Defining moments coming for A&M, OSU
Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said before the season this year could be special for their teams.
It still can be for one of them.
Texas A&M (3-0) is looking to extend its regular-season, road winning streak to six games and change the way people look at the 20th-ranked Aggies on Thursday night in the Orange Bowl against Miami.
Oklahoma State (1-2) is trying to ward off implosion when the Cowboys host Texas Tech on Saturday after benching junior quarterback Bobby Reid for sophomore Zac Robinson in a 41-23 loss at Troy on Friday.
"We're right there," Franchione said in July, referring to his team's standing with Texas and Oklahoma last year. "We beat Texas, and two more points in the OU game or an Oklahoma State upset of OU and we're Big 12 South champions."
For Fran to start delivering on a season of promise, it starts against Miami. His team was a double-digit favorite in victories at home against Montana State, Fresno State and Louisiana-Monroe. Now, the Aggies can start turning naysayers into bandwagon passengers by winning in a hostile environment.
These Hurricanes (2-1) don't come close to resembling the teams that won a national title in 2001 and played for another in 2002. These Hurricanes struggled to put away Florida International, 23-9, Saturday after turning it over three times with Kyle Wright replacing Kirby Freeman as the starting quarterback.
(Yes, that Florida International - the one with a ranking of 117 - of 119 teams - in scoring offense and 102 in scoring defense.)
But this is an important step for the Aggies, who haven't exactly lit it up in the nonconference under Franchione the past four years. There were losses at Virginia Tech and at home against Pittsburgh in 2003, a lopsided loss at Utah in 2004, an embarrassing loss with questionable game management at Clemson in 2005 and near blunders against Army last year and Fresno State this year.
No one is expecting A&M to put a 51-13 beatdown on the Hurricanes the way OU did on Sept. 8 in Norman. But the Aggies are the Top 25 team. Not Miami. A&M has the nation's fifth-best running attack and 11th-best scoring offense. Miami has struggled to score for two years.
A&M tight end Martellus Bennett, who was recruited by Miami, said, "I'm going to go down there and show them what they missed out on." We'll see if his teammates feel the same.
A victory against Miami, and suddenly road games at Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri don't look impossible. A victory against Miami and Fran's claim that his team is "right there" with OU and Texas won't sound far-fetched. A loss on Thursday, and it sounds like bluster.
Fran can only hope his Aggies handle a short week better than Oklahoma State, which suffered five turnovers in its loss at Troy.AP Anthony Lewis (left) and Texas A&M face Miami on Thursday.
The Cowboys were hoping Reid could make a star-making jump as a junior the way Texas' Vince Young did in 2005, when he led Texas to the national title. But the future of Reid, who threw for 24 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and ran for 500 yards last season, is now up in the air.
Based on television shots of Reid laughing on the sideline late in Friday's loss, perhaps the Cowboys will get better leadership from Robinson, who suffered two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Now, Gundy has to hope his team doesn't fracture over the quarterback change. OSU can't afford controversy with its Big 12 season starting Saturday at home against Texas Tech. The home team has won each of the last five in the series. The reputation of Gundy, a third-year head coach seeking his first winning record in Big 12 play, is also on the line.
Tech (3-0) has the nation's second-ranked passing offense (479 yards per game), second-ranked total offense (569 yards per game) and sixth-best scoring offense (51 points per game) after blowout victories against SMU, UTEP and Rice. Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell is the nation's individual leader in total offense, and freshman receiver Michael Crabtree leads the country with 12.67 catches per game.
Tech's defense, typically the reason the Red Raiders fail to contend for a Big 12 South title, is giving up 21.3 points per game. But who knows which OSU offense will show up? The one that rolled up 488 yards in a 42-6 smothering of Florida Atlantic? Or the one that spit the bit at Troy?
Before the season, it seemed OSU was the team settled on offense after finishing as one of only two teams to average 200 yards passing and 200 yards rushing last season. (Boise State was the other.) Tech seemed to be unsettled on offense after having to replace most of its receivers.
Now, it seems Tech is the team rolling on offense, and OSU is the one in transition.
Before the season, Gundy said: "We believe we can have a special year. ... We believe we can win every game if we play well. The attitude of our team is tremendous."
We'll see what he's saying after Saturday's game against the Red Raiders.