Cotton Bowl matchup breakdown: defense

IRVING, Texas — The time has finally come for the Sooners to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, so Sooners Illustrated now delves into who has the advantages where in this contest.

Defensive line: Texas A&M

The Aggies are an SEC team now, and they very much look the part up front. Led by likely top 10 and possibly top five pick Damontre Moore at rush, this unit has become scary this season with 29.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. They've wreaked havoc in their new league and could wreak a ton of havoc on the Sooners if they don't protect in this contest. Meanwhile, the Sooners don't possess nearly the intimidating defensive line, and they have issues. Defensive tackle Stacy McGee has been suspended for his final game, and that weakens the depth of a starting unit that will shift David King inside. This one is quite a landslide.

Linebackers: Texas A&M

OU has struggled to find the right ways to use its linebackers this year, though it's not any slight on the Tim Kish linebacking scheme. They just simply haven't gotten the productivity out of them they've needed. Tom Wort and Corey Nelson have each picked up some tackles, but perhaps not in the amount they like would. Wort is tied for fourth on the team with 52, while Nelson is just behind at sixth with 45. They could play a bigger role in this game, however, with Kish set to go back to the more conventional three-backer scheme. For A&M, Jonathan Stewart, Steven Jenkins and Sean Porter have finished as three of the top four tacklers on the team. They've amassed a combined 202 tackles, 13 of which were for loss. And though SEC style dictates linebackers many times having more of an impact statistically, this trio has more than produced.

Secondary: Oklahoma

If—and it's a big if—the Sooners can turn this into a passing game, they'll have a huge advantage. Aggie signal caller Johnny Manziel loves to beat you with his feet, but make him throw the ball and that's cause for some A&M concern. This is for sure the best secondary A&M will have seen all year, led by likely early draft entry Tony Jefferson at free safety. He has been all over the field this year and especially good in run support, which has helped him tally a team-leading 113 tackles. Cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst and strong safety Javon Harris are all very solid and present major challenges for the A&M receivers. Meanwhile, the weakness of the Aggie defense is probably their secondary, and that's a major issue when facing Landry Jones and OU. Pair of seniors Steven Terrell and Dustin Harris and sophomores Deshazor Everett and Howard Matthews, as well as freshman and former OU commit De'Vante Harris and crew will have to step up in this contest or else this could be a huge advantage.

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