Texas Longhorns (6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS) at Texas A&M Aggies (6-5 SU, 3-8 ATS)
Thursday November 24th, 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 13
Kyle Field College Station, TX
By Jay Horne, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Tex +8.5/A&M -8.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
After everyone finishes gobbling down some turkey this Thanksgiving, we will all have the pleasure of tuning our televisions to witness one of the oldest rivalries in all of college football when the Texas A&M Aggies defend their home turf against the Texas Longhorns. Thursday’s Thanksgiving showdown will mark the 118th meeting between the Aggies and Longhorns. Texas leads the all-time series 75-35-5. However, the Aggies have had the slight upper hand in recent years winning 3 of the last 5 games.
The big story line heading into this year’s annual showdown surrounds Texas A&M’s recent accepted invitation to join the SEC in 2012. Though the schedules have not been finalized for 2012, it has been widely discussed that the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry will cease once the Aggies officially move to the SEC. If that holds to be true, it will be truly sad news for college football fans that cherish tradition which is exactly what this rivalry stands for. Therefore, the winner of this year’s battle in College Station will have the privilege of closing out the final chapter in one of college football’s greatest rivalries or at least for the immediate future.
Both teams enter this Thursday with 6 wins, the Aggies at 6-5 and the Longhorns at 6-4. In fact, both teams have had similar roads to this point in their 2011 season by jumping out to fast starts before fading as of late. The Longhorns jumped out to a 4-0 start and flirted with a top 10 ranking before losing 4 of their last 6 games. The Aggies started the year inside the top 10, but it has been downhill since. After 3 straight losses, the Aggies blew the doors off of Kansas last week 61-7 in effort to gain some momentum and perhaps confidence this week as they prepare for Texas.
Ultimately for the Aggies, defense will be the key to victory this Thursday night. Say all you want about the Aggies potent offense that has averaged 512 yards (6th in NCAA) and 40.91 points (10th in NCAA) per game this year. As we all know Texas A&M has one of the most balanced offenses in America. QB Ryan Tannehil has posted respectable numbers completing 63.5% passing for 3,191 yards with 26 scores and 11 picks. WR Ryan Swope has eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving plateau and running back Cyrus Gray has also passed the 1,000 yard plateau on the ground this season. Needless to say, the offense has weapons all over the field and the Longhorns defense will have their hands full.
Still, the Aggies defense remains the key to victory. The Aggies defense has struggled this season giving up 400.09 yards per game on the season which ranks 76th overall. To make matters worse, the defense has simply been torched against the pass allowing 292 yards per game through the air which is among the worse pass defenses in all of college football. That same defense will have to play well in order for the Aggies to win this Thursday. Fortunately for the Aggies, Texas has struggled severely in the last few weeks on the offensive side of the ball scoring just 18 points combined in the last two games. The Aggies defense must make sure that do not give the Longhorns’ offense any opportunities to regain momentum and confidence. If that happens, the Aggies should be in good shape.
For Texas, their defense has played well this season but the offense has struggled badly at times. In the last two weeks, the Longhorns offense has been horrific moving the football. The problem can ultimately be blamed for the play behind center where the Longhorns have juggled two quarterbacks all season between Case McCoy and David Ash. Ash, the freshman, has had the most snaps this year but has thrown just 3 touchdown passes compared to 8 picks. In the last two games, Ash has completed just 45% passing with 3 picks and 0 touchdowns.
McCoy has played a bit better on limited attempts this season with 4 touchdowns and 0 picks. However, McCoy has not been the answer to the offenses woes necessarily either. This week both of those guys need to play well against the weak Aggies pass defense. If the Longhorns fail to move the football through the air, I do not believe they will be able to hang with the Texas A&M offense. Therefore, the pressure will once again be on the Texas quarterbacks as they attempt to score a final win over the in-state rival Aggies.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Longhorns offense is just too anemic to back here. Despite the Aggies struggles of late, they have still been able to rack up points. I just do not think the Longhorns offense has what it takes to keep pace. Take Texas A&M -8.5.
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