10 bold predictions: Texas AM vs. NC State in TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Jimbo Fisher’s first season at Texas A&M comes to a close on Monday when the Aggies face N.C. State at 7:30 p.m. ET in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field, home of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Aggies (8-4) are looking for a 9th win for the first time since 2013, and their first top-20 finish since then, too. They look to snap a 3-game losing streak in bowl games against a Wolfpack team seeking double digit wins for only the second time in program history and first time since 2002.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the Aggies’ 2018 season-finale.
1. Teams will combine for more than 56 points
After watching what Auburn did to Purdue, it’s easy to project a similar result for the Aggies. Don’t look for them to score 56 points in the first half, but Texas A&M will score enough points to push the total number beyond the over/under, set at 56.
N.C. State will be without its top tackler, All-ACC LB Germaine Pratt, who is skipping the game to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft. Pratt recorded 104 tackles this season, including 10.5 for loss (six sacks). Those are some awfully big shoes to fill, and the Aggies will take advantage.
2. Aggies cover as 7-point favorites
A double-digit victory isn’t out of the question for a Texas A&M team still riding high on the momentum of a 7-OT victory over LSU. The Aggies will score often and the Wolfpack don’t have the firepower to match it.
3. Trayveon Williams in a class by himself
The Aggies’ junior running back is perhaps the most underrated in the nation. Leading the SEC in rushing (1,524 yards) by more than 200 yards, Williams is headed for another big game on Monday. Just the fifth Aggie in program history to accomplish two 1,000-yard seasons, Williams will set the all-time school record with his fifth 200-yard game. It won’t be easy. N.C. State ranks second in the ACC in fewest rushing yards allowed (109 yards per game) and only allowed one runner to reach 100 yards this season.
4. Kellen Mond goes off
The Aggies’ quarterback follows up his signature victory over LSU with an even bigger game on Monday. Like Texas A&M, N.C. State gives up big chunks of yardage through the air. Mond will make the most of it. He’s topped 300 yards passing twice this season, and though he won’t get near the 430 yards he put up against Clemson, Mond will surpass 300 against the porous Wolfpack secondary. The Pack finished last in the ACC in pass defense, allowing 271 yards per game.
5. N.C. State QB misses top WR
Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley has an NFL future. He also had his way with the ACC, leading the league with 3,789 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. The fifth-year senior has rolled up 11,008 career passing yards and 62 touchdowns. He has 18 300-yard passing games and needs one more to tie the school record, set by Philip Rivers.
He won’t get it Monday, mainly because he won’t have WR Kelvin Harmon, the team’s leading receiver (1,186 yards, 7 TDs). Harmon decided to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Texas A&M, even without veterans S Donovan Wilson (hernia) and LB Otaro Alaka (hand), both out of the game because of injuries, will step up and keep Finley in check.
6. A&M defense stuffs run game one more time
The SEC’s best defense against the run, Texas A&M is limiting opponents to an average 92 rushing yards per game. Only the Wrecking Crew of 1975 compiled a stronger season against the run (80.3 yards) in program history.
Wolfpack RB Reggie Gallaspy has compiled more than 1,000 yards this season, including a 220-yard game against ECU. But the Aggies will hold their opponents to under 100 yards rushing for the seventh time this season.
7. Aggies’ TE tallies multiple scores
Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger has already hauled in 10 touchdowns this season, a school record for tight ends. The consensus All-American and Mackey Award semifinalist will add 2 more scores in the final game of the season as the Aggies’ offense rolls.
8. Aggies’ punter is the Mann
The first Ray Guy Award winner in school history, Aggies’ P Braden Mann leads the FBS with a 51.15 average per punt. He will add to his NCAA record of 14 punts of 60-plus yards with a pair of boots that match that distance.
9. Ball hogs dominate once again
Texas A&M is averaging 35:04 time of possession per game. Far and away the leader in the SEC, the Aggies are second nationally to Army (38:50). Look for the Aggies to be more Army-like on Monday and control the football for 39 minutes.
10. Defense remains fresh
Because the offense will hold the football for the majority of the game, the Aggies’ defense will stay fresh as it has throughout the season. Playing only 59.7 snaps per game on average, the Aggies lead the conference in that department and will be called upon for only 55 plays Monday.