MARCH MADNESS SPECIALS - KEY RELEASES PLUS SCORE PREDICTIONS THRU THE FINAL 4. DETAILS HERE
The Cotton Bowl will be the ultimate test of comparing conferences. If the Big 12 wants to say they are one of the best conferences in the nation and get people to believe them, Oklahoma will need to beat Texas A&M.
The Sooners finished in second place in the Big 12, losing their only conference game to Kansas State. For a team that had early season sights set on the National Championship game, they didn't exactly beat down on a ton of teams this year. Their only losses are to KSU and the No. 1 team in the country, Notre Dame. To finish out the season, Oklahoma had trouble separating themselves in any game. They beat West Virginia by one point and Oklahoma State in overtime. Games against Baylor and TCU weren't the easiest either, but they still managed to come away with wins in all of those games.
The Aggies were much in the same line as the Sooners. Their only losses (Florida and LSU) came against Top 10 teams. They weren't blown out though as they lost those two games by a combined eight points. Their biggest win of the season came over Alabama and ended the quest for an undefeated season for the Crimson Tide. Those were the Aggies closest games of the year, but they actually had trouble against Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech, winning by five points total in those two games.
Keep in mind, these teams have a history against each other as Texas A&M played in the Big 12 last year. The Sooners have won eight of the past nine matchups, but only covered in five of those. Oklahoma won last year's battle 41-25, but that was played in Norman. The only other major difference is that Ryan Tannehill played in that game. Heisman winner Jonny Manziel is now the face of Aggies football. Due to the SEC being regarded as a tougher conference and Manziel's big-play ability, Texas A&M are 4.5-point favorites.
Manziel's numbers in his freshman year are not unknown to anyone as he is the first ever freshman to win the Heisman. He finished the regular season with 3,419 passing yards, 24 TDs and eight INTs. He also led the Aggies in rushing with 1,181 yards and 19 TDs. Manziel averages 6.4 yards per carry and has hit 100 yards six times this year. He has struggled in Texas A&M's two losses this year with only one total touchdown compared to three interceptions. Fortunately for Manziel, Oklahoma's defense is not at the same level of what Florida and LSU are. Also in the running game, Ben Malena and Christine Michael should be mentioned. The two have combines for 1,169 yards and 19 TDs. Receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope are Manziel's main targets who have 139 receptions and 1,831 yards between the two of them.
Texas A&M doesn't have a great defense and will have trouble going against Landry Jones who has never lost in a bowl game. In his last ever college game, he would like to stay undefeated in postseason play.
Jones had hopes of being in the discussion for Heisman this year, but his numbers weren't all that amazing. He did throw for 3,989 yards, but only had 29 TDs and 10 INTs. His touchdowns were down mainly because Blake Bell came into the game for him whenever the Sooners got deep in the red zone and ran it in. Bell is tied for the team lead with 11 rushing TDs. Oklahoma gets a lot of rushing touchdowns, but they don't gain a ton of yardage on the ground. Damien Williams leads the team with 905 yards and 11 TDs, but has only hit 100 yards in four games this year, and once in the past seven games. Through the air, Jones has a few options to look to. Kenny Stills leads the team in TDs (11) and yards (892), but he may not be the main person to focus on for the Aggies defense. Jalen Saunders has been a force lately for Jones with at least seven receptions, 108 yards and a TD in his last three games.
This one could go either way. Hard to come up with a clear cut edge either way which would normally have us on the dog. Going against the Heisman winner in bowl games has been profitable in the past as well. But we'll side with our model in this one which has Texas A&M on top by scores of 39-34, 52-33 and 46-40. Texas A&M -3 -120 (5 Dimes Sportsbook)
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