Thursday NCAA Football Preview : Texas at Texas A&M
by Matt Severance - 11/25/2009
There are a handful of potential trap games on the NCAA football schedule this week, matchups between teams heading to a conference title game next week against a fierce in-state rival with nothing to lose. I'm talking Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, Florida State-Florida, Auburn-Alabama and Thanksgiving night's lone NCAA game, No. 3 Texas (11-0) at Texas A&M (6-5).
Since a 16-13 win over Oklahoma, UT has been rolling, beating its past five opponents by an average score of 43-12 (4-1 ATS). But before you just assume a Horns victory in College Station, be aware that the Aggies are 2-1 against UT quarterback Colt McCoy, who is leading the nation in completion percentage and faces an A&M defense that is No. 110 against the pass. McCoy has gotten better of late, completing 76.9 percent of his passes over the past five games for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns, with just two interceptions.
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Last year the Longhorns had little trouble in a 49-9 win, but McCoy struggled in the 2006 and 2007 meetings. The '06 Aggie victory prevented Texas from going to the Big 12 title game.
Texas has made a change to its starting lineup for the game. Redshirt freshman running back Tré Newton, who rushed for 66 yards in Saturday's win against Kansas, will start Thursday. He lost his starting job after suffering a concussion during a 38-14 victory over Colorado on Oct. 10 but averages 5.5 yards per carry, best among tailbacks on this week's depth chart.
The Texas' rush defense is tops in the nation by a wide margin (allowing just 1.66 yards per rush), but A&M is No. 2 in the Big 12 in rush offense. The Aggies rushed for a season-high 375 yards last week in a rout of Baylor with Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray each topping 100 yards for the second time in the same game this season. Aggies QB Jerrod Johnson was 19-of-25 passing for 153 yards and two interceptions last week and has set the school record with 2,875 yards passing. He also rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts against Baylor. Johnson has been intercepted in just three games this season (five INTs total), and A&M has lost all three.
Texas A&M has been very inconsistent this year. For example, it has lost to Arkansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma by an average of 44 points. But the Aggies also stomped Texas Tech and Iowa State. Thursday's game is on ESPN, and that's a bad omen for A&M as it is 0-5 in televised games in 2009. All six wins weren't on TV. The average margin in A&M's six wins has been 27 points (5-1 ATS); in the five defeats, the average loss is by 27.4 points (0-4-1 ATS).
This used to be a regular Thanksgiving tradition but is the first Thanksgiving night game between these two at Kyle Field since 1993 -- it's the first time they have played each other on a short week since '93 as well. Overall, UT is 41-18-2 against A&M when the game is played on Thanksgiving. A win Thursday gives Texas 12 regular-season wins for the first time in school history.
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