HOUSTON, Texas - When Texas A&M enters the field inside NRG Stadium, they'll feel right at home. With College Station less than 100 miles away from Houston, it will feel like a home game at Kyle Field in the stands off Kirby Drive.
The Aggies (7-5, 4-4 SEC), are far from treating Friday night like a game close to home. Still away from their home base, the team hopes an early statement could lead to that home-field advantage feeling.
"Our turf -- a turf is the field you play on. You've got to defend that," A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. "That's going to be 100-yard field that two good teams are going to be on, and you've got to go play your tail off."
The Cowboys (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) will have their hands full facing their former Big 12 foe. Their rushing attack could be the x-factor away from Stillwater as running back Chuba Hubbard is just 64 yards away from surpassing the 2,000-yard mark for the year. Freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders is expected to return after undergoing thumb surgery in November.
The Aggies and Cowboys have a long history of slugfest battles dating back to the early 1900s. A&M currently holds a 17-10 all-time record, but Oklahoma State currently holds a four-game win streak. Could they make it five in the Aggies' backyard?
Here's everything both sides need to know.
Where: 5:45 p.m. Friday, Dec.27 in NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas
Line: - 7.5 via Texas A&M
When Texas A&M is on Offense
The Aggies will be short-handed on offense in the running back depth. Following the transfer of Jacob Kibodi, Fisher announced backup running back Cordarrian Richardson would miss Friday's contest. Fisher did say the sophomore had not left the program and still was on campus.
With his loss, the team turns to freshman Isaiah Spiller as the only running back on scholarship. The Spring native grew during his first season, rushing for 869 yards and nine touchdowns in eight starts. Averaging 25 carries per game, Spiller could see more than the average amount due to the situation.
It also could lead to more carries for Kellen Mond in an option standpoint. The junior finished second in rushing with 383 yards and nine touchdowns during the 2019 season. Depending on offensive line play, A&M could see a bulk of their yards come on the ground.
When Oklahoma State is on Offense
The Cowboys will be playing with a two-quarterback system on Friday night. Sanders, the team's original starter, will return after missing a month with a hand injury. Fellow quarterback Dru Brown, who threw for 625 yards in five contest, will see action in some capacity.
The offense will rely on the run game when Sanders is taking snaps. Both Hubbard and the freshman signal-caller used their legs to keep drives alive this season. The two combined for 2,561 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground, finishing second in Big 12 rushing.
When passing, keep an eye out for junior Tylan Wallace as the go-to target. The Forth Worth native led the team with 53 receptions for 903 yards and eight touchdowns. The Cowboys could be prepping for Sanders to run while Brown could be the vocal passer downfield.
Texas A&M Will Win If: Simple, Stop Hubbard
The Aggies have faced seven rushers who have surpassed the 1,000-yard mark this season. Hubbard will be eight when he takes his first carry some time in the first quarter. So far, all but McNeese State haven't been able to hold the Alberta native to under 100 yards this season.
Hubbard's stat line perhaps could be flex due to the contest he's faced. The Cowboys have yet to play a defense ranked inside the top 30, a place where A&M's rushing defense has set back to back seasons under the direction of Mike Elko. Even with the loss of Justin Madubuike, the team still should be in contention to hold the premier runner to limited action.
A&M will need to force Sanders and Brown to throw. Should they eliminate a vital part of their game, it should be a quick victory.
What's at Stake
For the Aggies, it will be starting the new year off on the right foot. The team will finish with another top-five recruiting class under Fisher and could show the new members what to expect for the future. It also could be the final game for several Aggies to make their marks before testing the waters in the NFL.
For the Cowboys, it's more about ending the year with a monumental win. Hubbard could surpass history by the end of the first quarter, while the emergence of Sanders could speak dividends for the future. With a plethora of players returning, it's another trophy in the case for the future.
A&M could enter the game as the underdogs despite being the favorites. The Pokes have a four-game winning streak against the team while the Aggies fell to Kansas State the last time they played in NRG Stadium. Add in the lack of depth at running back and things could go south quick.
Although the team would not like to admit that it will be a home game, the crowd could be a factor. With a majority of fans expected to be doused in maroon and white, that 12th Man mentality could help disrupt the Cowboys' offense, specifically on third down.
All of the Aggies' losses came to top 10 opponents, perhaps justifying their record. The Pokes could be rusty with Sanders adjusting to his throwing motion post-surgery. Even though the Aggies are short-handed, expect this to be a shootout in favor of Fisher's squad.
The former Seminoles coach goes 2-0 in bowl victories, cementing promise for the future of the program.
Final: Texas A&M 35, Oklahoma State 27