Big D's keys to success

What do the Aggies need to do against Oklahoma State this week in order to move into first place in the Big 12 South? Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look at five keys for the Aggies this weekend.

Series Record:
Texas A&M leads 16-6 (8-2 at Kyle Field)
Series Notes:
• The Aggies lead the series 9-2 since joining the Big 12 and have won the last three meetings
Dennis Franchione is 3-1 against the Cowboys
Oklahoma State is 1-10 on the road under head coach Mike Gundy.
BigD03's pick:
A&M -6.5 – The Aggies should be able to control the clock against Oklahoma State and wear down a defensive line that I'm not sure is not built to stop a 280-pound tailback.

This is a big game for the Aggies—especially for head coach Dennis Franchione. Off the field issues have loomed over the Bright Complex since the return flight from Miami and so far, the Aggies have shown a commitment to one another. They came together for Tuesday's press conference to show their support for Franchione. On Saturday, they'll get to show 82,000-plus what they can do for him on the field. This is a big game and a win will could go a long way in healing some of the recent perception problems. But a loss to the Pokes at home will be tough to rebound from, and could be a disaster for Franchione.

Here's a look at what the Aggies need to do to keep that from happening.

Stop the OSU rushing attack.
That begins with the rushing game and Dantrell Savage. The Cowboys have run for 233 yards or more in each of their last four games, albeit, they weren't exactly lining up against top-ranked defenses. Only one of those defenses was better than No. 90 in the country, and last week was against I-AA Sam Houston State, which ranks No. 94 in the lower classification. Savage is an NFL talent though, and he's compared to Barry Sanders by many in Stillwater. He'll be the toughest challenge yet this year for the Aggies to stop on the ground.

Keep the Cowboys "grounded"
Zac Robinson will try to open things up for the rushing attack by getting wide receiver Adarius Bowman and tight end Brandon Pettigrew going against an A&M defense that hasn't faired too well against the pass this year. The Aggies have made mediocre quarterbacks look like All-Americans at times over the past few seasons, and Robinson could have a big day on Saturday. If Robinson is able to find his rhythm, this may be the biggest test for the Aggies this week.

Throw the ball
The Aggies need to throw the ball themselves. OSU is ranked last in the Big 12 in pass defense and pass efficiency defense, allowing an average of 342.6 yards per game in the air (no. 117 in the NCAA). Of course, those stats are somewhat inflated after playing Mike Leach's pirate-led offense, but 342 yards per game in the air is not going to win many games for the Cowboys. McGee needs to take advantage of the Cowboys' lack of propensity against the pass. In last week's game against Baylor, he showed that he's capable of going downfield which is not good news for OSU and Mike Gundy. If McGee can hit his targets, it could really open up the rushing attack for Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson.

Jorvorskie Lane
How many times has he been one of the five keys this year? He's made the cut again this week against Oklahoma State and it probably won't be the last time you see him in this spot. OSU has a smaller defensive line that has a lot of speed, the question is, can they handle four quarters of the big fella between the tackles? The Cowboys boast the No. 5 rushing defense in the nation heading into this week's match up at Kyle Field, which should give the Aggies even more motivation to come out and show what they can do. Last year, even against top-ranked rush defenses, the Aggies were able to run the ball successfully. This is a critical test for A&M.

Special Teams
While Matt Szymanski has struggled on kickoffs so far this year, he's been spectacular on kickoffs. In fact, the entire Aggies' special teams unit has been phenomenal on punts and kickoffs this year—both kicking and receiving. That's not the case for the Cowboys. OSU is ranked No. 9 in the Big 12 (no. 94 nationally) in punts, averaging just 33.4 yards per kick. They're not much better on kickoffs, averaging 21.6 yards per return against them (No. 9 Big 12, No. 57 nationally). Kerry Franks and Pierre Brown could have another big day on kickoff returns if OSU chooses to kick to them and in a game filled with two powerful rushing attacks, field position could be key. Brantly's cannon of a leg could come in handy in what should be a pretty close game. Szymanski could also get several shots at improving his field goal percentage as well.

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