We’ve arrived at the end of the season and Texas A&M’s final contest of 2023 takes place in Houston against Oklahoma State in the TaxAct Texas Bowl. It’s easy to forget given all of the portal activity, early signing period, coaching changes, and other off-field happenings - but there is still football left to play. The Aggies will hope to end the season on a high note before Mike Elko and his staff truly begin work in College Station. Per our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Aggies come into this game as -2.5 point favorites (-130 on the moneyline)* against Oklahoma State. With absences for the draft, the portal, and injury, it can be difficult to predict these post-season contests but I’ll talk about what I hope to see from the Aggies come Dec. 27.
With Chase Bisontis announcing he would be withdrawing his name from the portal, the Texas A&M offensive line should theoretically be at full strength come game day. The Aggies have moved on from Steve Addazio but I’m not sure what kind of difference that will make in the bowl game. Truthfully, I’m just hoping to see the Texas A&M offensive line grade out slightly better than they did in SEC play. Adam Cushing will look to change the trajectory of a group that has taken a step back over the past two seasons.
I’m expecting a bit of disorganization out of the offensive line unit in Houston but the good news is that Oklahoma State hasn’t been great in the front seven defensively. The Cowboys finished the season 103rd in the country in rushing defense. They also struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks over the course of 2023. I’m not expecting the Aggies to have fixed their protection issues over night, but I do think Texas A&M should be able to lean on a lighter OSU front and get some traction in the run game.
The losses to the portal and the draft are likely to rear their head on the defensive side of the ball. Walter Nolen, Fadil Diggs and LT Overton have all elected to move on from College Station with Nolen and Diggs in particular representing big losses in the trenches as far as production over the course of 2023. The good news is that the defensive side of the ball will still have Elijah Robinson and TJE coaching them through the bowl game - something that should help with some of the roster turnover. Additionally, while McKinnley Jackson has declared for the NFL Draft I’m not sure if he’s decided to opt out of the bowl game. If he does decide to play, that would be massive for the Texas A&M front seven.
The task for this top 20 Texas A&M rushing defense? Stop the nation’s leading rusher, Ollie Gordon. Oklahoma State’s quarterback play has been inconsistent at best and I think the Aggies will be able to rush the passer, though I’d expect a more conservative game plan from a blitzing standpoint. Either way, it should be fun to see what this unit does against a solid Cowboys rushing attack. In particular, I hope we get to see some more from DJ Hicks in the absence of Walter Nolen.
It’s bowl season - enjoy a big ol’ helping of Duke’s Mayonnaise. I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up my bowl appearance at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte in lieu of Texas A&M making a bowl.
Happy holidays, y’all.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See http://draftkings.com/sportsbook for details