Recent skirmishes with spread offenses, although resulting in team wins, have not been pretty for Oklahomas defense, which allowed 131 combined points to Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State in three of the final four weeks of the season. Now, the Sooners get Johnny Manziel: Heisman winner, dual-threat sensation and leader of the countrys third-ranked scoring offense.
Manziel, more than any other opposing quarterback Bob Stoops team has faced, provides a serious running threat and, with 1,181 rushing yards, hes not just a mere threat to account for. At the end of the season, the redshirt freshman figured out then-No. 1 Alabamas defensive schemes and made mincemeat of Mississippi State and Missouri, both of which feature similar defensive rankings as Oklahoma (44th nationally).
First and foremost, the Sooners will need to contain Manziel and not allow him the opportunity to run andor ad lib, which is easier written than executed. Hes the Heisman winner for a reason: Not many have figured out his tricks.
If Oklahoma cannot do that, it will be a long day in Dallas.
Despite his All-American status, Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore is one of college footballs truly unappreciated stars, overshadowed on his team by Manziel and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and at his position by SEC counterpart Jadeveon Clowney.
But make no mistake, Moore is one of the top pass-rushers at the FBS level, and his announcement to enter next summer's NFL Draft came as little surprise. The junior finished with 12.5 sacks, tying him with Georgias Jarvis Jones for second-most nationally, and notched at least one sack in all but three games this season. He was not tallying outrageous sack totals in just one or two games. No, he brought pressure every single week.
A quarterback familiar with Heisman hype, Oklahomas Landry Jones never could quite live up to preseason prognostications but hes led a very strong passing attack for four seasons now. If the Aggies want to avoid a shootout, pressuring Jones notably with Moore might be their best bet.
73: Thats the number some Vegas odds-makers are looking at in order to set the overunder for this one, as both teams combined to average more than 12 touchdowns per game. Neither defense strikes fear into opponents, but that hasnt seemed to matter to either squad here, as both were BCS-quality teams in 2012. Not only is this one of the seasons best bowl matchups, it also has the potential to turn into a shootout.
With two of the top-5 scoring offenses in attendance, anything can happen between these two former Big 12 rivals. Manziel and his ability to improvise will create nightmares at times for Stoops staff, but this Sooners offense is nothing to scoff at. It is much more explosive than most, if not all, of the teams the Aggies faced this season.
The storyline to follow is, obviously, an intriguing quarterback dichotomy, pitting the longtime Heisman hopeful with the Heisman surprise. Jones has paid his dues in college, putting up good numbers year after year, and he should be ready for the stage. With a weapon like receiver Kenny Stills on the outside remember, Alabamas Amari Cooper and Louisiana Techs Quinton Patton torched the Aggies secondary Oklahoma could be just as much of a nightmare for Kevin Sumlins team.
Expect points. Lots of points.
Pick: Oklahoma, 38-34