IRVING, Texas — Many have billed the 2013 Cotton Bowl as the bowl season’s best game. Outside of the national championship game, it might be.
No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 10 Texas A&M will feature two prolific offenses with mega-watt star power at the quarterback position. OU’s Landry Jones and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel will have a huge impact on the game. They’re a part of five matchups that will decide the outcome tonight at Cowboys Stadium.
OU offensive tackle Lane Johnson vs. Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore: This one-on-one match will be interesting because it could be the start of something that continues for the next decade in the NFL. The importance of it tonight is simple: Landry Jones has put up record numbers because he gets rid of the ball quickly and rarely faces pressure. OU’s offensive line has been the biggest reason for that. The group has allowed the Sooners to send at least five players out in passing formations all season. Moore is the kind of player who can disrupt that. If Johnson can handle him on his own, OU’s offensive will rev up.
OU’s defensive line vs. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: Manziel is going to extend plays. The Texas A&M quarterback is too good an athlete not to. What OU must to do is keep him in the pocket and moving backward instead of forward to elude the rush. Defensive tackles Casey Walker, Jamarkus McFarland and David King must collapse the pocket. It’s not sacks OU needs so much as forcing Manziel backward. If he’s still able to throw the ball away, so be it.
OU receiver Jalen Saunders vs. Texas A&M’s secondary: It will be interesting to see how the Aggies treat Saunders. He’s coming off three straight 100-yard receiving games and has roamed free the second half of the season. He’s the receiver that exposes defenses. Give him the attention he deserves and it opens things up on the outside for Justin Brown and Kenny Stills. Treat him like a simple slot receiver and OU will dink and dunk all night.
OU linebackers Tom Wort and Corey Nelson vs. Texas A&M running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael: OU had a hard time stopping running backs and running quarterbacks in spread sets this season. One reason is Wort and Nelson didn’t play much against those spread sets. That could change tonight. All involved have said OU’s inside linebackers are a big part of the defensive game plan. Wort and Nelson have a chance to prove they’ve been underutilized this season.
OU quarterback Landry Jones vs. his critics: Tonight will be Jones’ 50th and final start as OU quarterback. There hasn’t been a player take more heat over a four-year career than Jones. Some of it has been warranted. Some of its hasn’t. Tonight’s the chance to leave Sooner fans happy. Leading OU past Texas A&M and upstage the Heisman Trophy winner in the process would be a fantastic finale for the Sooner quarterback, one that would allow him to exit on top as his pro stock skyrockets.
John ShinnFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org