The Texas A&M Aggies welcome the Oklahoma State Cowboys to College Station for one of the Big 12’s best games of the season. Both teams are ranked in the top 10, and the winner takes a big step forward towards earning an automatic berth in a BCS bowl, maybe even the national championship game. Of course, each team has to wrestle with Oklahoma somewhere down the line …
The home Aggies opened as 3 point favorites, but sharps and squares have moved that up to 4 or even 4 ½. Ordinarily I like to fade the public and ride the coattails of the experts, but in this case, I think they’re both on the same page because A&M is quite simply a solid pick. So for one of this week’s free picks, consider backing Texas A&M in a revenge game from last year.
The Aggies should’ve won last year in Stillwater; they basically gave OSU the game. Five turnovers negated a big halftime lead and a decided advantage in yards – 535 to 351 – in favor of A&M. The last turnover, which happened to be the fourth interception thrown by former quarterback Jerrod Johnson, led to a 40 yard field goal for the Cowboys as time expired, sealing the win for OSU, 38-35.
But as most of you probably know, Aggies coach Mike Sherman made a crucial switch, replacing Johnson with Ryan Tannehill. After the switch A&M won 6 straight games, including wins against Oklahoma and Nebraska, before bowing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. Sherman saved his job, A&M found a solid qb who didn’t turn the ball over, and just like that the Aggies were a force to be reckoned with.
Ten starters are back on offense, including Tannehill, four offensive linemen, standout receiver Ryan Swope, and stud running back Cyrus Gray. They’ve been clicking so far this year, averaging just under 500 yards per game. Granted, they’ve played Idaho and SMU, but the Mustangs aren’t that bad and against the Vandals, Sherman took his foot off the pedal after leading 27-0 at halftime.
The defense has been spectacular so far. June Jones’ offense could only must 14 points, while Idaho was allowed to score a meaningless fourth quarter touchdown, meaning A&M is allowing 10 ½ points against. Although Von Miller is playing on Sundays for the Broncos, defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter is making big strides with a defense that finished near the bottom of college football in 2009, the year before DeRuyter arrived. Last year they ranked 21st in scoring defense, and through two games this year they have 11 sacks. OSU head coach Mike Gundy recently said, “A lot of people would argue who they’re playing or whatever, but I’m not sure you can take away 11 sacks. Their scheme is good. They have good blitz packages and that’s allowed them to have success on that side of the ball.”
It’s hard to be down on the Cowboys, though – they’ve taken care of business so far. But there’s one stat that popped out at me: over the past 3 seasons, OSU is just 1-4 against the spread as an underdog, while they’re spectacular as a favorite. That’s a trend that’s hard to argue with. The Cowboys simply don’t play up to par when they’re lined as a ‘dog.
Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon is the best combination in college football, in my opinion. But I don’t think they’ll score at will against A&M; in fact, I think they’ll have an unusually hard time moving the ball because I don’t think their ground game is good enough for the offense as a whole to rack up points against the Aggies. Additionally, OSU has yet to face such a balanced, physical offense. I expect the Cowboys defense to labor and stay on the field for long stretches. That’s one way to combat the Cowboys’ offensive prowess – control the game clock.
It should be a decent game, but I see A&M winning and covering this spread. Hopefully a late 10 point lead doesn’t get ruined by a pointless Blackmon touchdown, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Consider laying the points. Best of luck.
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