Thursday, November 27, 2008
Pre-game ponderables from Austin
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown remembers sitting in an oversized couch at his parents' home in Cookeville, Tenn., watching the Texas-Texas A&M game as he grew up.
"I always thought it was neat that the way that the football attention of the country was focused on one state," Brown said.
For the first time since 1993, Texas-Texas A&M has returned to its traditional Thanksgiving night kickoff time.
Tonight's game has large BCS ramifications for the Longhorns. Texas needs an impressive win in order to resonate with the nation's pollsters.
Brown has tried to minimize the meaning of the BCS standings after briefly discussing them with the team when they were released earlier this week.
"I read them to the team, answered any questions and after that decided that we wouldn't discuss it any more because we have a live audience of all the voters Thursday night to see," Brown said. "Everybody that votes in college football will be watching Thursday, period. So why discuss it, why talk about it?
"What we can do about it is play well and win the game. If we don't, then it's not a discussion. So we're not discussing it anymore for the rest of the week."
Here are few items that will be important to watch tonight.
- A&M's pass protection. The Aggies have struggled all season long and will face a huge challenge tonight. The Longhorns lead the nation in sacks and have Brian Orakpo back at what he calls "100 percent health." Not a good combination for a young offensive line that is struggling with injuries. tsarting offensive tackle Travis Schneider is out with a concussion and his backup Robbie Frost is also out with a concussion and won't play. Guard Lee Grimes moves to the starting position at right tackle and backup center Danny Baker moves into Grimes' starting slot.
- Will Texas dominate in the trenches? The Longhorns were consistently muscled off the point of attack in upset losses to the Aggies in each of the last two seasons. It's led to a change of attitude for the Longhorns. They have talked about sending a statement to the Aggies, who aren't much like those previous teams with much youth in their offensive and defensive lines.
- Stephen McGee's final game. The Aggies' senior backup quarterback will remain one of the heroes in the annals of his school for directing those upset victories, especially a gutsy 16-play game-winning drive in Austin two seasons ago while he was vomiting from illness and fatigue. McGee isn't playing much after a shoulder injury and the emergence of sophomore quarterback Jerrod Johnson. But it will be interesting to see if Coach Mike Sherman inserts him in the lineup to give his team a lift.
- Colt McCoy on the big stage. The Texas quarterback has a chance to sway a lot of Heisman voters with a big performance against an Aggie defense that ranks 100th or worse in every major team defensive statistical category.
- Can the Aggies pressure McCoy? If we are to believe former A&M tight end Martellus Bennett, who called out "Cart McCoy" from the safety of the Dallas Cowboys' locker room earlier this week, it should be a snap. Maybe he's just trying to light a fire under an underachieving group that is tied for last in sacks with only 13 this season. Whatever, if the Aggies don't pressure McCoy, their secondary could be exposed. Often.
- Will Muschamp's first game as coach-in-waiting. Muschamp was hired as the Longhorns' designated successor to Mack Brown nine days ago. It will be interesting to see if he's concocted any different schemes with his defense or reacts any differently than when he was just a defensive coordiantor. I'm guessing he'll be just as animated and bombastic along the sidelines with his new job in hand as he ever was before.