Texas A&M-Texas Tech Preview
As a member of the Big 12, Texas A&M has yet to defeat a team from its new conference. But with the Aggies coming off back-to-back gut-wrenching losses, coach Mike Sherman has more pressing concerns than next season's move to the SEC.
A matchup in Lubbock against undefeated Texas Tech would likely make any coach concerned.
The 24th-ranked Aggies and the Red Raiders play for the final time as Big 12 foes Saturday night in the 70th edition of this rivalry.
Since the Big 12 formed in 1996, Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) is 0-7 against SEC teams following Saturday's 42-38 loss against then-No. 18 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas.
"I don't put a whole lot of stock into all that stuff,'' said Sherman, whose team will become the 13th member of the SEC starting in 2012-13. "We're in the Big 12 right now and we need to win in the Big 12. We're focusing more on this season. We'll worry about next season, next season, when we are in that conference.''
The Aggies' current concerns are plenty, and they start on the defensive side. Texas A&M is giving up an FBS-worst 336.8 passing yards per game after Tyler Wilson threw for a program-record 510 yards Saturday to help the Razorbacks erase an 18-point halftime deficit.
Oklahoma State trailed the Aggies by 17 at the break Sept. 24, but quarterback Brandon Weeden lit up the Aggies for a school-best 438 yards to help the then-seventh-ranked Cowboys rally for a 30-29 win.
"I have high expectations that our defense will sort things out and that we'll make the necessary adjustments that we need to make as coaches and as players,'' Sherman said. "I think we will be playing good defense shortly, but we have to have everybody buy into it."
Those adjustments better happen quick, as the Aggies' next test is Seth Doege, who has completed 73.3 percent (118 for 161) of his passes for 14 touchdowns with just one interception.
The redshirt junior threw for 366 yards and three scores Saturday when the visiting Red Raiders (4-0, 1-0) opened Big 12 play by rallying from a 20-0 first-quarter deficit to defeat Kansas 45-34.
"We need to protect (Doege) a little bit better - if we can do that he'll have a heckuva year," said coach Tommy Tuberville, whose team is off to its best start since opening 10-0 three years ago.
Led by Doege, the Red Raiders are seventh in the FBS with 525.0 yards per game, and they are among the nation's best in red-zone conversions, scoring 22 of 23 times inside the 20-yard line.
Junior Eric Stephens has been a big part of that production, scoring five of his team-high seven rushing TDs from inside the 10.
Stephens had an eight-yard score and a one-yard TD run in the fourth quarter Saturday when he finished with 124 yards.
Stephens faces a tough test against an Aggies' run defense yielding 63.0 yards per game - fifth in FBS - but Texas A&M is among the worst in the nation in red-zone defense, with its opponents scoring 13 of 14 times in those situations.
The Aggies' rushing attack, ranked 15th in the country with 223.8 yards per game, could be critical in this matchup as Sherman would like to see the Red Raiders' high-powered offense on the sidelines as much as possible.
Christine Michael was named Big 12 offensive player of the week after rushing for 230 yards and three scores - both career bests - Saturday.
Cyrus Gray, who ran for 95 yards and two TDs, had 102 yards and two scores in a 45-27 victory over Texas Tech on Oct. 30.
Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 36 of 50 for a school-record 449 yards and four TDs in that game - his first career start.
The last time these teams met in Lubbock, Texas A&M won 52-30 on Oct. 24, 2009, to snap a seven-game road losing streak in this matchup.
The Aggies are 36-32-1 all-time against the Red Raiders.