After what can only be described as an eventful couple of weeks at Texas A&M, the Aggies are finally taking the field.
Texas A&M faces Louisville in the Music City Bowl Wednesday night at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
Texas A&M is putting its bowl win streak on the line in what might ultimately be a must-win game for the coach. Perhaps the future of the program could even turn one way or the other with Wednesday’s outcome.
Texas A&M Aggies (8-4) vs. Louisville Cardinals (7-5)
Kickoff: Wednesday, Dec. 30, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Weather: 36 degrees (Weather.com)
Line: Texas A&M -2.5 (Vegas Insiders)
By the numbers
1 – Freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk ranks No. 1 in receptions among freshmen in the SEC this season. He is averaging 77.1 receiving yards per game, and also leads freshmen in punt return average and all-purpose yardage. Kirk owns the Texas A&M freshman school record with 1,659 all-purpose yardage and is 127 yards away from matching Cyrus Gray’s overall school record set in 2010. He is also 75 receiving yards shy of becoming the second Texas A&M freshman to reach 1,000 yards receiving.
5 – Texas A&M has reeled off four consecutive bowl wins under coach Kevin Sumlin, and a fifth would tie Michigan State for the longest current streak in the nation. The streak began back in 2011 when the Aggies defeated Northwestern. They also beat Oklahoma (2012), Duke (2013) and West Virginia (2014).
27 – Jake Hubenak has attempted 27 passes this season and is set to make his first career start for the Aggies. Hubenak drew the start after the transfers of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. On the season, Hubenak has completed 12 passes and has one touchdown.
Storylines to watch
Can Texas A&M’s third-string quarterback flourish?
Hubenak is now the No. 1 quarterback on Texas A&M’s depth chart after the departures of Allen and Murray, and he inherits an offense that ranked as the nation’s No. 68 scoring offense at 28.3 points per game. The question is whether Hubenak is capable of keeping that momentum going. Fortunately for the Aggies, Kirk is a go-to target that should present matchup nightmares against the Louisville defense. However, the team will be short sophomore receiver Speedy Noil, who was suspended for the bowl game and the 2016 season opener against UCLA.
Will Garrett dominate the Louisville offensive line?
Myles Garrett finished the regular season with 11.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. Next up for the dominant sophomore is a mismatch with a Louisville offensive line that has surrendered 43 sacks this season — only one team in the country allowed more. Garrett’s sacks are tied for sixth-most in the nation, while the Aggies’ 33 sacks as a team is tied for No. 25 nationally.
Will a loss put Sumlin on the hot seat?
There has been a lot of turmoil in College Station, Texas over the past couple of weeks with the departures of two marquee quarterbacks. That has led to reports that the Texas A&M chancellor is considering terminating Sumlin’s contract. While the coach has led the team to bowl game victories every season he has been at Texas A&M, there is certainly an argument to be made that a loss to Louisville could make Sumlin’s seat awfully warm.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Louisville 31
At one point this season, Texas A&M was 5-0. However, the season got away from the Aggies as they finished out 3-4. The past couple of weeks have put Texas A&M in the spotlight, but for the wrong reasons. Wednesday night’s Music City Bowl game is an opportunity for Hubenak to prove himself in front of his doubters and Sumlin to coach a game that could ultimately save his job. Texas A&M’s offense has been steady all season long, but is the big question mark in the game. The defense, however, should have a distinct advantage against the Cardinals.