Texas Bowl: Preview, Predictions for Texas A&M vs. Kansas State
Texas A&M and Kansas State will square off in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in a meeting between old Big 12 foes.
Following a 30-6 win over TCU, coach Bill Snyder’s Wildcats have won five of six to finish the regular season 8-4. It’s another impressive, yet somewhat expected, turnaround for Snyder, who seems to pull this off every year.
In a more unfortunate case, Texas A&M also saw some familiar results this season. Coach Kevin Sumlin’s team has dropped four of six since being ranked No. 4 in College Football Playoff rankings. The Aggies will hope to turn things around in front of a friendly Houston crowd.
The last time these two squared off, the Wildcats came back from 10 down late in the fourth quarter to win 53-40 in quadruple overtime.
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 28
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Place: NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas
Spread: No line (perOddsShark.com)
This graph shows Snyder Ball at its finest: The Wildcats averaging just over 150 passing yards per game, winning behind a solid running game and disciplined play.
Can the Aggies crack a defense that’s only giving up 22 points per game? If they can put up the points, Kansas State doesn’t have the horses to keep up.
Sell Out Against the Run
It’s no mystery what the Wildcats want to do. They want to run, run some more and just when you think they’re going to do something else, they’ll run again.
The Wildcats run the ball over 44 times per game, which is over 60 percent of their called plays. That entertainment news in nigeria heavy emphasis on the ground has led to six different Wildcats rushing for over 100 yards on the year, led by quarterback Jesse Ertz with 945.
Bill Snyder’s team will only throw when it has to, grinding down opponents with quarterback option for sixty bruising minutes. It works great when the Wildcats have the lead, but it’s a death sentence in games where the opponent can grab a lead. In three of four losses this season, the Wildcats have been held to 120 yards or less on the ground.
It’s easier said than done, but Texas A&M’s athletes are far better than anyone Kansas State can trot out there. There’s no reason Myles Garrett and the rest of this defensive line should get pushed around.
Don’t Give Them the Game
The talent discrepancy in this game is obvious and the game plan is simplelet your talent show through and don’t make silly mistakes.
If one thing’s for sure, Kansas State will not give this game away. The Wildcats have the country’s sixth-best turnover margin and will not commit many penalties. This has been a pillar of Snyder’s coaching career, and now he has almost four weeks to get things dialed in.
For the Aggies, this simply means playing their own brand of clean football. They’re the more talented team, and they have no business losing in this spot if they can avoid turnovers, penalties and sloppy play.
Control the Clock
Controlling the clock always seems to be a staple of Bill Snyder’s teams, and it will be especially important in this matchup.
The longer Kansas State has the ball, the more it can wear down Texas A&M’s athletes and then force the offense to press. If the Aggies have to go more pass-heavy, the Wildcat front is good enough to force Trevor Knight into making mistakes with the ball.
Find a Big Play
At some point in this game, Kansas State is going to have to get a big play to keep pace with the Aggies. How it happens is anyone’s guess.
On offense and special teams, receiver and punt returner Byron Pringle looks like the likeliest candidate. The 6’2″ sophomore busted an 83-yard touchdown in the Week 13 win over TCU and also has a 99-yard kick return score this season.
Defensively, pass-rusher Jordan Willis has to have a big day. The senior led the Big 12 with 11.5 sacks in 12 games and has forced three fumbles on the season. If you’re betting on anyone to make a game-changing defensive play, the likely Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is a good place to start.
Don’t Get Beat Deep
Keeping Texas A&M’s speed at bay will be a must for the Wildcats on defense.
The Wildcat defenders simply can’t be asked to play tight coverage in this one. The Aggies have no less than five receivers who can get over the top, and Kansas State isn’t built to go blow-for-blow with teams like that.
Keep those guys in front of you and make Trevor Knight beat you with dinking and dunking.
QB Trevor Knight
Jake Hubenak is a fine backup, but Trevor Knight transforms the Aggie offense when he’s on the field. Now healthy, perhaps he can take this offense back to its October glory days.
The Aggies are 1-3 since Knight sustained a shoulder injury in the loss to Mississippi State and have been held under 30 three times. There are plenty of factors at play, but the loss of Knight’s dual-threat ability took away this offense’s best weapon.
