The Northwestern Wildcats and the Texas A&M Aggies are going to be battling it out at this year's Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Both teams didn't have the years they were expecting, but they were still able to get into college football's postseason by putting together 6-6 seasons. Now the two teams will battle it out in Texas for a winning record on the 2011 season.
Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
When: Saturday, December 31st @ 12:00 p.m. ETD
Watch: ESPN and ESPN 3
Listen: 1370 AM - Aggies; 720 AM - Wildcats
Betting Line: N/A
The biggest story here is that the Aggies recently dismissed head coach Mike Sherman and have already planned to replace him with Houston Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin. The deal has yet to go through, but at this point it seems inevitable. Without Sherman at the helm, Tim DeRuyter will be taking over the coaching duties.
This Aggies team had some high expectations coming into the season, and it is a tough call on whether they will show up any different under new leadership.
The Wildcats, on the other hand, had quite a disappointing season as well under head coach Pat Fitzgerald. His job appears to be safe, but perhaps with a loss to the Aggies his name could be the next to enter the unemployment line.
The Wildcats were slowed down by injuries to start the season, especially with quarterback Dan Persa being held out of play for the first three games. That didn't turn out well for the Wildcats, though, as they dropped the first four games with Persa under center.
The Wildcats finished out the season 4-1, but their last game was a loss at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans. They will be needing to recoup following that loss.
Who Might Not Play for A&M
RB Cyrus Gray: The Aggies' leading rusher may be held out of this game against the Wildcats due to a stress fracture in his shoulder. He is questionable at the time.
Who Might Not Play for the Wildcats
CB Jordan Mabin: Mabin is out with a shoulder injury, and at this point he remains questionable.
What It Means for A&M
The Aggies need a win in this bowl game to make a statement that they will be fine without Sherman as their coach, and that they are ready to take on the SEC next season. While the Aggies will be representing the Big 12, they will be playing for their pride and the chance to present themselves as winners going into arguably the toughest conference in college football
What It Means for the Wildcats
Following losses to the Spartans, Illinois Fighting Illini, Penn State Nittany Lions and Iowa Hawkeyes, the Wildcats will be looking to prove that they are a team that can still play with the best in the Big Ten. The Wildcats are 3-1 this season in non-conference games, but a win against the Aggies would really prove something for this Northwestern team.
Aggies' Player to Watch: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill
In his last game, Tannehill threw two touchdowns and three interceptions against the Texas Longhorns, in a game that resulted in an Aggies loss and quite possibly the game that sealed the deal on coach Sherman's career.
Now Tannehill will have to come into this game and play huge for his team, like he has throughout the season. On the year, he has thrown for 3,415 yards with 28 touchdowns. He has thrown 14 interceptions, but those often came in large amounts in just one game. If Tannehill can avoid the turnovers, there is no doubt he can light up the Wildcat's secondary.
While the Wildcats have struggled in finding a primary running back and a consistent quarterback, they have had a consistent receiving target all year. Ebert has caught 71 passes for 1,025 yards with 11 touchdowns. These numbers basically double the rest of his team's results, and there is no doubt that he will be the player to stop.
Ebert is a senior, and he will likely be looking to go out with a bang. He will need to hope that Persa will be able to find him, otherwise Ebert's great season is all but done.
Prediction: Aggies 45, Wildcats 27