Texas-Texas A&M: 3 things to watch
When Texas and Texas A&M meet at Kyle Field in College Station on Thursday night, it could very well be the final Lone Star Showdown for the foreseeable future.
Texas A&M is headed to the SEC, and Texas doesn't seem very interested in scheduling the Aggies as a nonconference opponent. So be sure to enjoy one of the sport's best rivalries -- both on and off the field -- because it's, sadly, dissolving.
Florida and Florida State play each season. As do Georgia and Georgia Tech, as well as Clemson and South Carolina. But Texas vs. Texas A&M? It's dying because of one university's ego and another's longheld inferiority complex.
Thursday's game will be the 64th time the schools have played on Thanksgiving. Texas leads the all-time series 75-37-5, and Longhorns head coach Mack Brown is 9-4 against the Aggies.
Let's take a look at what to watch during this Big 12 contest...
Can Gray find yards against the Texas rush defense?
Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray, who has put together consecutive 1,000-yard-plus seasons, provides this Aggies offense with a serious rushing threat to complement quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the aerial attack. The 5-10, 200-pound senior is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, including 5 in the last two weeks. He's most effective when he gets consistent carries, as the game progresses and when the offense is balanced. Against this stout Longhorns rush defense, will the Aggies abandon the run and become one-dimensional with Tannehill's arm? Texas held Kansas State to 121 yards of total offense last week, including just 38 on the ground. Star Wildcats dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein ran 26 times for four yards, and the Longhorns recorded their fourth consecutive game with at least 10 tackles for loss. If Gray can loosen up the defense and create more third and manageable situations, Tannehill will have more success throwing the football.
UPDATE: Gray is in street clothes and is OUT for this contest with an injured shoulder. The Aggies will really miss Gray's presence, as he had a career-high 223 yards and two touchdowns in last year's 24-17 win over Texas in Austin. Sophomore Ben Malena, who is only 5-8 but runs well between the tackles, gets the start in Gray's place.
Can the Longhorns move the football through the air?
ICONThe Texas offense seems to be a bit more energized with Case McCoy at QB.
Sophomore Case McCoy is clearly the Longhorns' best option at quarterback. With his team down 17-3 in the third quarter last week to Kansas State, McCoy nearly rallied Texas to victory after coming in for freshman David Ash, who threw two interceptions. McCoy led the Longhorns to a touchdown on his first drive, a 36-yard scoring strike to tight end Blaine Irby on a rollout before the rally fell short. He finished 8 of 16 for 80 yards, and he has yet to throw an interception in 78 pass attempts this fall. Still, McCoy has shown his youth at times, so it's necessary for Texas to get a strong rushing attack from Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, who need to step up with Fozzy Whittaker out for the rest of the season. Texas A&M's defense is very susceptible against the pass, so McCoy may be able to make some plays if Texas gets a sound ground effort. This is a team that scored just 5 points against Missouri and only 13 against Kansas State, so certainly head coach Mack Brown is craving for some more offense to help out the stout 'D.'
If it's close, the Longhorns have the edge
Texas A&M has had an incredibly disappointing year, with two of the lowlights being blowing huge halftime leads (because of turnovers and bad pass defense) and losing close games. We all remember the Oklahoma State and Arkansas disasters, games dominated by the Aggies until imploding in the second half. But Mike Sherman's squad also lost an overtime game to Missouri and a 4 OT contest against Kansas State. For whatever reason, A&M can't close out tight contests. If this game is close, will the Aggies start to press? After all, Texas has won 17 of its last 18 games decided by three points or less. That's a decided advantage for Brown's bunch.
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