The Scoop on the Cotton Bowl
Familiar foes do battle in the Cotton Bowl tonight as Oklahoma and Texas A&M try to out-score each other at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. These squads have met 30 times previously, as conference mates for a decade and a half, but Oklahoma has dominated the series under Bob Stoops with an 11-2 record. Texas A&M will make its 13th Cotton Bowl appearance, but haven't won the Cotton Bowl since 1988. Texas A&M is also 0-4 in the four-year history of Cowboys Stadium.
Outside of the BCS National Championship, no bowl game has a hotter ticket (lower bowl seats fetching more than $1,000) and no game has more emotional meaning tied to it. But very unlike the BCS National Championship, no game statistically should turn into a bigger shootout. The Aggies enter tonight ranked third nationally in total offense (552.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (44.8 points per game), trailed closely by Oklahoma's 505.9 ypg and 40.3 ppg.
Mike Stoops normally swears by his man defense, but adjustments are a necessity for this game, or Johnny Manziel will turn in a performance similar to Tavon Austin's 21 rushes for 344 yards against the Sooners on Nov. 17.
This is a swan song for a large senior class at Oklahoma, including five defensive linemen, but most notably for quarterback Landry Jones. Costly turnovers by Jones' doomed Oklahoma's chances in both of its losses this year, but he faces a Texas A&M secondary that can be beaten over the top, as proven in Alabama's frantic comeback during the Aggies' upset.
Manziel has been held under 300 yards from scrimmage only twice this season, in his debut versus Florida and in limited reps in a blowout win over South Carolina State. As is expected of any Heisman Trophy winner, he finished the year with a strong closing kick, producing multi-touchdown games on the ground and through the air in four of the Aggies' final five games. But bowl games haven't traditionally been kind to Heisman Trophy winners in the BCS era. Texas A&M must hope Manziel's Heisman encore is closer to Robert Griffin III (350 total yards, two touchdowns) than Troy Smith (35 passing yards, minus-29 rushing yards, one INT) for a chance at victory.