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Posted by on January 6th, 2013 in blog, Brady Baylor, CFF Features | No Comments

Oklahoma’s defense had weeks to prepare for their meeting with reigning Heisman Trophy winner John E. Football and his Texas A&M Aggies, the Sooners’ erstwhile Big 12 opponent.  What their scheme lacked in intelligence, it made up for with simplicity: allow Johnny Manziel to run to his heart’s content, eventually tiring and losing his effectiveness.  So far, I’ve found two major problems with OU’s plan.  Number one: Johnny never actually got tired, as evidenced by his FBS bowl record 229 rushing yards by a quarterback (part of his 516 total yards and 4 total touchdowns).  Number two: each time Manziel crossed the goal line, A&M was credited with six points, which made winning more difficult for Oklahoma.  This eventually led to a 41-13 rout by A&M.

 

Even Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops issued the stinging admission that OU simply lacked the “extraordinary personnel” needed to handle the fleet-footed and more-than-adequately armed Manziel.  Translation: as sad as this is for us Sooner fans, Oklahoma lacks the athletes as of right now to contain an elite player such as Manziel.  Of course, so do most teams in the country, including the SEC, but not many were embarrassed by him to the extent OU was.  With arms and legs flailing haphazardly, Johnny may run as if his posterior is on fire and the ball is a ticking bomb, but whatever he is doing is working, and working very well.  In their inaugural SEC season, the Aggies went 11-2, including 6-2 in the conference, losing two games by a combined eight points, which tells us just how close they might have been to playing for the national title come Monday night (if they also could have knocked off Georgia, which would likely not have been an easy task).

 

To put those 11 wins in perspective, A&M won more than 9 games ONE time in 16 Big 12 seasons, which occurred in 1998 when they won their ONLY Big 12 conference title.  Is this to say that the SEC is easier than the Big 12 and that the Aggies will cruise through their conference schedule smoothly each year? Hardly, but let’s also not forget that this is not a team that has been seasoned over many years in their new conference, but a first-year team that was mediocre in the Big 12 and has more than pulled their weight in the SEC.  So, what has changed for A&M?  Well, you could start with Johnny Manziel and leave it at that, but I would submit that they are playing much better defense than they ever did consistently in the Big 12.  And, I’m beginning to think that Kevin Sumlin can do a little bit of coaching, how about you?

 

With a freshman Heisman winner, bright new coach, and a somewhat surprising comfortable fit in the SEC, Texas A&M’s future is looking very bright.  Oklahoma, on the other hand, has some soul searching to do in the 2013 off-season.  They reportedly have a freshman QB from Texas of their own who may be prepared to take the helm from a very successful (by most measures) Landry Jones, but their issues, as they have been for some time now, are even closer to the line of scrimmage and on both sides of the ball.

 

I have said, and will continue to maintain, that the SEC’s dominance is at the line of scrimmage and that any edge they have in skill positions over the PAC 12 and Big 12 elite is minimal best.  Oklahoma has had this edge up front, too, in years past (albeit the distant past), but they could not punch it in at the goal line against A&M, even with Blake Bell (aka The Belldozer), and they could not get enough push on defense to even attempt to slow down Johnny Football.  Once he gets past the line, he is in his happy place, and it simply doesn’t matter what kind of athletes you have at linebacker and especially in the secondary at that point.  Manziel rushed for 1,410 yards on the season, including four 100-yard outings against SEC defenses.  Only LSU really contained him, allowing him 27 yards on the ground, but he was able to gain 92 against Alabama and 90 against Auburn, making it almost six of eight SEC defenses he hung 100 yards on.  I’m sure Oklahoma will be comforted by the fact that even lowly Missouri held him to 67 rushing yards, however.  Speaking of former Big 12 member Missouri, that’s another story for another day, as they did not exactly enjoy success in their first SEC season.

 

With Big 12 co-champs Kansas State and Oklahoma both suffering humiliating blowout losses to elite PAC 12 and SEC teams, you have to think A&M would have cruised through Big 12 competition and likely played for a national championship had they stayed behind, but I’m guessing they are by no means lamenting their decision with the kind of success they enjoyed in their first SEC season.  By the way, us Big 12 fans should probably be celebrating their departure, which seemed to occur right before they would have taken over as the dominant force in the middle of the country.

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