The Texas staff wants to play Texas A&M in a bowl game.
I can't provide you with the quote. Unless Vance Bedford goes off, which is entirely possible. But they do. They'll say the right things publicly, of course - especially with a game against 9-1 TCU still looming - but they badly want to shut down Aggie recruiting momentum on the scoreboard before national signing day and form a narrative that Texas is being re-built on firm ground while A&M is a program built on landfill. The product of a freak recruiting run by Mike Sherman that Kevin Sumlin inherited and is already squandering with a locker room where the lunatics run the asylum.
Is that A&M slander true? Who cares? Perception trumps reality in the short run. And the short run is very much Strong's concern if he'd like to guarantee a long run.
Of course, every minor bowl would love to make it happen in their venue and the television ratings would be off of the charts - this would be arguably the most watched and anticipated minor bowl game ever. What about other interested parties? The UT administration and Texas fans? Sumlin? A&M? The SEC? How do they feel? Are they ready for this to happen?
Who has more to gain? Who has more to lose?
When the Longhorns and Aggies parted ways in 2011, both fan bases claimed victory and offered a good riddance to the other. For A&M, their victory was in graduating to the best football conference in the country, ESPN SEC worship and a revitalized program under Kevin Sumlin. For Texas, it was a dramatic come-from-behind victory at Kyle Field sealed by Case McCoy's goose gallop scramble and Justin Tucker's ice water veins cementing eternal scoreboard over an annoying in-state rival that alternated between begging for attention with delusional bluster.
For both programs, victory turned to anxiety. The Longhorns watched a once dominant football program that controlled state mindshare stagnate, fired a head coach and began a painful rebuild, while the Aggie euphoria of 2012 thru mid-2014 turned to angst of wondering if their resurgence was all just smoke and mirrors built off of a once-in-a-lifetime collision between an elite college QB, a dominant WR and two NFL top 5 pick tackles.
This much we do know: Charlie Strong and his staff are eager to play Texas A&M in a bowl game - sentiments that they held at the beginning of the season and then downplayed once they experienced the Texas fan reaction, probably forgot altogether when they were wondering if they'd ever win another game, but are now back with a vengeance.
If this were the WWE, Charlie Strong would be cutting Aggie promos right now. Without a shirt. Holding a folding chair. Asking Kevin Sumlin why he looks like Florida Evans in a maroon muu-muu and if the Liberty Bowl is a reference to Aggie bail bond aspirations.
The reasons are simple.
Texas thinks they will win.
That notion would seem remarkable back in early October, but now it's defensible. One team is trending up, the other trending down. A&M's offense isn't as good as many of the offenses the Horns have already faced and while the Longhorn defense isn't perfect, it's a unit seemingly designed to thwart everything Texas A&M does well, particularly with their freshman QB and and a running game that disappears against quality defenses. Once you adjust for opponent and late game charity yards, A&M is currently a middling college offense begging to be dissected by a month in the film room by a defensive staff utilizing the best defensive line and the most complex coverage combinations A&M would see all year.
Defensively, the Aggies are struggling. Their youth movement should pay dividends down the road, but right now they're physically immature, constantly bust coverages and containment and have trouble against both run and pass. While the Texas offense has hit the wall rather horribly against quality defenses, recent improvements suggest that its credible against bad to average units. That's A&M.
Special teams. Well. Texas concedes.
Texas needs to win
The amazing Aggie media run of 2012 and 2013 (Manziel is proof that even bad press is good press and his on-field appeal was undeniable) and the move to the SEC carried over to impact 2014, 2015 and 2016 recruiting. Now that the bloom is a bit off of the rose, A&M is selling conference affiliation as in-state superiority, Texas high school spread philosophy on offense for easy transition and early playing time on defense. Meanwhile, Texas coaches have had only 10 months of relationship building and Strong's Louisville bona fides may as well have happened on Pluto for their resonance with a high schooler from Houston. Beating A&M on the field invalidates the Aggie sell and reminds recruits that A&M is still little brother eternal and that a natural order still remains.
The Longhorn staff can reverse Aggie recuriting momentum slowly and deliberately in living rooms and in high school coaching offices over years or do it on national television in three hours. Which sounds more appealing to Charlie Strong's personality?
Should we play?
If you think Texas would be a prohibitive favorite in this game, go watch some Kansas State tape and settle down. Texas could lose. Very easily. But the madness, anxiety and mayhem of the weeks leading up the game would be epic. I'm frankly torn. Once adamantly opposed to playing A&M on principle, I find myself relishing the sheer madness of the build-up and the range of emotions on game day.
So let's hear it. Does Texas want this game? Does A&M? Who has the most to gain? Or lose? Should the bad blood fester for a bit longer?