Aggie Websider's David Sandhop looks at five key factors that will lead to an Aggie victory on Saturday, which would also be a win over a ranked team which hasn't happened in a few years. The theme so far this year is cutting down on penalties and avoiding the big mistake. That's what hamstrung this young A&M team last week against Arkansas. For the Aggies to win, they must clean it up, and you'll see that's the first key factor.
1) Play a Clean Game
The Aggies are still one of the most penalized teams in the country. The team has been flagged 41 times for 382 yards. While the frequency of penalties in recent weeks has been lower, a couple of penalties were critical last weekend in Arlington. With Texas A&M down 14-10 and driving in the second quarter in Razorback territory, Christine Michael burst through the Arkansas line for a first down pick-up of nine down to the 30 yard line of the Pigs. A false start moved the ball back and changed a running down into a passing down, and then an offensive pass interference penalty basically killed the drive. Earlier with A&M leading 10-7 and Arkansas driving in the red zone, the defense was called for pass interference on a third down and long play that extended the drive that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown.
Ironically, the Aggies have turned the ball over only three times this season (compared to 10 for OSU), but it's hard to take solace in that statistic when one of the those turnovers was returned for a touchdown which changed the complexion of last week's game. A&M is too young and still not talented enough to win games despite excessive penalties and turnovers. For A&M to win this game, they need to win the turnover battle and not give up any big plays off of mistakes.
2) Von Miller Wins Fair Share of Battles w/ Okung
Make sure you spotlight the match-up between NCAA sack leader Von Miller and one of the best left tackles in college football, Russell Okung. It's unreasonable to think Miller can dominate Okung, but if he can shed the block and hit Zac Robinson in the backfield a few times early in the game and force a double team, then the front seven has a good chance to contain Robinson and the OSU offense.
3) Establish a Consistent Rushing Attack
The OSU defense has surrendered 233 yards passing and just 118 yards on the ground. However, with University of Houston being one of their first four opponents, those numbers are a little skewed toward the aerial numbers. The key for the Aggies on offense is to establish a consistent rushing attack which will give Jerrod Johnson favorable down and distance, and the offense can be unpredictable which will slow down the Cowboy pass rush. If A&M starts getting into unfavorable down and distance scenarios, it won't be pretty for this struggling offensive line. Johnson is not at his best leaving the pocket.
4) Contain Zac Robinson
Robinson hasn't been as dangerous with his feet as he's been in recent years. He's only rushing for about 30 yards a game. Then again, when you don't need to run because you are throwing to the best receiver in America, that's okay. Unfortunately for Robinson and the Cowboys, Dez Bryant is out and gone is almost 50% of the receiving production on the team. The Cowboys don't have a lot in reserve at the receiver position, so expect Robinson to scramble more and try to do damage with his feet this Saturday. The Aggie linebackers are faster this year, so it won't be as easy for Robinson as it's been in recent years against the slow, porous A&M defense. If the Aggies can minimize Robinson's yardage on the ground, I'm not sure the Cowboys have the weapons to consistently beat the A&M secondary and that will not be favorable for OSU.
5) Avoid Let Down of Dez Bryant News
Everybody is talking about the Cowboys' mental state coming into this game with the loss of their biggest offensive weapon. Also, don't forget that running back Kendall Hunter has been injured this season and he's a game time decision. But sometimes, injuries like these have the opposite effect of what most people think. The team that suffers setbacks many times circles the wagons and dig down deep to overcome the player losses, and in some cases the team as a whole plays better. On the flip side, when news of the franchise player going down hits the opposing locker room, the other team can have a tendency to let up and relax just enough to start the game without that edge and fire. A&M will need to avoid thinking that they've caught a break with the Bryant news. OSU still has plenty of great athletes and they will be elevating their game to make up for the void. The Aggies need to match that intensity, and use this opportunity to smell victory and go for the kill.
Hop's 5 Keys To Victory: OSU
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