West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (7-5 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Autozone Liberty Bowl Preview
Date and Time: Monday December 29th, 2014. 2:00PM EST
Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis, T.N.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WVU -3.5/A&M +3.5
Over/Under Total: 67
The 2014 Autozone Liberty Bowl will feature an intriguing pairing when the West Virginia Mountaineers collide with the Texas A&M Aggies at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. Ironically West Virginia was the team that replaced Texas A&M in the Big 12 just a few years ago when the Aggies left the conference to join the SEC. The Aggies actually brought their Big 12 persona to the SEC with Kevin Sumlins fast paced spread offense and have sustained success with that style of football in their early years with the league. West Virginia on the other hand has seemingly grown into a bigger Big 12 type of program that also continues to put a heavy amount of focus on their speedy spread offense. Therefore similar styles of play from former and current Big 12 members will be on full display when both teams tangle in the River City on December 29th.
Both teams finished their 2014 campaign with a 7-5 SU record. However the Aggies journey to a 7-5 record was by far more disappointing. Texas A&M started the year 5-0 and was thought to be among the best teams in the country. However, the Aggies began to stall on the offensive side of the football while more defensive woes became apparent again as well. The Aggies lost 5 of their last 7 games on the season and were a disgusting 1-7 ATS in their final 8 games. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder was let go following the 23-17 loss to LSU in the season finale. The Aggies have yet to hire a new defensive coordinator and that does not sound comforting for a defense that ranked 101st in the FBS this season allowing 449 total yards per game.
While it could be easily argued that West Virginia will have their share of defensive concerns, the Mountaineers offense has played well all season and they have the talent to exploit the Aggies defensive issues. Senior quarterback Clint Trickett led the Mountaineers to an impressive mark of 314 yards per game (9th in FBS) through the air this season with a total of 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Wide receiver Kevin White was the recipient of most of those passes. White finished 2nd in the Big 12 with 1,318 receiving yards and his 102 receptions finished 5th among all wide outs. White and fellow wide receiver Mario Alford (62 catches, 888 yards, 9 touchdowns) should present a huge challenge towards Texas A&Ms weak pass defense. Therefore it will be interesting to see if the Mountaineers continue to flex their muscles in the passing game and if they can connect on a few big plays down the field.
How many big plays will the Mountaineers need to pull out the win? Well, that depends on how much success the Aggies have on the offensive side of the football. West Virginias defense has not been anything to brag about this season and like the Mountaineers; Texas A&M is also able to move the ball efficiently through the air. Quarterback Kenny Hill started the season on fire but some off field trouble midway through the season resulted in the offense turning to the 5 star talent of freshman Kyle Allen. Allen completed 61% of his passes for 12 touchdowns and 6 picks through the latter part of the year. Allen has a ton of upside and his steady improvement was apparent throughout the final few games of the year. Now with a few extra weeks of preparation, it will be interesting to see if Kevin Sumlin, the quarterback guru, can get even more out of his young quarterback when they retake the field against a questionable West Virginia defense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I simply think West Virginia is the better team in this game as the Aggies have too many issues to piece together right now. I like West Virginia and the under 67!