24 November 2011
It's been a fun 118 years, Aggies. Why an institution that prides itself in upholding values like tradition and loyalty is bolting for what they only seem to think is greener grass in the SEC is beyond me. Either way, Texas A&M's decision will effectively end one of college football's most storied rivalries and today marks the last time the Longhorns and Aggies will face each other as conference foes and may be their final meeting ever. Kyle Field, a place that gets pumped for any game Texas A&M hosts, may be saving the regular season's loudest day for last.
Matchups to watch:
1. Ryan Swope vs. Texas' secondary
Swope, a former Westlake High School star running back, has quickly become one of the Big 12's most dangerous receivers. He's wreaked havoc working out of the slot, catching 78 passes for for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns -all team-highs. Texas A&M, ranked in the top 10 in this year's presesaon polls, have severly underachieved this year, but it's no fault of Swope's. Because he doesn't line up near the sideline as much as most team's best receivers, he could be guarded by different Longhorns defensive backs. Odds are that Carrington Byndom, Adrian Phillips and Quandre Diggs will all get their shot at him. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz needs to be careful that his linebackers don't get suckered into covering him (but if one of them is, cross your fingers that it's Jordan Hicks). With running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael likely to miss today's game, shutting down Swope will be crucial to stopping A&M's offense.
2. Malcolm Brown/Joe Bergeron vs. Texas A&M's front 7
Mack Brown admitted that Brown and Bergeron, who combined to run for 73 yards on 20 carries against Kansas State, were not completely healthy last week. Texas has been working with a short week but the two freshman tailbacks will need to be much more of a factor today than they were this past weekend. Even if the Longhorns coaches wise up and start Case McCoy, whoever is behind center will need a productive run game supporting them. Thankfully, freshman wideout Jaxon Shipley will be available against the Aggies, but for Texas to stay true to their offensive identity - running the ball down opponent's throats - Brown and Bergeron will need to be healthy and productive.
Keys to the game:
1. Case McCoy has to take the majority of the snaps
It's pretty simple. If Case McCoy is not the full-time starter today, Texas will not win. There is no way. Not without Fozzy Whittaker being done for the season and with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron possibly still not fully over their turf toe and hamstring injuries. The Longhorns can not afford to move forward with their second-best quarterback and think they won't finish the season 6-7. Even a two-quarterback system like the one co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin implemented for the better part of four games this season (three of which were wins) would be fine as long McCoy takes two-thirds of the snaps. David Ash and the committee that has taken over for Whittaker in the Wild formation could split the other third however they wanted to. But McCoy, who Mack Brown has lauded for his gamesmanship and whose teammates readily admit that they see a little bit of his older brother in him, has to be the one behind center when the game's on the line. Ash has thrown eight interceptions and no touchdown passes in his last six games while McCoy, whose four touchdown passes lead the team, has yet to be picked off this year. He doesn't have to throw it 40 times, but he's got to be the one leading the offense for Texas to have any chance at winning.
2. Keep playing good defense
Every time a defensive player has been asked about their performance the last two weeks, they tell you it hasn't been good enough because they've lost. As noble of a sentiment that is, it's just not true. Giving up 17 points apiece to offenses as explosive as Missouri's and Kansas State's is beyond good enough. If the Longhorns offense was playing half as well as the defense, Texas would be 8-2 right now instead of flirting with yet another seven-loss season. Containing the Tigers' James Franklin and Henry Josey (who, unfortunately, suffered a season-ending injury against Texas) is no easy task. Holding the Wildcats' Collin Klein to a miniscule 0.2 yards per carry and 83 yards passing is one of the most impressive feats by any defense in any game this season. Let's not forget how Texas has been victimized by untimely and costly penalties - Kenny Vaccaro getting flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Missouri without hitting a player with his helmet and the Horns getting called for kick catch interference against Kansas State without touching, much less interfering, with the return man. The Texas defense just needs to keep doing what it's doing and hope the offense catches up.
Emotions are sure to run high in this monumental meeting between fierce in-state rivals, especially with College Station and Kyle Field playing host to the 118th contest between these Longhorns and Aggies. But with Texas A&M suffering from injuries and a disappoint season just as much as Texas is, there's plenty of reasons to think the Horns will come out on top. Look for Case McCoy to make just enough plays to pull out a win, the Texas defense to stay true to its lockdown self and for the Longhorns to say goodbye to A&M in grand fashion.
Texas - 24, Texas A&M - 21
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