Hopefully sometime Saturday morning in Aggieland, Lee Corso will pander to the crowd on ESPN's GameDay and go with 8-1 Texas A&M to beat Oklahoma this Saturday night on ABC.
I have often thought one could make a couple of bucks on friendly wagers simply going against Corso's football picks. Nonetheless, the Sooners "excellent road adventure" continues in College Station Saturday night in what will most certainly be a loud, emotional environment where the home crowd will come early, stay late and make plenty of noise.
Kyle Field is a great place to watch college football, but it is an even better place for the Sooners to escape with an important Big 12 South win and improve Stoops' Troops chances of a significant bowl game. Plus, by the way, the last time I checked the Big 12 South Title doesn't yet belong to the Texas Longhorns for the 2006 season.
Rewinding to last Saturday morning in Columbia, Mo., where I had the opportunity to be on the Sooner sideline for the showdown with 7-1 the Tigers, Oklahoma played another solid game for four quarters, exploited Missouri turnovers, and played great defense on the way to a 26-10 win.
In hindsight, it is easy to say now but when the team came on the field Saturday morning they were loose, but focused. It just "felt" like the Sooners were going to have a great day in Columbia. I think the coaching staff did a masterful job in preparing the team for the road challenge against a one-loss team.
The Sooner Swagger was back in Columbia where they were treated like pro wrestling bad guys, except from the Sooner faithful who traveled and represented OU well at Mizzou.
Allen Patrick has been an amazing replacement for AD. That's not a revelation today, but most fans did not perceive this level of success from #28's replacement after AD went down in the Iowa State game with a broken collarbone. I have talked in this space on several occasions of Patrick's physical toughness and intimidating presence on the field. I have seen too many drills in practice where AP backed down from no one and seemed to relish in punishing would be tacklers.
The Aggie defense won't overly concern Patrick, but Allen holding on to the pigskin should. This is one of those road games whereby the home crowd should be eliminated from participating in the festivities "sooner" than later, no pun intended. Not turning the ball over, putting together some long drives and making the game clock a friendly face "deep in the heart of" are important facets to winning another HUGE game this weekend.
A&M runs a 4-2-5 defense with the theory that their huge front four will make it hard for any one to run on them. However, the mantra of the defense seems to be "we will bend but we won't break". One of the traits of the Aggie 4-2-5 defense, as has been explained to me, is not giving up the big play.
It is my belief that for OU to win in College Station the Sooners must be able to throw the ball effectively, including some deep balls. There is no doubt that OU will likely be able to throw in front of Aggie defenders, and I like OU's chances of turning those short passes into big plays. "YAC" (yards after catch) numbers could be a significant stat Saturday night.
Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias, and Manuel Johnson, all Texas high school athletes, all have the opportunity to have big games as each receiver can make people miss after the catch. Former Aggie offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin has done an excellent job coaching OU's young group of pass catchers, who seem to improve every Saturday. OU's offense isn't selling goods out of an empty wagon.
Tight end Joe Jon Finley had a huge TD catch two years ago down in College Station and another one last week in Columbia. The utilization of Oklahoma's excellent complement of tight ends could be another key to offensive success Saturday night.
OU's three-tight end set is problematic for any defense. Six-foot-7, 260-pound true freshman Jermaine Gresham is emerging as a potential offensive force and may be due for his "breakthrough" game. The physical freak of a teenager is going to be a major playmaker before his run at OU concludes, when the former Ardmore high school All-American will likely move to playing on Sundays.
Paul Thompson has a multitude of receivers he can throw to, which is akin to Tom Brady completing passes to 10 different receivers against Minnesota on Monday Night Football this week. Thompson having multiple, viable targets to throw to is a luxury for the Sooners IF the offensive line continues to hold up, play with toughness, and protect Thompson.
I know I am old school, but I still firmly believe that the key to any game offensively is the play of the offensive line. Rarely does anything work if the O-Line is getting consistently whipped. That has not happened the past several weeks with "General" James S. Patton's large group of young carnivores.
The 80,000 plus loud, Aggie fans make non-contact penalties (false starts, etc) more likely which is something the Sooners have worked diligently on reducing the past several weeks.
The Sooner defense has continued to improve but still seem susceptible at times to giving up a big play. Mizzou had the opportunity with a tight end running wide open to go up 10-0 against the Sooners last week, but luckily for us the pass was dropped. Still, I love the way we are currently playing defense and this unit has allowed only a total of 13 combined points in their last two games.
Defending the option is never easy, ask some of Coach Switzer's victims over the years, and A&M effectively utilizes the running ability of QB Stephen McGee, who is also a 64 percent passer. McGee has evolved into one of the better QB's in the Big 12 and has guided his team to eight wins this year, perhaps saving coach Dennis Franchione's job even though some say it is still at risk.
Whether it is or not, McGee is a talented athlete who can make people miss and possesses a strong arm. Tight end Martellus Bennett is a playmaking specimen at tight end and can physically take over a game.
Another factor in this game is mental due to Texas A&M's schedule. The Aggie's truly control their own destiny the balance of the season, including having the ability to win the Big 12 South. A&M has games left against OU, Nebraska, and Texas and sweeping them, albeit a longshot, would take the Aggie's back to the promised land and definitely save their coach and his staff's jobs, if that is still an issue as some Aggie insiders say.
Bottom line is that Texas A&M will be "jacked" come kickoff Saturday night with much of the nation watching on ABC.
This season A&M has proven third down dominance on both sides of the ball, joining only LSU in the top ten in third down efficiency both offensively and defensively. Offensively, the Aggie's rank No. 6 nationally converting 52.5 percent of their third down chances and holding opposing offenses to only 28 percent of their third down conversion attempts, which puts A&M at No. 6 nationally in that category as well.
All things said, this will be another Slobber-Knocker of a Big 12 South football game on a field that has caused Sooner woes in the past. This is an Aggie team that believes they are good, who control their own destiny, and who would love to stick a knife into the hearts of the Sooners with much of the nation watching come Saturday night.
Somehow, the 18th-ranked Sooners are favored against the 21st-ranked Aggies on the road, which surprises me. But what won't surprise me is if the Sooners win another traveling fist fight Saturday night in College Station. This game could well go deep into the fourth quarter before a winner is determined, and I think the 15th-round of a heavyweight fight will come down the fourth quarter Saturday night.
I will hang my black hat on Oklahoma winning this college football version of a "Texas Death Match" Saturday night, because I truly feel that if OU doesn't implode with penalties and turnovers that our team is better coached, has the better players, and we never leave home without packing some "Sooner Magic".
The Sooners by a field goal.
Editor's note: check out J.R.'s website, www.jrsbarbq.com, for more of J.R.'s blogs and ordering info on his Sooner Slobber-Knocker merchandise and four delicious sauces, including Chipolte BBQ Sauce.
Ross: Not so fast my friend!
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