The Texas A&M Aggies (7-5 overall, 4-8 SEC) face the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5 overall, 5-4 Big 12) on Monday afternoon in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Both schools will look to finish strong after starting the season with solid records before struggling in the final stretch.
The Liberty Bowl features several storylines. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen turns to Skyler Howard at quarterback as Clint Trickett retired after suffering five concussions in 14 months. Howard performed well in two games as a starter, throwing five touchdown passes and no interceptions, though he only completed 55.4 percent of his pass attempts this season.
West Virginia ranked No. 9 in the nation in passing at 314.6 yards per game. Kevin White led the team in receiving yards (1,318). The senior caught 102 passes, and scored nine touchdowns. Mario Alford, also a senior, added 62 receptions for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Mountaineers had won six of their first eight games, but are coming off three losses in their last four games, while the Aggies have lost two of their last four. Texas A&M began the season with a victory over then-No.9 South Carolina and proceed to go undefeated after five games, but when they faced stronger SEC opponents Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama, they faltered, losing all three games by a combined total of 91 points.
Kevin Sumlin’s squad would end up finishing in sixth place in the highly competitive SEC West division, mainly due to a defense that has allowed their last three opponents (Auburn, Missouri, LSU) to finish with over 490 total yards.
The Aggies have relied on their offense this season, and with good reason. Quarterback Kenny Hill showed positive signs early on, completing 66.7 percent of his pass attempts for 2,649 yards, but was benched after poor play and a suspension. Sumlin turned to Kyle Allen, but the freshman has thrown an interception in each game he has started. In his first start, Allen completed just 13 of his 28 pass attempts in a home game against Louisiana-Monroe, but improved with a four-touchdown performance in an upset win over Auburn.
Allen has plenty of receiving targets, with eight players having caught 11 passes or more. His main option is expected to be wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who finished fifth in the SEC in receiving yards (762). The running game was responsible for 18 touchdowns, with Trey Williams leading the unit with 6.8 yards per carry, and 474 rushing yards.
Both defenses have struggled against the pass. Texas A&M is ranked No. 62 in pass defense, while West Virginia ranks No. 63.
Start Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Point Spread: West Virginia by 2 points
Over/Under: 65 points
Prediction: Texas A&M over West Virginia, 41-34