|College Football: Texas at Texas A&M Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 15:00|
Never Give Up
On Oct. 6, Texas fell to 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1956, extending the Longhorns' Big 12 losing streak to a school-record four games.
The 13th-ranked Longhorns haven't lost since.
They'll take a resurgent rushing attack to College Station as they go for their sixth straight victory on Friday, hoping to improve their shot at a BCS bid against a Texas A&M team facing its fourth straight opponent ranked No. 13 or better.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Texas –5.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Friday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Texas –5.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
A win on Friday would keep Texas (9-2, 5-2) alive in the Big 12 South race, but the Longhorns would need No. 10 Oklahoma to lose the following day at home against Oklahoma State in order to clinch a spot in the conference championship game.
Perhaps more importantly, a win over the Aggies (6-5, 3-4) in both teams' regular-season finale would improve Texas' chances of earning a berth in a BCS bowl. The Longhorns enter this week's game 13th in the BCS standings, but among the teams ahead of them, five also have two losses and one has three.
The right amount of upsets in the final two weeks of a college football season full of them could give the Longhorns their third BCS bowl bid in four seasons. They beat Southern California in the 2006 Rose Bowl to cap an undefeated season and win their first national championship since 1970. They beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl the previous year.
The key to Texas' resurgence has been an improved ground game after the Longhorns set season lows in rushing yards in consecutive games to open conference play. They were held to 113 in a 41-21 upset loss to Kansas State on Sept. 29, a week before finishing with 61 in a 28-21 loss to Oklahoma for the fewest rushing yards by a Texas team in nearly five years.
Running back Jamaal Charles, though, has emerged from a midseason funk to help turn things around for Texas. Charles rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the first three games of the season, but didn't crack the century mark in any of the next five contests - including the back-to-back defeats.
In the last three games, however, Charles has rushed for 290, 180 and 174 yards - his three highest totals of the season - while totaling seven touchdowns.
Led by Charles, the Longhorns rank fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 318.0 rushing yards per game since Oct. 27. They were averaging just 164.5 before that date, 48th-most in the FBS.
"I obviously think that you win more football games when you run it," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It beats the other team down and it helps you in the fourth quarter."
Indeed, the Longhorns' offensive resurgence has been particularly visible in the final 15 minutes of their last three games.
They've totaled 67 points in the fourth quarter in those games, including 24 in a 59-43 victory over Texas Tech on Nov. 10. The Longhorns punted only once and converted three fourth downs on scoring drives, including one on a fake field goal, while cracking the 50-point barrier for the third time this season.
"The attitude is better, the confidence is better and the swagger is back," Brown said after that win. "The last quarter against Nebraska, the last quarter at Oklahoma State and this game we felt like we're playing as a good football team again and I told them that. We still have a lot we think we can fix so we're still not where we need to be, but we look like we've got a clue now."
Texas will try to maintain its momentum against a Texas A&M team looking for its first win since Oct. 20, thanks in part to the toughest schedule in the country over the last month. The Aggies have lost their last three games against Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri - currently ranked No. 2, No. 10, and No. 3 in the country, respectively.
Running back Jorvorskie Lane tied the Texas A&M record for career rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns, getting his 44th rushing and 45th overall on Nov. 10 at Missouri. The Aggies pulled within five points midway through the fourth quarter, but eventually fell 40-26.
"Our guys kept fighting, and I wish we could have converted a couple of times," Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee said. "We just didn't do that."
McGee threw for just 58 yards against Texas last season, but also ran for 95 yards and a touchdown as the Aggies edged the Longhorns 12-7 to send Texas to its second consecutive defeat to close the regular season.
That was Texas A&M's first win over Texas since 1999. The Longhorns have won three straight at Kyle Field and lead the series 73-35-5. This will be the 114th meeting between the schools, tying it for the third most-played rivalry in college football.
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