Keys to Success - Cotton Bowl

For a non-BCS bowl game, it doesn't get much bigger than this match-up between the OU Sooners and the Texas Aggies. The Sooners represent all Big 12 schools who want to show their conference is every bit as dominant as the much publicized SEC Conference. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop lists the keys to success for Texas A&M.

1) Pressure the Pocket and Harass Landry Jones

The OU offense leans heavily on the passing game and experienced senior Landry Jones. The fourth-ranked passing attack in college football possesses the single greatest threat to Texas A&M in this contest. Sonny Dykes and Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton exposed the Aggie secondary, a unit that ranks No. 80 in the country. If Texas A&M allows Jones to sit comfortably in the pocket, he will pick the defense apart. Jones isn't the most mobile of quarterbacks and he's not a great threat to break containment and scramble for big yards like his counterpart Johnny Manziel. Thus, the burden is upon Damontre Moore to have a big game and create constant pressure and force Jones into quick throws. When hurried, Jones will make mistakes. When he has time to scan the field, he'll beat anybody. Expect to see a lot of blitzing as well. Mark Synder must get to Jones early and often if he expects to slow down this Sooner passing game. Jones is experienced and he's good.


2) Establish the Run Game

Consequently, the Sooners' biggest exposure in this game will be against the run where they've struggled all season against spread offenses in the Big 12. Well, that's exactly what they are getting on Friday against A&M, except that the Aggies will have the Heisman Trophy winner leading the charge and arguably the best offensive line in the nation. It's no secret that the key to stopping Manziel and the A&M offense is to first contain the Aggie QB in the pocket and eliminate the long scrambles. Ask anybody on A&M's schedule that's not LSU and they will say that's much easier said than done. Oh, this Sooner defense is no LSU defense. But the A&M rushing attack isn't just Johnny scramble left, Johnny scramble right. Christine Michael, Ben Malena, and Trey Williams have been productive all season. They are a big reason why the Aggies rank No. 13 in rushing yards. It's an exposure for the Sooners, and it's an area that A&M must leverage and take advantage. .


3) Johnny Football Plays Johnny Clean

Once Johnny settled down midway through the season and really picked up the nuances of this offense, nobody could slow him down. And unless Manziel still has Leno and Letterman on the brain, or he reverts back to early season form and commits silly freshman mistakes, the Sooner defense certainly won't slow him down. If Johnny plays clean and stays away from the risky plays that lead to turnovers, the Aggie offense should score enough points to come out on top. .


4) Big Game by Mike Evans

The Sooner secondary is talented, and I suspect they will work hard to take away Ryan Swope. That means Mike Evans will need a big game, and he has delivered most of the season. But in the last half of the season he was limited by injury and contributed mostly with short passes and using his large frame to fight for critical first downs. I expect the OU corners to play him tight and force him to come back for the ball due to film study. However, Evans is 100% healthy for the first time since early October and the Aggies may have a few opportunities for Evans to make some double moves and flash open down the field for big plays. A&M will need to hit a couple of these early to back off Evans, which will allow Manziel to connect with Evans on the short, outside routes that have become critical this season. .


5) Win the Turnover Margin

I know it gets old when I talk about the importance of turnovers, but look at just about any football game and most are decided by who secures the ball and who coughs it up. It's just a fact. It's especially true in this game where the statistical numbers and match-up are so close on paper. Any advantage in creating turnovers will likely tip the scales in that team's favor. A&M was lucky and good enough to overcome the six turnovers in Oxford, but the team couldn't overcome the mistakes in the LSU game and lost. OU is a very good team…a team that would have been in a BCS bowl match-up if not for the foolish technicalities of the BCS that sent Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl. The Aggies can't overcome a negative turnover margin.


Aggie Digest Top Stories