IT's Texas A&M Game Picks

IT's Bill Frisbie, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and the reasoning behind those picks, in Friday's game between Texas and Texas A&M.

Frisbie -- Early in October, Texas coach Mack Brown was fielding all the obligatory media questions about the pressure he was under to beat Oklahoma. A relaxed Brown stated he felt little pressure because the Horns had the better team and that he expected Oklahoma to leave Dallas with a 2-3 record. The pressure game, he added, would come November 25 in College Station if Texas was undefeated by then. That's because Texas would have everything on the line and, besides, it's hard to beat a team for the sixth straight time.

What's been harder to come by has been three straight wins at Kyle Field. But Texas has a chance to do that for the first time since 1969-73 which, not coincidentally, included a couple of national championships for the program. That's ancient history, however, to this current herd of Horns.

"I wasn't anywhere near to being born then," DE Tim Crowder said, "and my parents were barely born. But it's a great thing to be mentioned with (the 1969 team). We're just trying to keep the Texas tradition alive."

The Aggies aren't dead yet, but their 5-5 season is on life support. Texas players understand that nothing would salvage 2005 for the Farmers more than if they were to produce the biggest upset of the college football season, and become bowl eligible, and dash the decades-long national championship dream of Longhorn fans who are old enough to remember '53 Veer Pass'. Texas players know the Aggies have nothing to lose Friday, except for maybe a couple of defensive coaches. That's why more than one Longhorn has likened their in-state rival to a cornered animal.

Said FS Michael Griffin: "If you back something up into the corner, they're going to fight to get out. They may be looking at it like it's their last game, or they may have another game after this if they win this game. We're playing on their home field, it's their Senior Day, and there's just a lot going on out there."

Said TE David Thomas: "It can be a dangerous situation when a team's got its back against the wall, but I think we're a team that's got a lot of veterans. We've played a lot of games and understand what's at stake for us as well as what's at stake for them. We'll be ready and focused."

Frankly, the only way there will be a cornered animal at Kyle Field is if Reveille gets loose. Statistically, this is a classic mismatch pitting what might be the most explosive offense in Texas history against the most pitiful defense in Aggie history. Sure, the Horns are now in a pressure-packed, two-game playoff to get to the national championship game but this is precisely the setting in which Vince Young thrives. It's not every week you can say that a team's defensive strategy should be to try to keep the ball in VY's hands, but the scoreboard will light up like a pinball machine if Texas goes to the air early-and-often against the nation's No. 117 pass defense.

The Aggies should be freewheeling and desperate enough to keep the score respectable for about 20 minutes. And Mack the Nice will, understandably, call off the dogs by the fourth quarter. After all, you don't want Dennis Franchione leaving town any time soon.

So, after laying all this out for my nine-year-old daughter, I invited her to predict the outcome of Friday's game. Her prognosis sounds about right. Texas 52, A&M 12.

Pearle -- Listening to talk radio this week in Austin and in talking to people around town, you would think Texas has already run the table and is sitting at 12-0, ready to face USC in the Rose Bowl this Friday.

All I have been hearing about is the Horn-Trojan matchup, that the USC offense hasn't faced a defense like the Horns', that the Texas defense hasn't seen speed like USC will put on display, that Vince & Co. can hang a hundred on the iffy Southern Cal D, that Texas better not kick to Reggie Bush, that it's gonna be a shootout where the last team with the ball wins, and on and on. It has been really hard to get anybody, except a few Aggies I know, to even talk about the game this Friday in College Station.

And I understand that. Of course people are looking ahead to the dream matchup with the Trojans because man would that be a great game -- I have been lining the two teams up in my head this week as well. But this collective mindset that the Horns are already in Tinsel Town worries me. In fact, it is about my only real worry concerning the game this Friday.

On paper, Texas should destroy A&M. The 26-point spread is totally fair. A&M's riddled pass defense, dead last in the nation, should be ripe pickings for Vince Young. Iowa State's Bret Meyer went 20 of 32 for 371 yards and four touchdowns against the Ags; Young should be able to pass for over 400 yards. And we saw what the Texas ground game did to the nation's number one-ranked rush defense against Kansas, putting up 366 yards and averaging almost 7 yards a carry. It should continue to pile up yards against a banged-up Aggie defense.

