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Five Things to Know about Oklahoma State’s Texas Bowl Opponent, Texas A&M

A look at the Cowboys’ postseason matchup with the Aggies.



[Jackson Lavarnway/PFB]

The Cowboys are headed back to Houston to play the Aggies in a rematch of the 2019 Texas Bowl.

After a fast start in that 2019 game, the Cowboys didn’t score for over three quarters and, ultimately fell to the Aggies, finishing their season 8-5. This year’s Cowboys have a chance to redeem that loss and finish with double-digit wins for the second time since 2017, and the eighth time under Mike Gundy.

While the teams and venue are familiar, there are some key differences between that Texas Bowl and this one. Let’s take a look at the Aggies in 2023 and the matchup that will unfold on Dec. 27. Here are five things to know about Texas A&M ahead of the Texas Bowl.

1. Another Coaching Transition

The coaching stability in Stillwater is rare.

The Jimbo Fisher era in College Station came to an unceremonious end in November when the school parted ways with the highly paid head man a day after the Aggies’ 51-10 win over Mississippi State, a win that made them bowl eligible. Aggies brass cut Fisher loose six years into a 10-year $75 million contract. The buyout was $77.5 million, the largest in college football history.

Co-defensive coordinator Elijah Robinson stepped in as interim head coach and went 1-1 with a win over FCS team Abilene Christian and a 42-30 loss to LSU. He will don the headset for the bowl game before handing it off to Mike Elko, who will succeed Fisher.

It’s the third-straight bowl game OSU will face a staff in flux. OSU is 2-1 in those games. Last year, Luke Fickell coached his first game at Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl after coming over from Cincinnati. The year before, Marcus Freeman cut his teeth against the Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl. It was his first game as a head coach after taking over for a departed Brian Kelly.

2. Aggies’ First Bowl in Three Years

The Aggies haven’t been to the postseason since 2020. In 2021, they finished 8-4 and qualified for a bowl but missed the game due to not having enough players due to COVID. Last year, the Aggies went 5-7.

It’s an important juxtaposition. Mike Gundy has been in Stillwater for 19 years and will coach his 18th-straight bowl game. Think about this: there are OSU students who weren’t alive the last time the Cowboys didn’t go to a bowl game.

3. An Offense in Transition

OSU will face A&M’s third starting quarterback of the season and a replacement at OC.

The Aggies lost starting QB Conner Weigman to injury early in the season and it’s been a carousel ever since. After Max Johnson got his shot, A&M went with sophomore Jaylen Henderson, a Fresno State transfer.

On top of that, the Aggies lost first-year playcaller Bobby Petrino who was hired to the same position at Arkansas, where he used to be the head coach before he was fired due to scandal. College football is crazy.

4. Ainias Smith Out

A&M’s leading receiver will not play in the bowl game after suffering a broken finger in the Aggies’ loss to LSU. Smith led A&M with 795 receiving yards and two TDs and also served as punt and kick returner. He has said he planned on playing in the bowl game before the injury. OSU fans might remember Smith, as he actually started at running back in the 2019 Texas Bowl as a freshman. With potential holdouts and the transfer portal opening on Monday, it’s still unclear exactly which playmakers either team might be missing.

5. It’s Tough to Run on the Aggies

The Cowboys ran into a meat grinder of a defensive front in Texas, but they will face another tough rushing defense in Houston.

Ollie Gordon was held to just 34 yards and the Cowboys totaled just 31 net ground yards. It may not get much easier against A&M. The Aggies are the SEC’s best rushing defense allowing only 106 yards per game and just 3.3 yards per carry. Since the start of conference play, only two teams have averaged four or more yards per attempt against A&M — LSU, the nation’s No. 8 rushing offense, and Tennessee, which comes in at No. 13. For reference, despite Gordon’s huge season, OSU ranks 66th in rushing offense.

All that to say, OSU’s offensive line may not get much of a reprieve after getting bullied by the Longhorns. The coaching staff has a few weeks to figure it out, but they’ll need to find a way to get their playmakers the ball in space.

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