Tuesday December 29th, 2015

Texas A&M vs. Louisville

Wed., Dec. 30, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Reason to watch

Texas A&M’s quarterback situation. December has not been a good month for Texas A&M. In the span of one week, the Aggies watched their top two quarterbacks—sophomore Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murray—announce their intentions to transfer. The loss of two former five-star signees means sophomore Jake Hubenak (27 pass attempts in ’15) will make his first career start in the Music City Bowl. Now Hubenak faces a formidable Louisville defense as the seat under head coach Kevin Sumlin gets warmer and warmer. How will the Aggies perform with Hubenak under center?

Keep an eye on

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Louisville’s ball-hawking ability. Louisville’s defense made quarterbacks pay for mistakes this season, finishing atop the ACC with 16 total interceptions. Nine different players recorded picks for coordinator Todd Grantham’s unit in ’15, led by corner Trumaine Washington (four) and safety Chucky Williams (three). That secondary teams with a front seven that ranks 19th nationally with 90 tackles for loss behind playmakers like linebacker Devonte Fields. Texas A&M’s offense might find itself searching for answers behind an untested quarterback.

Did you know…?

Texas A&M hasn’t beaten a Power Five team with a winning record since October. It sunk Mississippi State 30-17 on Oct. 3, a result that pushed the Aggies to a 5-0 record and a No. 9 ranking in the AP Poll. But Sumlin’s program followed that by losing four of its last seven games, its only wins coming against South Carolina, Western Carolina and Vanderbilt during that stretch. Those three teams finished with a combined 14-21 record, so it’s been a while since Texas A&M has had success against a winning team like Louisville.

Final analysis

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Louisville played Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon and Lamar Jackson at quarterback this season, but its coaches plan to start the freshman Jackson against Texas A&M. The dual-threat passer averages 213.4 yards of offense per game and notched three touchdowns in a 38-24 comeback win over rival Kentucky on Nov. 28. Defensive end Myles Garrett and the Aggies’ defensive line won’t make things easy for Jackson, but the matchup to watch remains Hubenak against the Cards’ defense. Texas A&M can’t run the ball (63rd nationally in rushing offense), so without the talent of Allen or Murray carrying the offense, Louisville has what it takes to limit Sumlin’s offense.

The pick: Louisville 31, Texas A&M 24

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