Johnny Football, Texas A&M could fly over Cotton Bowl

Posted Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Spotlight: Ohio State's perfect season

Because the school is on NCAA probation, Ohio State (10-0) is nowhere to be found in the BCS standings. But the Buckeyes, who are banned from bowl competition this season, are sixth in this week's Associated Press poll and eligible to be voted No. 1 at the end of the season by AP voters.

The prospect is remote, considering Ohio State ranks behind two one-loss teams (Alabama, Georgia) in this week's poll. But if the Buckeyes finish 12-0 with a victory today over Wisconsin (7-3) and Nov. 24 over Michigan (7-3), Ohio State could make its case to AP voters in its first season under coach Urban Meyer.

"I have not even addressed that these last few weeks," Meyer said of the AP title possibilities. "I did talk about that in the past [with players]. Our guys know where they're at. We're good. ...There's rewards at the end if they compete."

Ohio State's final reward may be an undefeated record and a down-the-line finish behind a one-loss champion in the AP poll. If so, Meyer said he will live with the consequences of the bowl ban he inherited from the Jim Tressel regime.

"I tried years ago not to control what we can't control," said Meyer, whose message to players this week has been "find a way to get No. 11" against Wisconsin (2:30 p.m., WFAA/Ch.8). "We can control that. We can't control anything else."

Storylines

History Lesson: No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0) can post its first 11-0 record since the 1989 season with a victory today over Wake Forest (2:30 p.m., KXAS/Ch. 5).

Last WAC champion: The final WAC football title should be decided today when Utah State (8-2, 4-0) meets No. 20 Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0) in Ruston, La. San Jose State (8-2, 4-1), which plays Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24, also remains a contender in the league's final football season.

Irrelevant stat: Among the nation's 120 FBS schools, BCS No. 1 Kansas State (10-0) leads the nation in fewest penalties (3.2) and fewest penalty yards (25.1) per game. But No. 2 Oregon (10-0) ranks 118th, with 8.4 penalties and 84.1 penalty yards per game. The nation's three most penalized teams (Oregon, Louisiana Tech, UCLA) are a combined 27-2 and rank in the Top 20 of the BCS standings.

Today's big games

No. 1 Kansas State at Baylor (7 tonight, ESPN): The Wildcats comfortably hold serve in their debut as the top-ranked team in the BCS standings. K-State 38, Baylor 20.

No. 13 Stanford at No. 2 Oregon (7 tonight, WFAA/Ch. 8): The Ducks' team speed overwhelms the Cardinal, keeps Oregon on pace for a berth in BCS title game. Oregon 55, Stanford 31.

No. 18 Southern California at No. 17 UCLA (2 p.m. today, KDFW/Ch. 4): Bruins knock off their crosstown rival, take the inside track toward a berth opposite Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. UCLA 35, USC 32.

Last week: 2-1 Season: 21-9

Klein, Manziel tops in Heisman poll

Collin Klein and Johnny Manziel lead the Scripps Heisman poll, which has picked the winner 21 of 25 years.

Player

school

1. QB Collin Klein

Kansas State

2,020 passing yards, 12 TDs, 3 INTs, 748 rushing yards, 19 TDs

2. QB Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M

2,780 passing yards, 18 TDs, 6 INTs, 1,014 rushing yards, 15 TDs

3. LB Manti Te'o

Notre Dame

87 tackles, 6 INTs, 2 fumbles recovered, 1.5 sacks

4. RB Kenjon Barner

Oregon

1,360 rushing yards, 19 TDs, 18 receptions, 1 TD

5. WR/KR Marqise Lee

USC

98 receptions, 1,447 yards, 13 TDs, 677 return yards, 1 TD, 110 rushing yards

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Depending on your analyst of choice, a case can be made for a Texas-Texas A&M matchup in this season's AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

But a stronger case can be made for the two rivals heading their separate ways in the postseason as long as A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel remains the flavor of the month -- and the year -- in college football. That is the variable that likely determines whether the Lone Star State rivals cross paths Jan. 4 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Right now, no name is hotter on the college football landscape than Johnny Football, a redshirt freshman with a legitimate chance to win the Heisman Trophy. And no team is more marketable than No. 8 Texas A&M (8-2), which is coming off last week's 29-24 upset of then-No. 1 Alabama and is a viable option for an at-large BCS bowl berth.

ESPN analyst Brad Edwards projects A&M as a Fiesta Bowl participant against No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2). Other analysts suggest A&M, if left out of the BCS mix, would be snapped up by officials at the Capital One Bowl, which selects ahead of the Cotton Bowl in the SEC postseason pecking order, as long as Manziel is invited to New York for the live announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner on Dec. 8.

Either scenario takes A&M off the table as an SEC participant for Cotton Bowl officials, who also have No. 15 Texas (8-2) as an emerging option from the Big 12 side of the equation.

An A&M-Texas pairing in the Cotton Bowl would be timely and historic. With the Aggies' move from the Big 12 to the SEC, this is the first season since 1914 that the rivals will not play during the regular season. They never have met in a bowl game.

But is it too soon after last year's bitter breakup to bring these two together in a postseason setting? Would such a pairing shift the bowl week focus away from football, and Johnny Football, and back to the tired topic of realignment? Or is this the perfect time to feature a "Bad Blood Bowl" matchup that projects as a Fox TV ratings-grabber?

When members of the Cotton Bowl's team selection committee convene for the first time on Nov. 27, these are questions that must be answered. That's just in case the Aggies, who should finish 10-2 after remaining games against Sam Houston State (today) and Missouri (Nov. 24), remain available after the BCS bowls select their participants on Dec. 2.

I've received plenty of feedback this week from fans of both teams who want no part of an A&M-Texas matchup in Arlington. I've also heard from those who would consider it ideal.

Rick Baker, Cotton Bowl president and CEO, said thoughts about an A&M-Texas matchup at this juncture are inevitable for fans. But premature for bowl officials.

"The whole A&M-Texas matchup has really taken on a life of its own," Baker said. "And to be honest, we just really have not looked at that in any way, shape or form.... We have the luxury of waiting until all the games are played before we have to select. This is one year where I'm glad that we have that luxury. I think we're going to need every game to be played before we can figure out what the best matchup would be."

Because of losses to No. 7 Florida (9-1) and No. 8 LSU (8-2), A&M is far from a shoo-in as a BCS participant. That is why CBS analyst Jerry Palm projects an A&M-Texas matchup in the Cotton Bowl.

The wild card, of course, is whether the Aggies can sustain their momentum and marketability while closing with two under-the-radar games and having a bye on Dec. 1 while other BCS contenders compete for conference championships. That's where the Johnny Football factor can sway bowl officials, including those in Arlington.

From all indications, Cotton Bowl officials will not run from an A&M-Texas matchup if it is the best available option for their game. Nor will they force-feed the pairing to appease fans who miss the rivalry.

Depending on results down the stretch, a laundry list of quality alternatives could emerge: Oklahoma-LSU; Texas-Georgia; Kansas State-Alabama. Or something yet unseen.

"Just about the time you think you've got it all worked out, something happens and changes everything," Baker said.

Like A&M beating Alabama, which has put the Aggies in position to fly higher this postseason than Cotton Bowl officials can reach.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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