IT's A&M Game Picks

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

IT's Picks:

Frisbie -- Oddsmakers never released a point-spread on the Texas-Texas A&M game because of the ‘questionable’ playing status of Sooner-killer QB Reggie McNeal. What makes this more difficult to predict is the tragic death Monday of freshman DE Brandon Fails. You just never know how that’s going to impact an Aggie team that is already reeling after an injury-riddled, five-loss season (four losses at Kyle Field) in which rumors regarding your coach’s job security have been swirling since Labor Day.

It will also be an emotion-filled event for the Longhorns, as among those honored on Senior Day will be Cole Pittman who would have been a member of this year’s class graduating were he not killed in February, 2001.

There will come a point in the contest Friday (probably late in the first quarter, when there has been just enough hitting and popping) when players on both side of the ball will be fully focused on the rivalry and winning the game.

Head Coach R.C. Slocum said Monday that McNeal would not start the game. CB Nathan Vasher spoke Tuesday about what the fleet-footed freshman QB brings to the table: a running quarterback who is the occasional deep ball threat (he threw all of eight passes to beat Oklahoma). Oh, so he’s like an inexperienced version of Kansas State's Ell Roberson, Nebraska’s Jammal Lord, and North Carolina’s Darian Durant? Texas has seen this kind of signal-caller before, and beat him. No worry here. Just as long as he’s not Kliff Kingsbury.

The bang-upped Texas defense benefited most from the bye week (Vasher pronounced the D "well" and eager for redemption). Wouldn’t the fourth shutout of the season against the Aggies be therapeutic?

The feeling here is that this is SE Roy Williams’ last game at DKR, so I expect Williams and QB Chris Simms to hook up early and often. Both the Aggies and the Horns have had uncharacteristically ineffective ground games this season, so expect the Simms-to-Williams combo to be the difference-maker.

(Sigh). Roy, we hardly knew ya. The past three games have shown what an injury-free Williams can do.

Last year, Simms exited his final game of the regular season to a chorus of boos in the Big 12 championship game. On Friday, I hope the classy senior exits to a standing ovation. Despite what Mack Brown says about the offensive line, the pass blocking has not been there consistently (Simms’ first sack Friday ties a record for most sacks given up during Brown’s tenure) and let’s not even talk about the run blocking. Simms is no threat to run and does not find the open receiver as readily as his predecessor (admittedly, it all looks so easy from the press box) but he has played within himself all season and should lead a Texas team to consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time since 1969-1970. Simms & Williams 31, Texas A&M 13.

Gallagher -- Twice each year my friends and I talk about who our most hated rival is, and for quite a while now I have given the same answer: I hate Oklahoma's football team more, but as a whole (students, university, traditions, etc.) A&M gets my vote. Maybe it is because there is such an overabundance of Aggies soiling this part of the state, maybe it is my aversion to cults of any type, or maybe it is because they are just so annoying. Regardless, I love it when Texas beats them in ANYTHING, because their entire existence is based on comparisons to The University and their "burning desire" to beat the hated Horns at all costs.

Fortunately, we know Texas has the better school, better college town, better women...and yes, the better football team.

Texas will beat the Aggies on Friday. This will be a close game because A&M has not really been blown out all year -- its worst loss was the 13-3 defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech. The Ags' offense has improved quite a bit since the start of the season, and with the tragic events of this week they will be an inspired bunch. But it won't matter in the end.

Texas will also be inspired because this is the last time Cory Redding, Chris Simms, Rod Babers, Lee Jackson, Robbie Doane and the other seniors on this team will play at DKR. They will do whatever is necessary to prevent the Aggies from breaking the second longest home winning streak in UT history and will look to solidify their legacy as the class that brought Texas Football back to its rightful place on the college football landscape.

I think Simms will end his UT career in style, hooking up with Roy, B.J. and Co. for some big plays in his final game as a Longhorn. Cedric Benson will probably struggle early, but I also see the O-line giving him some creases and the Texas rushing attack making some plays as the game wears on. Likewise, the defense will surrender some yards and points to A&M, but it will also make some key plays to keep the crowd into the game and give the offense a short field to work with. POOOOOOR AGGIES... Texas 31, A&M 27.

Pearle -- I have had this game penciled in as a Texas ‘W’ since before the season started given that it is in Austin and given the dominance of Texas over A&M during the Mack Brown era. Other than the Bonfire debacle, Texas’ superiority in talent and coaching has been evident, resulting in wins in the other three games in this series.

In light of A&M’s sorry record of 6-5, my knee-jerk reaction is to believe Texas will continue the trend Friday and stomp the Ags, but with the way the Horns’ defense cratered against Tech and with the way the Ag offense has metamorphosed into one that actually can air it out, I’m about ready to call this game a toss-up.

The Horns’ defensive performance against Kliff Kingsbury and the Raiders was so abysmal, so reminiscent of John Mackovic’s defenses, that my confidence in UT’s ability to shut down A&M is shattered. True, Texas sorely missed both Kalen Thornton and Marcus Tubbs against Tech, and those guys are supposed to be back Friday, but how effective will they be? Thornton has been mostly a spot player all season. Can he go hard enough to provide a consistent threat to the QB’s blindside? Will Derrick Johnson have the wheels under him to go for a full contest? Did the Horns’ young secondary learn anything about defending the pass on that awful afternoon in Lubbock? And what about Cory Redding? Will he rise up in his final home game, on national television, and give his team an inspired, dominating performance like at K-State?

The answers to all of those questions better be yes, because the Aggie offense can light it up. (I can’t believe I’m saying this!) I really like TE Greg Porter and wideouts Bethel Johnson and Jamar Taylor are confident and cocky -- why shouldn’t they be after strafing the vaunted OU defense while handing the Sooners their only loss of the year? Dustin Long at QB reminds me of Chris Simms in that he puts up great numbers but can toss the INT at the worst possible time. Reggie McNeal is scary, though obviously inexperienced, and may not even play because of the bad ankle. Either way, the Horn D is gonna have all it wants trying to stop the Aggie O.

The good news is that the Ag defense has also been ripped up this season. Tech, Missouri, OSU, OU, Nebraska, you name it, they’ve all rolled on the Wrecked Crew. I see Simms also rolling up big numbers Friday and I believe he may actually get some help from the running game as Texas finds a semblance of the balance on offense that Greg Davis always clamors for. Simms, Roy Williams, B.J., Sloan, and Cedric will show the country what all the pre-season hype was about.They should all have huge games.

I’m looking for a high-scoring shootout in this one that is not decided until in the fourth quarter. With the game at Royal-Memorial, though, Texas will ultimately prevail. Texas 37, A&M 28.


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