Amid rumors of the Big 12's demise and sudden revival, it's easy to forget there's actual football about to be played. This week, the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas A&M Aggies open their Big 12 conference schedules with a gigantic matchup, pitting the two top-10 teams against each other in College Station.
It's easy to forget about the actual games, especially amidst the suddenly shifting landscape within the Big 12. Texas A&M has made it clear that this will be its last year in the Big 12, while Oklahoma State nearly hitched a ride to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma before a last-minute deal was struck to, once again, keep the Big 12 alive.
Thankfully, we can get back to focusing on football for now, and Saturday's matchup looks to be a superb one. Oklahoma State brings a powerful offense with explosive players, most notably Justin Blackmon, the all-everything receiver who provides numerous "did you see that" moments a week. On the other side of the ball, the Aggies bring a balanced attack and solid squad, setting up what looks to be a close matchup on paper.
In an effort to get a feel for Saturday's game, we grabbed two of our own bloggers to answer a few questions and preview the game. From the A&M side, we have Coach Beergut, who runs I Am The 12th Man. For Oklahoma State, we have Cincy Joe, whose work can be found over at Cowboys Ride For Free.
How much did the non-conference slate teach you about your teams? Neither team was really tested, so it would seem this week is the week we'll find out where both your teams lie going forward. Feel this is true?
Coach Beergut: It was really a tale of two games for us. We came out and performed against SMU the way I thought we would play against Idaho, and played against Idaho the way I thought we'd play against SMU. Our offense is explosive, which was something we knew coming into the season, and our defense has the potential to make some strides and become a consistent unit. We're still nowhere close to where we want to be on either side of the ball.
I'm not sure we'll find out everything we need to know about A&M in this game, because even if we defeat Oklahoma State, we still have another non-conference match-up with Arkansas the following weekend. If we can win both games against ranked teams back-to-back, then we'll know if we're looking at something special this season.
Cincy Joe: Yes, this is true. Hard to tell how good you are when you're playing inferior competition. Although Tulsa and Arizona would both whip Idaho and SMU.
In that regard, how do you feel about this being the conference opener? In a way, it's like being thrown into the fire, with one of the more difficult matchups coming right at the start of the conference schedule.
Coach Beergut: I guess if we're going to have to play an explosive offense like Oklahoma State, better early in the season than later. Reality is that both teams have veteran squads, so the timing of this game means little, except that playing so early means less chance of season-threatening injuries effecting the game.
Cincy Joe: I love it. Why ease into it? It's early in the season and both teams are healthy. Let's get it on.
What kind of game are you expecting? A pass-heavy shootout, which would seem like the Cowboys game or will the A&M defense be able to assert itself a bit? Will it be close, as this matchup always seems to be?
Coach Beergut: I don't think it will necessarily be pass-heavy or run-heavy, but it will be a shootout. I think this has the feeling of last-team-with-the-ball wins. I think special teams play will be big, and could possibly be the deciding factor.
Cincy Joe: I'm not sure what to expect. There's no doubt OSU would love to get into a shootout, but I think A&M is going to prefer running the ball over putting the game into the hands of Tannehill. I think that we will be able to move the ball well on the Aggie defense, and the game will be decided by a battle between the Cowboy defense and the Aggie offense. If we can hold them to under 400 yards, we'll win by 14 points or more.
For A&M: This is probably -- OK, all but assured to be -- your last go-round with the Big 12. Feeling nostalgic? Sad? Like dancing around the room in happiness?
Coach Beergut: I'm happy we're headed to the SEC, but I will miss playing some teams like Oklahoma State and Iowa State. I enjoyed interacting with their fanbases, and I'll most likely still follow them even after we leave the Big 12. The fact that this is our last season in the Big 12 just puts a little more importance on these games, because the final result will be our record against these teams for a while.
For Oklahoma State: Just how fun is it to watch your offense go to work, with Brandon Weeden winging it around and Justin Blackmon being ... well, Justin Blackmon on the outside?
Cincy Joe: It's extremely entertaining as well as comforting to have a QB like Brandon Weeden throwing to a WR like Justin Blackmon. We've got a lot of guys on offense that make this team fun though. Our running game is about as good as it gets with Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith. Receivers like Josh Cooper, Hubert Anyiam and Tracy Moore can take care of business if JB is getting too much attention. It's been said a million times - but when you're playing Oklahoma State, pick your poison.
Predictions and why?
Coach Beergut: 37-31, A&M. I think this will be a shootout offensively, with both teams scoring plenty, but A&M will score just enough to pull out the game.
Cincy Joe: Oklahoma State wins 41-38, because they are a better football team. The boys in painter suits and fake army men will be left sobbing with the 12th man while the Cowboys ride off into the sunset.
Any last smack-talk, players to watch, storylines to keep an eye on? A&M friends, this is where you drop the S-E-C chant, I believe.
Coach Beergut: Mike Gundy is 3-0 against Mike Sherman, so this may be Sherman's last chance to get a win over Gundy for a while.