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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 04, 2013 at 12:37 AM

Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma was never this good when played in the same conference! Something about joining the SEC lit a fire under the Aggies. They bring Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and a gaudy resume that includes a victory over powerful Alabama to Arlington for a showdown with a Sooners team that used to bully them when they were Big 12 brethren.

Jerry Jones has helped make the Cotton Bowl meaningful again. Big stage. Big money. Big name teams from the SEC and Big 12. This has a chance to be one of the true showcase games of this year’s postseason if both teams play to their best standards.

Let’s crunch our indicator stats to see what best expectations are for this much anticipated college football showcase…

 

COTTON BOWL (Arlington)

TEXAS A&M (10-2) vs. OKLAHOMA (10-2)

Vegas Line: Texas A&M by 3, total of 73

Market Moves: This line opened at Texas A&M -4 in most places…with the earliest stores going up at -3.5…and stragglers going up at -4.5 because the early money was clearly on the favorite. Texas A&M peaked at -5 at one point. A few days after Christmas, underdog money started coming in heavily. That dropped the number all the way down to the key number of three. There was some initial buyback on the Aggies that brought us to A&M -3.5. The relative disappointment of the SEC thus far has dropped the line back to a solid three. The total typically opened at 71.5 or 72, and has snuck up to 73 in this game to be played indoors on a fast track.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Texas A&M: 25th

Oklahoma: 5th

Both of these teams played very tough schedules. Oklahoma ran into both Kansas State and Notre Dame, which could have been a national championship game if the Wildcats hadn’t lost to Baylor. You could nitpick about the rankings based on the disappointments from both the SEC and Big 12 so far in postseason action. In our view, the Big 12 had more depth in the middle of the pack than the SEC did, so we’re comfortable giving Oklahoma the strength of schedule nod. We’ll account for that as we go through the stat rankings.

OFFENSE

Texas A&M: 3rd (13th rushing, 14th passing)

Oklahoma: 10th (60th rushing, 6th passing)

Two great offenses. Oklahoma has more of a tendency to run up the yardage vs. soft defenses and fizzle vs. quality. Texas A&M scored points at Alabama…which is the toughest thing to do in this sport. That being said, the Aggies are SO reliant on Manziel that you have to be concerned about any opponent that has a lot of preparation time. Oklahoma will be keying on him with a season of film to watch during a monthlong lead-in time…which puts them in better shape than most opponents. Also, Manziel is always one big hit away from spending extended time on the sidelines. That’s been a danger all year, but it hasn’t mattered yet! If Manziel stays healthy, we give the offensive edge to the Aggies because they’re more balanced, and got things figured out vs. quality in the latter stages of the season.

DEFENSE

Texas A&M: 57th (39th rushing, 81st passing)

Oklahoma: 44th (82nd rushing, 26th passing)

Edge to Oklahoma here, because they have the better ranking, played the tougher schedule, and played in a league that had MUCH more explosive offenses. Probably the most underpublicized angle in the media hype about this game is the advantage Oklahoma has on the defensive side of the ball.

TEXAS A&M’S RESULTS VS. BOWL CALIBER OPPONENTS (5-2 SU, 3-4 ATS)

Texas A&M (+1) lost to Florida 20-17

Texas A&M (-10) won at SMU 48-3

Texas A&M (-12) won at Mississippi 30-27

Texas A&M (-9) won at Louisiana Tech 59-57 (bowl eligible but not invited)

Texas A&M (+3.5) lost to LSU 24-19

Texas A&M (-3.5) won at Mississippi State 38-13

Texas A&M (+13.5) won at Alabama 29-24

The Aggies were kind of questionable all the way through the LSU loss. They dropped two home games in the league. They almost gagged a huge lead against on the road against Louisiana Tech. Beating Ole Miss by a field goal is embarrassing rather than a compliment (Texas obliterated the Rebels on the same field). Yet…they were absolutely, positively, legitimately for real in those road wins at Mississippi State and Alabama. If THAT version of the Aggies shows up in Arlington, they should be favored by a lot more than three points over Oklahoma on a neutral field.

BOWL WINNERS: SMU

BOWL LOSERS: Florida, LSU, Mississippi State

Neither Alabama nor Ole Miss has played yet, so there’s a chance for that to pull to even. But, frankly, it’s been a disappointing bowl season for the SEC given their rankings and their hype. And, the Aggies LOST at HOME to both Florida and LSU, the two most prominent bowl disappointments so far in the league. Results of the past few days may be a red flag that Texas A&M and Alabama aren’t as clear as the national field as they had thought.

OKLAHOMA’S RESULTS VS. BOWL CALIBER OPPONENTS (7-2 SU, 4-5 ATS)

Oklahoma (-15) lost to Kansas State 24-19

Oklahoma (-4) won at Texas Tech 41-20

Oklahoma (-3) beat Texas 63-21

Oklahoma (-11) lost to Notre Dame 30-13

Oklahoma (-13) won at Iowa State 35-20

Oklahoma (-21) beat Baylor 42-34

Oklahoma (-10) won at West Virginia 50-49

Oklahoma (-6) won at Oklahoma State 51-48

Oklahoma (-6) won at TCU 24-17

That’s a whopping NINE games against bowl teams, fully 75% of this year’s schedule. You have to respect Oklahoma for scheduling somebody like Notre Dame while also playing in a tough conference. Unfortunately, their offense was exposed by Notre Dame! Let’s review the bowl results of those teams before going any further.

BOWL WINNERS: Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

BOWL LOSERS: Iowa State, West Virginia, TCU

Kansas State played Oregon Thursday Night after publication deadlines. If you’re reading this Friday, you can mentally pencil in that result. The three bowl losers in that listing didn’t knock anybody’s socks off, and Oklahoma didn’t sparkle against those teams. Texas Tech missed the spread by double digits vs. Minnesota even though they won. Texas struggled until the fourth quarter vs. Oregon State. What most jumps out to us is that OU allowed 49 and 48 late in the season to teams who are comparable, and arguably worse offensively than Texas A&M. OU’s defense needs to be aggressive and not passive Friday Night.

ADDING IT ALL UP

The key is obviously Manziel. If the Heisman jinx hits the Aggies (the well-known tendency for teams featuring the Heisman Trophy winner to play flat in their bowl game), then Oklahoma is going to win the game. Possibly comfortably. We’ve already seen several flat bowl favorites fail to shake off the cobwebs of taking early hits to their egos. If the same A&M team shows up that beat Alabama…then they’re going to score like West Virginia and Oklahoma State did on the OU defense…while facing an OU offense that couldn’t rally against other powers like Kansas State and Notre Dame.

JIM HURLEY has been working with his Texas sources to get a read on the Aggies mindset heading into their return to the Metroplex. He believes he’s uncovered the information that will put his clients in the winner’s circle. You can purchase the final word for Friday right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a NETWORK representative about the rest of football, or a football/basketball combination package, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to preview Day One of the NFL’s Wildcard Weekend along with BBVA Compass Bowl matching Pittsburgh and Ole Miss. We’ll use the same format the next day for the other two Wildcard games and the Go-Daddy Bowl Sunday Night featuring Kent State and Arkansas State. Hey…the football schedule isn’t slowing down…it’s still building to fantastic climax with the BCS title tilt and the Super Bowl! Make sure you spend every day with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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