The old foes meet again this time in the best non-BCS game of the 2012-2013 bowl season in the 2013 AT&T Cotton Bowl where the battle begins with two of the top teams in college football, who share the same record the No.9 Texas A&M Aggies 10-2 (6-2 in SEC), jumble with the No.11 Oklahoma Sooners 10-2 (8-1 in Big 12).
Oklahoma outlasted Texas A&M 41-25 in conference play last season. However, this year everything is different as the Aggies joined the SEC and have exceeded everyone’s expectations by leaps and bounds.
Much of the team’s immense success has to do with quarterback Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football or now Johnny Heisman after making history as the first freshman to claim the Heisman Trophy. Manziel is a problem in the making for the opposing team, as the Sooners have struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks and prolific offenses.
But don’t sleep on the Sooners’ offense which also heavily depends on their leader and star signal-caller Landry Jones. Jones and OU’s offense will have to keep pace with A&M’s offensive juggernaut in a Texas-style shootout in the Cotton Bowl after the Sooners have surrendered 30 points or more in four of their past six contests.
Without further adieu, here are the top 2013 NFL Draft prospects to watch in the 2013 AT&T Cotton Bowl.
Texas A&M Aggies
DE Damontre Moore
One of the top defensive ends in the nation declared earlier this past week for the 2013 NFL Draft. Moore has all the necessary techniques and athleticism to make the right fit as a star pass rusher in the NFL. He’s expected to get selected in the Top 10 in April and some mock drafts around the web have him projected as high as No. 3 overall to the Oakland Raiders.
OLB Sean Porter
Sean Porter was a consistent force for the last two years for Texas A&M. He lead his team with 9.5 sacks in 2011 and finished this season with a total of 60 tackles. Against Alabama, his performance was outstanding, amounting seven tackles and an interception against the top team in the country (at the time) in Tuscaloosa.
However, for much of the season, Porter was caught in a bind, as he adjusted to the transition from being a pass rusher at linebacker in a three-man front to a 4-3 OLB. However, NFL scouts know he has the versatility to play in each system. Porter is currently projected to go somewhere in the middle of the second round.
WR Ryan Swope
Ryan Swope emerged as the top target for freshman QB Johnny Manziel in 2012. As a sophomore, Swope found the end zone four times with 825 receiving yards. In 2011, Swope put up an impressive 1,207 yards and 11 TDs as a junior in Mike Sherman’s pro-style offense with Ryan Tannehill lining up under center. Swope caught 64 passes with seven scores in 2012.
Projected to be selected in the third round, Swope has proven to be a consistent top target in multiple offenses with multiple QBs and will assuredly make an NFL team smile on draft day. In addition, he’s compared to Eric Decker, who also went in the third round (87th overall to the Denver Broncos in 2010). Decker, 25, also just had a breakout third year, racking up 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 TDs.
QB Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel isn’t eligible to make the jump to the NFL just yet, but when he is, he’ll likely become very successful. Manziel lead the country with 4,600 total yards. The first freshman to ever win the Heisman passed for 3,419 yards and 24 scores while rushing for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs. He became the first SEC player and fifth player ever to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a single season.
OT Jake Matthews
A terrific all-around blocker, Jake Matthews will be coming back next season to continue his responsibilities of blocking for an offense that led the SEC in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense and amassed 400 yards or more in the final 11 games of the 2012 regular season.
Other Prospects Projected To Later Rounds Or Free Agents:
RB Christine Michael
WR Uzoma Nwachukwu
C Patrick Lewis
P Ryan Epperson
DT Spencer Nealy
LB Jonathan Stewart
CB Dustin Harris
OT Lane Johnson
As a leader on the line, this will be a chance to see what Lane Johnson can do versus outstanding competition. He’ll have one heck of a battle in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore. Expect to hear Johnson’s named called in the early part of the second round.
QB Landry Jones
Landry Jones has held the starting position for four straight seasons at Oklahoma and his career numbers shatter the rest of the field. His total offensive yards for his collegiate career are 16,368 with 1,353 completions and 122 TDs.
The 2012 season didn’t go as planned but he still managed to stay somewhat on top of his game at times. Therefore, he might just be the biggest mystery come draft day. Jones, who has shown flashes of incredible talent, remains an enigmatic prospect despite putting up impressive numbers.
Jones has completed 66.4 percent of his passes with 27 TDs and nine INTs this season. He’s posted six 300-yard games, including back-to-back 500-yard games in the past two weeks. As it stands, he’s a third-round prospect.
WR Kenny Stills
Kenny Stills leads the team with receptions and is expected to enter the NFL as a third-round draft choice. CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler considers Stills a borderline Top 100 pick.
FS Tony Jefferson
Looks as if Tony Jefferson will be joining Stills as they forgo their senior season with the Sooners. Jefferson led OU with 113 tackles through the 2012 regular season and plays and speaks like a professional. Look for Jefferson to get selected in round four.
Other Prospects Projected To Later Rounds Or Free Agents:
DE David King
DT Jamarkus McFarland
DT Stacy McGee
CB Demontre Hurst
SS Javon Harris
P Tress Way
WR Justin Brown
RB Dominique Whaley