Thursday Night Bites: Tryptophan and Texas
For the first time all year, this headline makes real sense. Your weeknight amuse-bouches:
• Tuskeegee @ Alabama State, 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): One of those fans who eschews pro ball entirely? Not loving this year's NFL slate? You've got options, beginning with another one of ESPN's weeknight FCS games, featuring the Hornets hosting the D-II Golden Tigers at Montgomery's Cramton Bowl. The Tigers are overmatched but place a particular premium on defense; keep an eye on oft-injured ASU quarterback Greg Jenkins as he operates against the No. 14 scoring defense in Division II.
• Texas @ Texas A&M, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN): Bitter rivals get their shots in for good in this apparent last stand for a once-revered rivalry game. I asked an Austin-bred friend once what the deal was with this game, having never been. He fixed me with a steely gaze and replied, coldly, "Their women all look like they were born on the backs of tractors." It's like that. (I don't actually know any Aggies who might be able to rebut; feel very free to fire back in the comments below. Get all that good hate purged out before the holidays.) Both teams are already bowl-eligible, if barely, and not destined for greater things this particular postseason, which leaves the stakes clean and stark: All-time bragging rights are on the line.
You will know these teams' fortunes whether or not you've been actively tracking them, because both their names start with "Texas." To review: The Longhorns reeled off four straight wins to open the season, then hit a two-game skid as soon as they hit ranked teams. After being beaten by multiple scores at the hands of both Oklahomas, they went out and thumped Kansas and Texas Tech in high-scoring fiestas, then lost low-scoring stunners to Kansas State and Missouri. There's room for one more two-game pattern at the end of the schedule. What'll it be?
For their part, the Aggies also dallied in the rankings, also lingered perhaps longer than they should have thanks to program pedigree, and have also taken themselves out of the running for relevance with five losses, four of them to ranked opponents. Their one win over a ranked team: a thumping of Baylor back in Week 7. Developments to watch: Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron's development for Texas in the absence of Fozzy Whittaker, particularly against the No. 15 ground defense in the FBS. The Aggies' adjustments with the possible loss of Cyrus Gray to a stress fracture against a rushing defense that's even better than their own. And will a single starting quarterback emerge for the Longhorns in their next-to-last regular season game?