An old Big 12 rivalry will get renewed in this year’s Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl as the no. 25 Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the Texas A&M Aggies. Kickoff is set for 6:45 EST on Friday, December 27 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Despite the Cowboys being the ranked team, oddsmakers have the Aggies as 7-point favorites. There is also an over/under of 53.5 points. Click here to get all of the betting odds for this year’s college football bowl games.
There was no rest this year for the Aggies, who probably played the most difficult schedule in the country. Texas A&M five teams that finished the season in the top-15, including Clemson, Georgia, and top-ranked LSU. The Aggies didn’t win any of those five games, but to their credit, they were competitive in most of them. More importantly, the Aggies won their other seven games to secure their 14th bowl bid in the last 16 seasons. It’s also worth noting that head coach Jimbo Fisher owns a 6-2 record in bowl games, including a blowout win over NC State in last year’s Gator Bowl, his first bowl as head coach at Texas A&M.
Oklahoma State didn’t quite play that difficult of a schedule, but the Cowboys put together a fine season nonetheless. Highlighted by wins over Kansas State and Iowa State, the Cowboys went 8-4 with a 5-4 record in Big 12 play. In addition to finishing the regular season in the top-25, Oklahoma State also secured a bowl spot for the 14th straight year under head coach Mike Gundy. In the previous 13 bowls, Gundy is 9-4, including a run of three straight bowl wins after last year’s Liberty Bowl win over Missouri, another former Big 12 foe.
As mentioned, this game brings together two teams that used to play regularly before Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012. The schools last met in 2011 when Oklahoma State won in College Station. The Cowboys currently have a four-game winning streak against Texas A&M, although the Aggies own the all-time series.
To be frank, this is a tough game to call because Texas A&M hasn’t played many teams on their level this year. Their opponents have either bean elite teams or subpar programs. While the Aggies were able to take care of business against those teams, I’m not convinced that they’ll be able to knock off Oklahoma State by a comfortable margin. In fact, there’s every chance the Cowboys will be able to win this game. I’ll lean toward Oklahoma State and the points.
When the Cowboys are playing, there is always the threat of the game turning into a track meet. Oklahoma State has the nation’s leading rusher in Chuba Hubbard, who rushed for over 1,900 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. He rushed for over 100 yards in all 11 games against FBS opponents this season, eclipsing 200 yards on four occasions, including twice against Big 12 opponents.
Of course, we must mention that starting quarterback Spencer Sanders missed the end of the season with a thumb injury. It remains to be seen if he’ll be cleared to play in the Texas Bowl. However, the Cowboys have a suitable backup in senior Dru Brown, who got plenty of reps as the regular starter in 2016 and 2017. There should be little drop-off if Brown starts other than the Cowboys missing out on Sanders being a threat with his legs.
Admittedly, I’m a little concerned about the Texas A&M defense being able to slow down Hubbard and the OSU running game. The Aggies were outstanding against the run most of the season. Even teams like Clemson and Georgia were contained on the ground when they played Texas A&M. On the other hand, there were a few teams that had success running against the Aggies, so there is hope for Hubbard and the OSU offense. Plus, Texas A&M will be playing without defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, the team’s best defensive lineman who will sit out the bowl game in preparation for the NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure I feel good about the Texas A&M offense if the Cowboys manage to turn this game into a shootout. To be fair, most of A&M’s offensive stats need to be taken with a grain of salt because of the schedule they played. The Aggies could have been a lot more prolific offensively if they were still in the Big 12. That being said, the Aggies struggled to run the ball against the better teams on their schedule. That could be a concern in this game.
Also, quarterback Kellen Mond was solid but unspectacular when the competition level kicked up a notch. He’s a talented quarterback, but Mond isn’t always able to carry the Aggies on his back when the running game struggles. Of course, Oklahoma State isn’t known for being that strong defensively. But the Cowboys were a little better on defense than their reputation would have you believe, especially late in the season.
In the end, this game feels more like a tossup than a game in which one team is favored by a touchdown. Texas A&M is surely more battle-tested after the schedule they faced. But the Aggies could also be a little more beat up, especially after facing Georgia and LSU the final two weeks of the season. With a smaller spread, I might side with A&M, but I think there’s a good chance this game will be deduced by less than a touchdown, pushing me toward Oklahoma State and the points.