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Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M: The Breakdown

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Alright folks. Here we are. One day away from the game that has been talked about all preseason and for the last three weeks. This has been billed as the game that will "make or break" OSU's season. Win this game and the sky is the limit. Lose it and prepare to work hard for a 7-5 season. Obviously there is much more to a season than one game but no one can deny that this will be OSU's first true test. How the Pokes perform Thursday night will give us all a pretty good idea where the team stands and where they will go from here. Can Weeden keep up his gaudy numbers? Can Hunter continue to dominate against stiffer competition? Can this young, athletic defense stop A&M's Jerrod Johnson and his offense? Click the jump for my matchup breakdown.


Let's start where it all begins:

OSU's offensive line vs. Texas A&M's defensive line

OSU's O-line has done an "okay" job thus far. They dominated the line of scrimmage against Washington State and didn't let Tulsa's defense touch Brandon Weeden at all. However, when they went up against the more athletic defensive ends that Troy had to offer, they showed some weaknesses. Those weaknesses led to QB fumbles and interceptions. On the other side, Texas A&M's defensive line went from a four man front to a three man front. But don't let that fool you. They still always bring at least four to rush. The trick is figuring out where that fourth or fifth rusher is coming from. Von Miller has been relatively silent due to an ankle injury but I expect him to have a bigger impact in this game due to a bye week to rest. The bottom line is that A&M's D-Line is the strength of their defense while OSU's O-line may be the soft spot. Advantage: Texas A&M

OSU's running backs vs. Texas A&M's linebackers

There isn't a person in Big 12 country that doesn't know the name Kendall Hunter. The guy simply makes it happen. Whether it be running or catching, Hunter is a special talent and finds ways to turn small plays into big gains. Behind him, Joseph Randle is a true freshman star in the making. It seems the more playing time he gets, the more confidence he gains and the better his running looks. If they are the lightning, Jeremy Smith is the thunder. He's the guy that will be counted on in goal line situations to lower his head and smash his way into the endzone. On the other side, Texas A&M's linebackers aren't slouches themselves. Although Von Miller rushes more than he is in coverage he is still considered an OLB (or "joker"). Junior Garrick Williams leads the team in tackles with 14. Still, with a team that blitzes as much as A&M does (and they will blitz a lot), Kendall Hunter should have plenty of opportunities to prove why he was an All-American in 2008. Advantage: OSU

OSU's wide receivers vs. Texas A&M's defensive backs

OSU has statistically the best wide receiver in the nation in Justin Blackmon. To aid his assault, Josh Cooper is well known for his quickness and crisp route running and Hubert Anyiam (OSU's leading receiver last year) is finally looking like the receiver he was before ankle surgery. With Brandon Weeden throwing the ball, this unit can be deadly. On the other side, Texas A&M's defensive backs have been a huge reason why they are limiting teams to less than 190 yards a game through the air. They also are very active at the line as they have accounted for four tackles for a loss. This will be a very close matchup but in the end I think that Weeden and the receivers find a way to get behind the aggressive backs. Advantage: OSU

Texas A&M's wide receivers vs. OSU's defensive backs

Simply put: The A&M wide receivers are a sleeping giant. Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu are two guys that any Big 12 team would love to have. While their numbers aren't staggering yet, it is hardly their fault. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson is still a bit inconsistent coming back from a shoulder surgery and a change in throwing mechanics. Still it is a matter of time before everything is in sync and OSU may get a taste of it. OSU's defensive backfield for the most part is very young. Led by safety Markelle Martin, they have been bred to hit and hit hard. Unfortunately, Andrew McGee is the only corner with more than half of a season's experience and growing pains have and will continue to show. In my opinion, the corners will taste their first dose of what it is to play in the Big 12. Advantage: Texas A&M

OSU's coaches vs. Texas A&M coaches

While the players duke it out on the field, the coaches will be playing their own chess match on the sidelines. Coach Gundy has bested Coach Sherman, 2-0. This in large had to do with a shakey A&M defense the past two years. How did A&M solve this problem? They brought in one of the great defensive minds in the country, Coach DeRuyter. Before Texas A&M, Coach DeRuyter was the defensive coordinator for Air Force where he turned his squad into the 11th best defense in the country in 2009. A&M is looking for a similar quick fix that OSU got when they hired defensive coordinator Bill Young last season. Coach Young is well known for turning a seemingly harmless Kansas defense into a BCS bowl winning variety. In his first year at OSU he took the Cowboys defense from being 94th to 31st in the country. Of course, the matchup that is the most intriguing is A&M's Coach DeRuyter and his defense versus OSU's new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and his offense. These two have gone at it mulitple times before, most recently last year when Houston played Airforce in the Armed Forces bowl. DeRuyter's defense dominated Houston's usually potent offense as Air Force forced six interceptions and went on to win, 47-20. Who will win this year's matchup? That seems to be the key to this game. Personally, I believe OSU's coaches have more experience and success thus far in the Big 12. I am giving them the advantage but I am doing it with the stipulation that this game can definitely be Coach DeRuyter's coming out party. Advantage: OSU