Expect some big numbers with him back running the show at full speed.
DE Myles Garrett
This is pretty simple. Myles Garrett is the one of the best athletes we’ve ever seen at the college level, and this is his last non-professional game.
Remember when Jadeveon Clowney buried that poor kid from Michigan at the 2013 Outback Bowl? This feels like a good spot for Garrett to make a meme out of a Bill Snyder junior-college transfer.
WR Christian Kirk
Texas A&M has so many fun skill players, it’s hard to settle on just one. But we’re going with Christian Kirk lining up across from some beatable corners.
While the Wildcats only allow 3.6 yards per carry on the ground, they give up 7.6 per attempt through the air. Neither Duke Shelley nor D.J. Reed have the speed to keep up with Kirk, who should be running free often enough for Knight to eventually hit him for a big one.
QB Jesse Ertz
Just like Trevor Knight on the other side, quarterback Jesse Ertz is the key to everything the Wildcats do on offense.
Ertz only averages 130 passing yards per game, instead filling the old Collin Klein role that comes with about 13 carries per game. The junior has gone over 100 rushing yards three times in the past five games while turning the ball over just once.
Ertz has dealt with a shoulder injury that should be fully healthy by game time, so he could be in for a breakout performance.
DE Jordan Willis
The probable Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Willis anchors a pass rush that will have to be in top form against the Aggies.
Willis enters with 11.5 sacks, five additional tackles for loss, three pass deflections and three forced fumbles. The senior is a disruptive force for Bill Snyder’s defense regardless of the competition, and he has something to prove with Myles Garrett on the opposite sideline.
New Team, Same Results
Kansas State followed a familiar script this season, starting off slow and then incrementally improving to end the season on a high note. Coach Bill Snyder discussed the improvement in his Sunday teleconference:
In all reality, we just got better and became a good football team collectively across the board. Thats been the mantra of our program over the years. Thats the value of daily improvement, and were not alone in that most teams across the country are dedicated to that, and we certainly are. Our players believe in that, and, consequently, have made the effort and commitment to do so. At the end of the day, we just became a little bit better, with some ups and downs.
It’s been the opposite case for the Aggies, who once again faltered in November. Kevin Sumlin’s team has lost four of six after starting the season 6-0.
Location Important for Texas A&M
With the game being held in nearby Houston, the Aggies are basically getting a home postseason game. The good fortune there is not lost on Kevin Sumlin.
“A large portion of our team is from the Houston area, and we have a tremendous fan base in the city of Houston,” Sumlin saidin a Texas A&M release. “We look forward to getting the chance to play in front of 12th Man in NRG Stadium, which is one of the top football venues in world.”
More than just his current players, a large part of Sumlin’s recruiting pipeline resides in Houston. An convincing win in this spot would help erase the recent struggles from some of his area targets.
Snyder Looking to Get Back to Winning Bowls
As good as Bill Snyder is at getting to bowl games, he’s really struggled winning them of late.
“In the Wildcats last six bowls, K-State has won just one of them, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in 2013,” writes SB Nation’s Alex Kirshner.
Whether it’s the extra time to prepare for Snyder’s straightforward attack or going against well-rested, better athletes, bowl wins have been elusive of late for this otherwise stellar program.
A good running team against a shaky defense, Kansas State will hang with the Aggies for much of the Texas Bowl. Then A&M’s supreme athleticism will show up.
A middling run defense, the Aggies will struggle to keep Jesse Ertz and the Wildcat running game corraled. Expect the Wildcats to win the field position battle early as their defensive front works on the Aggie offensive line.
But after a while, someone will make a play for Kevin Sumlin.
It’s impossible to confirm the exact reason for Bill Snyder’s recent bowl struggles, but a lack of athleticism seems more than plausible. The Wildcats’ last four bowl losses have been to Arkansas (twice), UCLA and Oregon. All four of those teams have backups who could outrun the fastest Kansas State player.
Here’s where Texas A&M a massive edge. The Aggies have six different players with gains of 40 yards or greater this season, which includes a 62-yard touchdown run by Trevor Knight.
Eventually, one of these guys is going to break loose and put this thing out of reach.
Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Kansas State 23