Thursday Night Football: Texas A&M at Texas
by Matt Severance - 11/26/2008
It's not really a matter of whether Texas beats Texas A&M on Thursday night in Austin. Most people assume that's a forgone conclusion, and the Longhorns are 35-point favorites on SBGGlobal. It's more a matter of how good UT looks in its victory and how the rest of the weekend shakes out that determines where the Horns play next.
If Texas, No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Standings this week, routs the Aggies as expected, it will likely have less of an impact than if the BCS No. 3 Oklahoma wins impressively at BCS No. 12 Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, that Texas 45-35 win in October over the Sooners seems to be forgotten more each day. Assuming that Texas and Oklahoma win and Texas Tech beats Baylor, the Big 12 South winner will be determined by the highest BCS spot in Sunday's standings. That team gets to play Missouri for the conference championship.
But let's not look ahead, says UT coach Mack Brown.
"Sitting here and talking about (the BCS) is disrespectful to A&M," Brown said. "The only input we can have is to play well Thursday night."
That is coach speak, but Brown will have no problems getting his players focused since A&M has upset Texas in each of the past two seasons. In 2006, the Aggies won 12-7 in Austin to knock Texas out of the Big 12 title game. Last season, A&M upset Texas, 38-30, in what was Coach Dennis Franchione's last game.
UT quarterback Colt McCoy admits he hasn't even watched film of those two losses. Still, others aren't mincing words about the motivation for Texas A&M, which can not only gain bragging rights again but is trying to avoid eight losses in a season for only the second time since 1972.
"This is their bowl game," McCoy said. "They are going to play like an above-.500 team, I can guarantee you that. It's happened the last two years."
Will Texas have to worry about A&M quarterback Stephen McGee, who threw for a career-high 362 yards and had four total TDs in last season's game? He has been relegated to the sidelines this year with a sprained shoulder, but A&M's system is the same under Jerrod Johnson. Still, wouldn't it be fitting to let the McGee play in his final collegiate game?
"We're going to make a conscious effort to win the game," Aggies coach Mike Sherman said. "If that involves getting two quarterbacks ready, so be it."
"We've been repping for [McGee]," said Texas cornerback Ryan Palmer.
One piece of big news for UT is the health of star defensive end Brian Orakpo. He said this week that he is fully recovered from the knee injury that has sidelined him for most of the past two games. Orakpo suffered the injury Nov. 1 at Texas Tech. He was limited to six plays in the last Longhorns game against Kansas.
"I feel great," Orakpo said. "I feel like the same I was before I got hurt. I'm ready to go."
While the A&M offense may pose a threat, its defense will have its hands full against a Horns offense that is sixth in the nation in averaging 43.5 points per game and eighth with 471.0 scrimmage yards per game. McCoy, however, is just 34-for-60 for 389 yards, one touchdown and four picks in two games against A&M.
This year's Aggies are, frankly, terrible on defense, ranking 100th or worse in five defensive categories: total defense (111th), rushing defense (111th), scoring defense (110th), sacks (102nd) and pass efficiency defense (100th).
This game is back on Thanksgiving for the first time in 15 years.
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