Liberty Bowl Preview: Will Texas A&M or West Virginia win a matchup of high-flying offenses?
Texas A&M (7-5) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
Dec. 29, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: To see two high-flying offenses put on a show. Texas A&M and West Virginia both boast attacks that can score in bunches, as they average 34.4 and 33.2 points per game, 30th and 36th in the nation, respectively. Those units will face off with defenses that have trouble slowing opponents (West Virginia allows 26.2 points per game; Texas A&M surrenders 27.2), meaning there’s a high probability of a shootout taking place in Memphis.
• Keep an eye on: West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard. The sophomore will make his second career start after leading the Mountaineers to a 37-24 win at Iowa State on Nov. 29. Howard gets the nod after Clint Trickett’s abrupt retirement on Friday because of concussions, as the senior said he suffered five over the past 14 months, two of which he hid from trainers. Howard is 36-of-65 for 483 yards with five touchdowns this fall, and will throw to senior receiver Kevin White, who was named a Biletnikoff Award finalist after making 102 catches for 1,318 yards.
• Did you know: Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett broke Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC record for sacks by a freshman, notching 11 in 2014. He was particularly effective in a 21-16 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 1, when he recorded 3.5. Garrett could have a field day against a porous West Virginia line; the Mountaineers have allowed 28 sacks this year, tied for 77th nationally.
• Final analysis: The Aggies’ defense has been atrocious in stints, something that led to coordinator Mark Snyder’s ouster on Nov. 28. However, quarterback Kyle Allen seemed to find his footing as the season wore on -- he threw for eight touchdowns in the team’s final three games, including four in a 41-38 win at Auburn on Nov. 8 -- and could compensate for many of Texas A&M’s flaws on the other side of the ball. Meanwhile, Howard will have his moments for West Virginia, and tailback Rushel Shell should find plenty of room to run. Still, they won’t quite be able to keep pace with coach Kevin Sumlin’s explosive attack, which will make the difference in the fourth quarter.
• The pick: Texas A&M 35, West Virginia 31