Texas A&M fans are certainly subject to mixed feelings during bowl season.
For one, the team is about to play in its fourth bowl game in as many seasons under coach Kevin Sumlin, and has a chance to improve to 4-0 in those games.
At the same time, the latest news out of College Station, Texas is not as positive. Both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray are out of the mix at quarterback for the Aggies, and the team will be short sophomore wide receiver Speedy Noil, who was suspended for the bowl game.
Texas A&M will have its work cut out in order to defeat Louisville in the Music City Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. ET.
Here are three things that Texas A&M needs to do improve upon improve before its bowl game:
1. Cater the offense around Hubenak
With Allen and Murray no longer options for Texas A&M under center, the burden of the offense falls onto sophomore Jake Hubenak, who attempted all of 27 passes this season.
In other words, Sumlin needs to inflate Hubenak’s confidence during practice leading up to the Music City Bowl.
Sumlin, known for his offensive ingenuity, must alter the offense to fit the talents of his 6-foot-3, 195-pound sophomore. Hubenak led the junior college ranks in passing as a freshman at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas,, so the skill-set is there.
The silver lining: With so few snaps this past season, Louisville will not have much tape to study up on Hubenak. That means the Aggies can take advantage of the fact that the Cardinals can only expect the unexpected.
2. Find ways to get Kirk the ball
With an inexperienced quarterback leading the Texas A&M offense, Sumlin may need to get top wide receiver Christian Kirk even more involved.
Kirk, who led the Aggies with 70 receptions for 925 yards and six touchdowns, must the focal point of the offense.
Louisville’ ranks No. 13 in the nation in total defense (323.4 yards per game) and No. 41 in pass defense (204.7 yards per game). Additionally, the Cardinals rank No. 23 in sacks (33).
Texas A&M can counter the pass rush with quick passes and screens to Kirk, which might be the best way to get past this underrated, stingy Louisville defense.
3. Let Garrett, Hall pin their ears back
It’s hard to suggest that Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall can actually improve their level of play heading into the final game of the season. However, those two pass-rushers’ success will be critical to Texas A&M controlling the outcome of the game.
Louisville’s offensive line has allowed 43 sacks this season, which ranks No. 126 in the nation. Up front, the Cardinals’ line should have quite a conundrum on their hands trying to contain Garrett, who’s 11.5 sacks are fifth-most in the nation, and Hall, who produced seven sacks this season.
Louisville has likely not seen a pass rush quite like Texas A&M’s this year, which makes it all the more dangerous for the Cardinals, who struggled against mediocre opponents.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson passed for 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2015. Pressure from the likes of Garrett and Hall to force more turnovers can ultimately be a difference maker.