Longhorns prepare for Aggies

Three one-loss teams in the Big 12 South have put together strong arguments for a spot in the BCS national championship game. To remain in the running, Texas will need to avoid a third straight upset loss to rival Texas A&M.

Currently second in the BCS standings, the fourth-ranked Longhorns look to help their chances for a trip to the BCS title game for the second time in four years when they host the struggling Aggies on Thursday night.

Texas (10-1, 6-1) is one of three teams atop the Big 12 South with identical overall and conference records. Like Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech have spent time as favorites to make the national championship game, but the three teams have beaten up on each other in conference play.

The Longhorns knocked the Sooners out of the top spot in the AP poll Oct. 11 before dropping out of first place with a loss to the Red Raiders three weeks later. Texas Tech was No. 2 in the AP poll before falling to Oklahoma on Saturday.

That complicated in the BCS standings. The Longhorns currently have the coveted No. 2 spot, which would pit them against No. 1 Alabama if the season ended today.

But Oklahoma—currently No. 3 in the BCS—has a great opportunity to overtake Texas with an impressive showing against No. 11 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

“You’ve got to give the BCS credit,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, who’s long supported a playoff in favor of the current system. “They’ve got more talk about college football than ever before.”

Brown, however, insisted Monday he didn’t want to talk much about the BCS for fear of letting it get in the way of Thursday’s game. With a loss to the Aggies (4-7, 2-5), the Longhorns can forget about the BCS altogether.

That’s what happened the last two years when the Aggies pulled off upset victories. Texas A&M snapped a six-game losing streak in the series by topping 11th-ranked Texas 12-7 in Austin in 2006, knocking the Longhorns out of the Big 12 title game. The Aggies accomplished the same feat by upsetting the 13th-ranked Longhorns 38-30 last Nov. 23.

“Sitting here and talking about (the BCS) is disrespectful to A&M,” Brown said. “The only input we can have is to play well Thursday night.”

Texas, which last beat A&M in 2005 en route to an undefeated national championship season, hasn’t lost three straight in the 114-year-old series since a four-game skid from 1991-94. The Longhorns are 73-36-5 all-time against their archrivals, including 45-11-1 in Austin.

The Aggies’ recent success in the series is in large part due to Stephen McGee, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter in 2006, then passed for a career-high 362 yards and three TDs in last season’s victory.

The senior quarterback, however, likely won’t see much playing time Thursday because of a sprained throwing shoulder.

“It’s evident in watching those games that the entire A&M football team played at another level,” first-year Aggies coach Mike Sherman said. “I think Stephen, certainly being the leader, was a big contributor to the fact that not only did he play well but I think he motivated others to do the same.”

McGee will do most of his motivating from the sidelines Thursday as Jerrod Johnson is expected to make his ninth start. Johnson, a sophomore, was 19-for-30 for 244 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions as the Aggies fell to Baylor 41-21 in their last game Nov. 15.

Sherman’s team could have a hard time containing a Texas offense that’s sixth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 43.5 points per game and eighth with 471.0 scrimmage yards per game.

Colt McCoy completed 24 of 34 passes for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 35-7 win over Kansas in the Longhorns’ last game Nov. 15. The junior improved to 30-7 in his career, matching Vince Young for the most wins in team history. That’s a mark he hopes to break by notching his first win over Texas A&M, one of only two Big 12 teams he hasn’t defeated.

“We just didn’t finish the way we wanted, and that has happened for us the past two years (against the Aggies),” said McCoy, who’s 34-for-60 for 389 yards, one touchdown and four picks in two games against A&M. “We’ve got them at home on Thanksgiving night, and we want to play better than we have in the last two years.

“This is a new team. We’ve done a lot of things different since that time, and we practice and prepare hard every week. … We’ll be ready to play.”

McCoy says the Longhorns won’t be distracted by the jumbled BCS situation.

“We want to go out there, play the best we can and win,” he said. “We’ll let the other things work themselves out.”

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