomplishing something the past two Senior classes have not been able to do in their careers.
Nebraska - 28
Texas A&M - 24