Certainly Mack Brown and the Texas players have been talking about the Aggies and about staying focused on what's right in front of them, but the players are human. Given the Aggies' 5-5 record, their blowout loss to Iowa State at Kyle, the Baylor OT game at Kyle earlier this year, all the hype that is surrounding Vince Young and the Heisman, all the BCS talk, and USC's squeaker with Fresno State, I can't help but wonder if the Horns might not go into the Nut House on the Brazos Friday just a little bit distracted.

We saw it happen at Stillwater, where an Oklahoma State team that is not nearly as good offensively as A&M jumped all over Texas from the git-go and made it a sweat-fest until the fourth quarter. The Farmers will come out as jacked up as a team can be, literally frothing at the mouth wanting so badly to ruin Texas' national title hopes, while earning themselves a sixth win and a possible bowl berth in the process.

Texas must, must avoid the early turnovers, the kind that gave the Cowboys the short fields they parlayed into touchdowns, because the Ags are talented enough offensively to punish Texas mistakes.

Between Courtney Lewis and Jorvorskie Lane, the Aggies can gobble some ground. And if Reggie McNeal, who obviously can fly, is hobbled, Stephen McGee showed against OU that he can run the football also. A&M figures to try and capitalize on an early turnover, eat up clock with their ground game, keep it close, and then hope for a big play or turnover late to spring the upset.

Given the Rose Bowl fever enveloping Austin during the bye week, I would not be surprised to see the Longhorns come out flat and take a quarter or so to get their feet under them. I see the Aggies staying within about 10-14 of the Horns by halftime, but the Texas offense will pile up the points and pull away late, as they make it six in a row over an A&M program that is fading fast from the national scene. Texas 49, A&M 17.

Ross -- Preseason prognostication from some members of the media that Texas A&M would not only challenge this season for the Big 12 South title, but even win it, struck me as almost absurdly uninformed (hello, Kirk Herbstreit). OK, that's a bit harsh. All of us that put out predictions at times wildly miss the mark. But preseason opinions on the Aggies seemed to me to be well out of line for those of us in the reality-based community, and particularly those of us that closely follow not only the Big 12 on the field, but in recruiting as well.

In our preseason picks here at Inside Texas, Frisbie, Pearle and I were unanimous in our South picks: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and then A&M. But for a couple of very generous officiating calls in Lubbock last Saturday, which allowed the Raiders to grab the No. 2 spot over the Sooners, that's how things will finish up. Why did we all have the Ags way down in fourth? Simple: we know their players. Make no mistake, the coaching in College Station may leave a lot to be desired, but it's the talent that landed A&M in that No. 4 spot in the South.

The delusion in Aggieland (and in Bristol, Conn., or wherever Herbstreit lives) that the guys wearing Maroon and White equaled or bettered the talent in Austin or Norman (Lubbock might be a toss-up) was apparently based on relying on a flawed recruiting rankings system that rewarded A&M classes' quantity while downplaying their lack of game-changing, quality talent. Because if you watched the Aggies down the stretch last season, you knew 17 returning starters by itself meant nothing when those returning starters were, for the most part, dominated by the Red Raiders, Sooners and Horns (not to mention the Vols in the Cotton Bowl). Adding a few freshmen to the mix wasn't going to change that dynamic. And it didn't.

Versus Texas, in particular, the Aggies pale where I always start any head-to-head analysis: in the trenches. If one team has a clear advantage on both lines, that team is going to win a good majority of the time. The Horns have that. Add to that advantages at, oh, just about every other position on the field -- although I do believe the Ags can punt the ball really well -- as well as in leadership and in coaching, and the chances of victory approach 100 percent. There's obviously the concern that Texas is back in pre-Okie State 'big head' mode given all the Rose Bowl/Heisman talk during the off-week, but remember that since 1999, Mack Brown has masterfully prepared his team mentally for this rivalry game. And that doesn't even take into account the on-the-field leadership -- in the form of Vince Young and a special senior class -- that this team possesses. It all adds up to another Longhorn blowout. Texas 52, A&M 14.

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