Texas Bowl: 5 bold predictions for Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State
The Texas Bowl folks have to be giddy over their good fortune. Landing a matchup like Texas A&M and Oklahoma State for their annual showdown when less fortunate bowls with SEC affiliations — Liberty, Independence, Birmingham — didn’t get their SEC representative because there weren’t enough qualifying teams from the conference.
So to be able to put the Aggies and the Cowboys together, former Big 12 foes, each with strong bowl performance backgrounds, has to leave Texas Bowl officials thankful that Christmas came early for them.
Jimbo Fisher is 6-2 in bowl games, including last year’s 52-13 drubbing of NC State in his 1st year with the Aggies. Oklahoma State head coach Mike “Mullett” Gundy has won 3 consecutive bowl games and 7 of the past 9.
Add to that the fact that Oklahoma State star running back Chuba Hubbard will play and you have the makings of a Texas-sized shootout in Houston on Friday.
We’re certainly excited about it. Here are 5 bold predictions for the big game.
1. Take the Cowboys and the points
The Aggies beat just 1 opponent that’s going bowling (Mississippi State) and without stud DL Justin Madubuike, who has decided to sit this one out, will be harder-pressed to stop Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher, who averages 161.33 rushing yards per game.
But I think a balanced Texas A&M offense will be enough to offset the Hubbard-led Cowboys; the caveat being that starting QB Spencer Sanders, who threw for 2,065 yards in 10 games before thumb surgery sidelined him for the final 2 games. The freshman is back at practice and expected to play; how much is the question.
I’m taking Texas A&M for the win, but closer than the 6.5-point spread.
2. Take the “Over”
If Spencer is anywhere near full strength, the Aggies will have trouble stopping him and Hubbard. Therefore, the Cowboys figure to score some points. But the Aggies will, too. Oklahoma State ranked 7th among the 10 Big 12 teams in total defense, yielding an average of 418 yards per game. The Cowboys gave up 27 points per game on average this season.
I like the teams to combine for more than the 54-point over/under number set by Vegas.
3. Kellen Mond goes off
The Aggies’ junior QB should have a field day against an Oklahoma State secondary that gave up 300-plus passing yards in 4 games this season. Make it 5 after Friday as Mond enjoys his 3rd 300-yard passing game this season and first since tossing 335 yards against Auburn in September.
4. Aggies slow down Hubbard
We don’t know how motivated Hubbard is to play in this game, and we also don’t know how much he actually will play. So even without Madubuike clogging up the running lanes, I believe that a very good Aggies run defense will limit Hubbard’s rushing total. To what level? Well, Hubbard failed to rush for 100 yards in only once this season. He carried just 8 times for 44 yards in the 56-14 rout of McNeese State.
The combination of motivation, or lack thereof from Hubbard, coupled with Texas A&M’s run defense that ranked 5th in the SEC, allowing an average of 129 yards per game while holding 5 opponents under 100 rushing yards this season, I’ll go on that limb that says Hubbard is held to under-100 rushing yards on Friday.
5. Spiller reaches 1,000
The Aggies’ freshman running back has displayed signs of brilliance, but overall recorded just 4 games of 100-plus yards. It’s time to cement his role as the team’s top RB and Friday provides the perfect opportunity. Okie State hasn’t given up a lot of yards on the ground, but that’s because teams have had so much success throwing it on them.
Spiller needs 131 yards rushing to reach 1,000 yards for the season. He gets it and leads the Aggies to victory, or at least he’d better. The Aggies are thin at the position with season’s starter Jashaun Corbin out since the Clemson game with a season-ending hamstring injury. He’s 1 of 3 Aggies RBs who have entered the transfer portal this season.
Backup RB Cordarrian Richardson, who ran for 130 yards in a 30-6 thrashing of South Carolina, did not make the trip to Houston and for undisclosed reasons is not expected to play Friday.
How bad is it? Reserve QB Connor Blumrick is practicing at running back leading up to Friday’s bowl game.