Kansas State Wildcats (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (8-4 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: KSU +2/TAM -2
Over/Under Total: 56.5
The Kansas State Wildcats battle the Texas A&M Aggies on December 28 in the Texas Bowl from NRG Stadium in Houston. Kansas State ended their season on a positive note with three straight wins leading into this bowl spot. The Aggies were ranked sixth at one point in the season, but again saw another anticlimactic second-half to the season, losing 4 of their last 6 to end up in this spot. Can the Big 12's Kansas State beat the SEC's Texas A&M and who can get the cover on December 28 from Houston?
Granted, Kansas State benefitted from facing less-than-great opposition late in the season, but they certainly carry more momentum into this game than their counterparts. Wins over Baylor and TCU mean less this season than they usually do. They also won 5 of their last 6, with KSU working hard to manage a good season after an uneven start. Their offense features a strong run-game and they've also been adept at stopping the run on defense. They're an easy team to overlook, but opponents who do that will be doing so at their own peril.
KSU was not terribly electric on offense, especially through the air. QB Jesse Ertz was efficient with only 4 picks on the season, though they only hit the end zone 9 times aerially all season. Ertz was very useful with his legs on 945 yards rushing with ten TDs. Against TCU in their last game, Ertz ran for 170 yards, with Justin Silmon adding 133 yards with a pair of TDs. Along with Silmon is Charles Jones and Alex Barnes (questionable), as there are a lot of contributors on the ground for the Bill Snyder-led bunch. And they do have a dangerous aerial piece in Byron Pringle, who is also a threat on returns.
Kansas State's defense averaged 21 points allowed this season and seemed to thrive later in the season. They were not terribly balanced—a good rushing defense with a pass defense that could be very iffy in spots. What made them pretty good was their playmaking ability. This was a "D" that could score, while piling on the turnovers and sacks. DE Johnathan Willis led the conference with 12 sacks. Donnie Starks and DJ Reed may have been exploited in the secondary this season at times, but they did make a lot of plays, as well.
A&M was 8-4 this season—not an altogether bad year. Still, a 2-4 ending in their last 6 games wasn't what the Aggies had in mind when they were 6-0. Undefeated with wins over Arkansas and Tennessee, the Aggies were blown apart by the Crimson Tide. A win later, they would go on to lose their next three conference games, falling to Mississippi, Miss St., and LSU. Their last two losses were at home and they have failed to cover a spread since September, with eight straight losses ATS. Any way you choose to slice it, the Aggies were off the tracks in the second half of the season—a familiar pattern in the past several years after strong starts.
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Injuries didn't help, but the state of the A&M defense was pretty bad late in the season, despite them looking fairly strong early. The better offenses they faced, and even some mediocre ones, were having their way with the Aggies' defense. Giving up 54 to LSU is a testament to that. While the site of this game and the Aggies' level of competition over the course of the season would suggest the Aggies have the edge, the way their defense became a liability is a major drawback.
For the Aggies' offense, it wasn't a bad season. QB Trevor Knight (questionable) suffered a knee injury and it is unknown for sure if we would play. But with the senior's NFL prospects being dim, one would expect him to be aiming to appear in the spotlight for one last time. Backup Jake Hubernak is also listed as questionable. One could expect to see one of them in there, with a dearth of experienced options behind them. I'd expect Knight to start. He was pretty good this season, though inaccuracy has also plagued him going back to his Oklahoma days. Still, he threw only 6 interceptions and was typically nimble, with 10 rushing scores. The run-game is led by 1000-yard rusher Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford, who was very productive in this offense. Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Christian Kirk, and Ricky Seals-Jones make up a dangerous receiver package, though one where the limits of their potential were probably not realized.
In recent seasons, the Aggies were able to overcome a bad finish to the regular season to do well enough in bowl games. A few seasons ago under similar conditions, they beat a good Mountaineers team in a bowl appearance. And who's to say things wouldn't have been different if Texas A&M were playing the teams Kansas State thrived against? But despite some more compelling talent at the top of the A&M roster, Kansas State thrived more as a team and is healthier overall at the end of the season. I'm taking the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Kansas State Wildcats plus 2 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Kansas State vs. Texas A&M game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!