Oklahoma Sooners Must Play Perfect to Win AT&T Cotton Bowl

By Curt Popejoy
AT&T Cotton Bowl
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

My beloved Oklahoma Sooners are gearing up for a Friday night college football battle with the Texas A&M Aggies, led by their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. I have always supported the Sooners with supreme confidence, but breaking this game down, I understand that it’s going to take a perfect effort in all 3 phases of the game to pull off the upset.

When Oklahoma has the ball-If we’ve seen anything this year, when the Aggies struggle it’s against teams that can pound the football on the ground. I understand that this late in the season it’s hard for a tiger to change his stripes, but in the layoff that the Sooners have had to prepare for this game, I have to hop that they have made an effort to incorporate into their gameplan a run heavy philosophy that takes advantage of the areas where the Aggies have struggled. When the Aggies lost to the LSU Tigers, they game up big chunks of yards in the run game, and the Sooners the talent in the backfield with Damien Williams to do the same.

But having said that, we all know that this team’s offense is predicated on that quick paced rhythmic passing game led by quarterback Landry Jones. Pace will be very important to keep the Texas A&M pass rushers at bay. This again is where I come back to the run game. Run at players like defensive end Damontre Moore and linebacer Sean Porter and force them to slow their rush to respect the run, and give Jones that split second he needs to pick apart a secondary.

When Oklahoma is on defense-This is where the problems begin. I have no doubt the Sooners can score on the Aggies. But what can the Sooners do to slow down Manziel, when historically they have struggled with mobile quarterbacks? They should do their very best to take a page from the Alabama playbook, who even in a loss, really showed how to slow down Manziel. After a big first quarter the Crimson Tide defense backed off, forced Manziel to stay in the pocket, didn’t allow him running lanes, and his production slowed greatly. The way the Sooners must do this is by staying in base defense, not pulling linebackers off the field for the sake of defensive backs, and plug those running lanes. It will take very smart, very disciplined gap assignment football. Force Manziel’s wide outs to win the one on one matchups downfield, and don’t let him move around because it’s when things break down that he is so dangerous.

Matchup to watch-Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore versus Sooners tackle Lane Johnson. Moore is one of the premier pass rushers in the entire nation. Johnson is a talented young man who started his career as both a tight end and defensive lineman; tackle and end, before finally moving to offensive tackle. Johnson is a tremendous athlete who’s only in his second season as a starting tackle and while he’ll have his work cut out for him dealing with Moore, I have a feeling the 305lbs senior is going to be the player who can do the most to make the passing game click. If he can’t, it could be over before it gets started.

If the Sooners can do that; run the ball at those defensive stars, protect Jones, and on defense contain Manziel and force someone else to beat them, they can absolutely win this game. Head coach Bob Stoops has taken criticism in the past for not having his teams focused and read for game like these, so we will find out very quickly if this Sooners team is ready to play. Boomer!


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