I'm not even going to go into any depth about how big a game this is (despite both teams' mediocre records) and how special this rivalry is (very) and all the happy memories I have of A&M vs. t.u. on Thanksgiving night (many), because there's just too much to say if I go down those roads. I could go on and on and on... so I won't. I will, however, share some numbers that I find interesting and a little bit on how I *think* the game will unfold.
So, in no particular order and with no particular format in mind, here goes.
-Ryan Swope has already broken A&M's single season record for catches and yards, and is one touchdown away from tying the record for touchdown catches. He has one year left, and has become a heck of a weapon for A&M.
-Jeff Fuller, despite having a very bad run of dropped passes this year, has still put up numbers that would be solid if they were coming from someone who hadn't been expected to do so much more. With two games to play, he has 56 catches and over 600 yards. Not anywhere near what we expected out of him, but not as bad as many Aggie fans think.
-Cyrus Gray might play... or might not. Nobody knows, and I think that's exactly how Mike Sherman wants it at this point. But the Aggies need him. He's only the third Aggie ever to have back to back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, and he did it both times despite sharing time in the backfield with Christine Michael. He blocks well, runs well, catches the ball well, and is a team leader. If he's unable to go, A&M's chances go down greatly.
-For the Horns, who have had a lot of good running backs but have not had much success there in the last few years, they are fighting injuries at the position. I have no idea how hurt they are, but as far as I know, none of them are 100%. Texas hasn't had a 1,000 yard rusher in a few years, and unless Malcom Brown can go off in his last three games, they'll be shut out again in that category.
WHAT DOES EACH TEAM DO WELL?
Texas: Defense. They lead the conference in basically every category. They are the best defense A&M has played this year and it's not even close. That said, they can still be torched. OU passed for 300 yards on them... in the first half. They're good, but they aren't Alabama or LSU.
A&M: Moving the ball on offense. A&M is going to set the all-time school record for total offense and for scoring offense. That said, they still disappear for stretches and have had well-documented problems putting points on the board in the second half of games this year.
WHAT DOES EACH TEAM SUCK AT?
Texas: Passing the ball on offense. It's pretty amazing that Texas is this bad, considering their recruiting power. They are #9 (out of 10) in the conference in passing efficiency, and are the only team in the conference who has thrown as many interceptions as they have touchdowns. Their quarterbacks get sacked a lot and are inaccurate.
A&M: Turnover margin. Even after having their best game of the year last Saturday against Kansas, A&M still ranks dead last in the conference in forcing turnovers. Also, red zone defense. In 2010, A&M ranked 4th in the country in red zone defense. 2011? 92nd.
Texas: They aren't a horrible running team. They have a group of running backs that are decent, though not great. If A&M can stop the run, they should win fairly easily. And you'd think A&M has a chance of doing that, as A&M ranks 5th in the nation in yards per carry defense.
A&M: The offensive line for the Ags has been very good this year, and it needs to play well against a good Texas defense. A&M has only allowed 7 sacks all year and has gotten roughly 2,000 yards from the two-headed monster at tailback.
Texas: This year it is well known that they will run a handful of trick plays and are constantly trying to create confusion for opposing defenses by using lot of pre-snap shifting and motion. With a short week for the Aggie defense to prepare, A&M must be focused and mistake-free when getting set before each snap.
A&M: The Aggies have been dropping passes all year. WAY too many. Not just Jeff Fuller, either. All of them. A&M must clean this up, because against a solid defense like Texas, you can't miss out on any chance to make a play.
OTHER STATS WORTH NOTING:
-A&M and Texas both have a punt return touchdown this year. A&M also has a blocked field goal for a touchdown. I'm not sure if Texas has any other special teams touchdowns.
-A&M and Texas both have excellent kickers. Both teams can feel very confident about at least getting three points once they get inside the 30 yard line.
-Games involving Texas A&M have more plays run than any other team in America. A&M is #2 in the nation in total plays per game on offense, and second to last in the nation in total plays per game faced on defense.
-Meaningless, but interesting: Texas opponents this year have only missed one field goal.
-Texas is average, and A&M is below average, when it comes to penalties.
-A&M is 12th in the country in yards per rush, while Texas is 35th.
-On the flip side, A&M and Texas defense are both in the top 15 nationally in yards per rush defense.
-Texas is 6th in the country in yards per pass defense. A&M's offense is is 58th in yards per pass. Advantage Texas.
-A&M's yards per pass defense is ranked 73rd, while Texas' offense is 67th.
-A&M leads the nation in total sacks and sacks per game.
-A&M gets sacked once every 63 passes it tries. Texas gets sacked once every 12. A&M sacks their opponent once every 11 passes. That, along with the stat above, are advantage A&M.
-Texas is 104th in the nation in opponent's kickoff return average.
-Texas is 16th in the country in 3rd down defense. A&M is 19th in the country in 3rd down offense. Push.
-A&M is 81st in the country in 3rd down defense. Texas is 33rd in the country in 3rd down offense.
-A&M is 22nd in the country in offensive yards per play. Texas is 9th in the country in defensive yards per play allowed.
-Texas is 67th in the country in offensive yards per play. A&M is 33rd in the country in defensive yards per play allowed.
-Texas has not had a play all year that gained over 60 yards.
SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Well, A&M is favored by about 7. And they're favored for a reason. Texas is a very flawed team, at least offensively. That said, A&M has been a big disappointment, as we all know. If A&M had won 3 of these close games and were 9-2, they'd be favored by 15-20.
So that said, A&M should win, at least if Cyrus is able to play. It should go down this way: Texas struggles to move the ball and struggles to score. When they are forced to pass, A&M pressures the QB and Texas is unable to do much. On the other side, A&M will have a tough time as well, but since A&M actually does have a credible offense, both running and passing, it will be good for a few scoring drives. If all goes like the stats say they should, I'd say A&M should win, maybe 24-13 or something.
Obviously anything can happen in college football. That's proven every week. One thing I'm confident of is that this will be a fairly low scoring game. If you're a betting man, bet the under (I think it's 54). I find it very unlikely that this score will even approach 50.
For A&M, I think this game will come down to Tannehill's ability to avoid turning the ball over, and our receivers' ability to catch the ball. If A&M does those things, I think the Ags win. If not, it's anybody's game.