Present Iteration: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Past Iteration: Texas Bowl
Toasting Town: Houston, Texas
Combatants: Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
Holiday Equivalent: Answering questions about your career trajectory.
Texas A&M had an eventful season, most of it off the field. Texas’ Longhorn Network was one step too far for the Aggies, inspiring them to leave for a bigger, better conference and to place one of the sport’s best rivalries on hiatus. Really, why would you play the school you mention directly in your fight song?
Texas A&M Aggies [SRS 11]
Best Wins: Baylor (14), Iowa State (48), Texas Tech (62)
Losses: Oklahoma St. (2), Oklahoma (6), Arkansas (12), Missouri (19), Texas (21), Kansas State (22)
Famous Alum: Rip Torn
The Aggies finished 6-6, yet Smart Football’s SRS ranks them No. 11. Here is why. They played a ridiculous schedule and came ludicrously close to winning a large number of games against it. The Aggies held double-digit halftime leads against Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Missouri, dropping the three games by a combined five-points in regulation. They were also on the wrong end of heartbreakers to Kansas State and Texas. SRS reflects how strong A&M is heading into the next game, not how strong their season was. The Aggies are better than their record indicates.
Texas A&M has one of the nation’s best offensive lines. Only Boise State allowed fewer sacks per game. Northwestern (No. 101 in sacks) should struggle getting pressure, and really struggle matching up with A&M’s receivers in the secondary. Though, this advantage should be muted somewhat as the Aggies are relying upon their third-string running back if Cyrus Gray can’t make a go of it and, with Mike Sherman shit-canned, will have a new coach calling the plays. Defensively, the Aggies are solid against the run, but need to bring the heat to mask an underwhelming secondary.
Northwestern Wildcats [SRS 58]
Best Wins: Nebraska (23), Boston College 
Losses: Michigan (9), Michigan State (15), Penn State (29), Iowa (36), Illinois (53) Army (101)
Famous Alum: Seth Meyers
Northwestern disappointed as well this season. Dan Persa did not recover quickly enough to mount his Heisman campaign, rendering this team’s flaws readily apparent. They lost inexplicably to a poor Army team, then lost their first four against the meat of their B1G schedule. They won four of five to close the season, including an upset of Nebraska in Lincoln. Though, three of those wins came against Indiana, Minnesota and Rice.
How the Wildcats fare will depend on how they resolve getting blown off both lines of scrimmage. On offense, they can counter A&M’s aggressiveness with the option and with Dan Persa’s ability to escape the pocket and make plays. On defense, however, they don’t have the athletes. They really must hope Texas A&M beats themselves.
For Recreational Purposes: Texas A&M (-8.5)
[Photo via Getty]
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