It is Cowboys vs. Aggies in Houston
Back to old Big 12 days and a chance for Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy to extend a four-game winning streak that they had on Texas A&M before the Aggies departed the conference and went to the SEC.
The other major story line going in will be the match-up with former Oklahoma State offensive guard and Cowboys offensive line coach Josh Henson, who left last February when Sean Gleeson was hired as the new offensive coordinator.
The Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M match up will kickoff on Dec. 27 in NRG Stadium at 5:45 p.m. and be televised on ESPN.
The match-up of old Big 12 foes was set up when the Alamo Bowl chose Texas to play Utah and then the Camping World pegged Iowa State and the traveling band of Cyclone fans to go to Orlando and play Notre Dame.
"When Texas A&M jumped ship and Missouri left, I thought that they were a great fit in this league. I'm very traditional," Gundy said of A&M leaving the Big 12. "I thought they were a great fit in this league and miss having those teams in the league. I always thought it was pretty cool when we had the old Big 12."
"It's a great opportunity for us to continue building our brand in Houston and Houston is one of the top cities in the United States as far as football players and recruiting," Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It is important for us to have a great presence there. Our kids are very excited to play in this bowl game and you had better be because we are playing a very good opponent."
Both teams had interesting seasons this past fall. Oklahoma State started out hot with big wins in the non conference over Oregon State and Tulsa on the road and then sandwiched in between was a home win over McNeese State.
In conference play, the Cowboys lost the opener on the road to a then-ranked Texas team 36-30 before coming home to beat a ranked Kansas State team 26-13. All the while, running back Chuba Hubbard and wide receiver Tylan Wallace were running up big numbers. Five turnovers by red-shirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders spelled upset in Lubbock as the Cowboys lost to Texas Tech. That was followed by a home loss to Baylor on Homecoming.
The Cowboys went on the rebound as they knocked off Iowa State on the road, TCU at home, Kansas at home, and then grinded out a 20-13 win at West Virginia before finishing with a loss in Bedlam. The 8-4 record kept the Cowboys in the College Football Playoff rankings from start to finish as they debuted at 23rd and bounced as high as 21st and were ranked 25th in the ranking released on Bowl Selection Sunday.
Texas A&M is 7-5 but it is an attention-getting 7-5. A&M went 2-1 in the non conference beating cupcakes Texas State and Lamar with a hard fought road loss to CFP playoff power Clemson in the middle. The Aggies lost to the Tigers 24-10. The first of three losses to top-rated teams and that has Gundy's attention
"I think they are the best 7-5 team in the history of the NCAA in my opinion," Gundy said when asked about the Aggies. "They've lost to number one (Clemson), they've lost to number one (Alabama), they've lost to number one (LSU), they've lost to number four (Georgia), and they've lost to number 12 (Auburn). That's their five losses. They are definitely a top 25 team. I haven't started watching tape on them, but I've watched them on TV a couple of times. I know that they are very athletic and their quarterback is the third-rated quarterback in the SEC behind the Heisman Trophy winner (Joe Burrow) and Tua (Tagovailoa). We will have to have great preparation and play a great game."
A&M actually lost to three Tiger teams and two made the CFP as they later lost to Auburn 28-20 and were pounded by top-ranked LSU 50-7 in the season finale. The other two losses were to Alabama by a 47-28 score and to Georgia in a tough game 19-14.
The Aggies edged a hapless Arkansas team, but scored impressive wins over Mississippi, Mississippi State, and South Carolina. They also routed UTSA in that late season break that SEC teams have.
Texas A&M is led by quarterback Kellen Mond, who has thrown for 2,802-yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, completing 61 percent of his passes. Isaiah Spiller is the leading rusher with 916-yards and an average per carry of 5.6-yards. The top receiver is Jhamo Ausbon with 65 catches for 862-yards and four touchdowns.
The Aggies average 398.8-yards of total offense a game, while allowing an average of 340.8-yards a contest.
Henson was offered the offensive line job with Jimbo Fisher, who he had coached with previously when both were assistant coaches at LSU, shortly after Gleeson was hired by Gundy. After a 24-hour period of pondering the move, Henson took the job. Gundy had his replacement in a matter of hours, and maybe minutes, when he hired former Kansas State offensive line coach Charlie Dickey. It all made for an interesting 24-36 hour period for reporters on the Cowboy football beat.
Henson was always a popular assistant coach, both in his first stint as tight ends coach under Les Miles and then in his return as an analyst and then the OL coach under Mike Gundy.
"He knows our players, so he can give them a pretty exact scouting report on all of our players," Gundy said.
Oklahoma State does have that four-game win streak over Texas A&M, but the Cowboys trail the Aggies in the all-time series 10-17. The two teams have met in a bowl game one time previously with Texas A&M winning the 1981 Independence Bowl 33-16. Those last four games between the two teams went:
2008 Oklahoma State 56-28 in Stillwater
2009 Oklahoma State 36-31 in College Station, Tex.
2010 Oklahoma State 38-35 in Stillwater
2011 Oklahoma State 30-29 in College Station, Tex.