The Teams: Texas A&M (42-15, 19-8) enters the game on a seven game losing skid that's begun to truly stink up their NCAA resume. The Texas Longhorns (33-23) swept the Aggies in style last weekend, but dropped a 3-2 decision to Missouri yesterday to also fall to 0-1 in tournament play.
The Stakes: This game has much deeper implication for A&M than it does Texas. No matter what happens this weekend, Texas will enter the NCAA tournament as a two-seed; and one that few one seeds want to face given their recent play. Put bluntly, this is a must-win game for A&M. In the midst of a losing streak and a significant crisis of confidence, they need to get on the right side of the win-loss column for much more than tournament standing, but to get out of their current funk before regional play. A win over the ‘Horns could do just that while conjuring memories of the 2007 tournament (where A&M lost the first game, then beat Texas on their way to a tournament crown). Despite the horrific streak, a national seed has yet to slip away thanks to similarly poor play amongst the bubble teams for those last slots (A&M, Nebraska, OSU, and Georgia all lost yesterday), and the Aggies can salvage their 42-8 start with a mini-run at the end of the tournament…but it must start today.
Recent History: Rob Childress is 1-10 against the Longhorns as the Aggie skipper, being swept in all three regular season series but taking the game in the 2007 tournament. A&M lost all three contests by three runs last weekend, 5-2, 5-2, and 6-3.
At the Plate: A&M enters the weekend batting .315 on the year, .317 in Big 12 play. The Longhorns trail that mark at .302. A&M could muster just five hits against Oklahoma yesterday, while Texas did little better with six against the Tigers. In last weekend's series, the Aggies hit a meager .221 against Texas' pitching, while the Horns were significantly better against A&M at .286. Jose Duran (.500), Brodie Greene (.444), and Kyle Colligan (.333) were the only players to eclipse .300 in that series.
On the Hill: A&M brings a 3.87 team ERA into the game, trailed by Texas' 4.41. A&M will return to their normal weekend rotation with Brooks Raley (6-1, 3.63), the projected Friday night regional starter, toeing the rubber. Texas will counter with Austin Wood(4-3, 4.76), who shut down A&M in College Station on Saturday night. Wood gave out a two-out, two-RBI double to Luke Anders in the first, and didn't surrender a run after that point.
Best Case Scenario: Win. A loss merely contributes to the current issue, while a win would undoubtedly spark memories of last year's run and could reinvigorate the team. Childress claims he wants the team to start "having fun" again, and its little secret that losing is quite the opposite. Given the craziness around them in the national seed hunt, that win will apply pressure to other top-8 bubble teams to come through.
Bracket Scenarios: An Aggie loss eliminates them from championship contention, but they would still play Missouri on Saturday thanks to the round-robin format. An A&M win keeps their hopes alive for at least a few hours, but an Oklahoma win on Thursday night would also eliminate the Aggies from a championship game appearance.
As the tiebreakers work, though, an A&M win and Oklahoma loss would eliminate the Sooners. If that scenario occurred, Oklahoma's game with Texas on Saturday morning would be totally irrelevant, while the A&M/Missouri winner would go to the championship game.
The other side of the bracket is idle today, but A&M should root for losses by Nebraska and Oklahoma State to (A) further muddy the waters and (B) ensure that they do not reach the title game.
There are no real conference bubble teams, as the Aggies, Cowboys, Huskers, Tigers, and Longhorns are all locks for postseason play. A championship to Baylor, Kansas State, or Oklahoma would give the league a sixth NCAA bid.
THE MATCH UPS: A&M vs. Texas
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