Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Louisville Cardinals
Date: Dec. 30, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Nashville | LP Field
Texas A&M Aggies
Best moment: For the second straight season, Arkansas had Texas A&M on the brink. For the second straight season, the Aggies came back to force overtime and win. Myles Garrett caused a key fumble late in regulation and Kyle Allen, Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds all had huge plays. Cornerback De’Vante Harris made the game’s biggest stop, batting away a Brandon Allen fourth-down pass in overtime to secure the 28-21 win on Sept. 26.
Lowest moment: The Aggies hit rock bottom at midseason at Ole Miss. The 23-3 loss was lowlighted by their second-worst offensive performance since joining the SEC (192 yards, three points, surpassed only by 2014’s 59-0 loss to Alabama). Allen, battling an AC sprain in his throwing shoulder, was ineffective and benched. Kyler Murray watched from the sideline as punishment for lashing out at offensive coordinator Jake Spavital on the sideline the week before against Alabama.
Key player: Allen. This offense goes as the quarterback does and Allen is the (current) quarterback. It was an up-and-down season for the sophomore, who led the SEC in passing efficiency through five games but was hurt and had the two worst performances of his career as a follow-up. Allen was subsequently benched only to win the job back for the final two regular season games. He’s fourth in the SEC in passing touchdowns (17) and fifth in yards per attempt (7.81) but ninth in the league in Total QBR (62).
Motivation level: Medium. The season fell well short of where the Aggies hoped to be. But even in those circumstances in recent years, they’ve performed well in bowl games (they’ve won four straight). For the coaching staff and some of the younger players -- such as Allen, Garrett or Kirk -- there should be a desire to set a positive tone heading into a crucial offseason ahead of 2016, a year in which the expectations should be heightened for this program.
--Sam Khan Jr.
Best moment: Coming back to beat Kentucky for a fifth straight win in their big rivalry game. Louisville trailed 24-7 at halftime after Kyle Bolin got off to a rough start at quarterback with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. But a little Lamar Jackson magic turned bleakness into a comeback victory that the Cards won’t soon forget. Jackson tallied 186 yards and scored two touchdowns to help them erase the deficit, ruining Kentucky’s upset bid. It was the second straight year they posted a come-from-behind win against their in-state nemesis.
Lowest moment: Defensive performance in the second half against Florida State. A tough home loss to Clemson could have also fit the bill here, but there was no doubt in that game Louisville gave everything it had throughout the course of the game. That was not the case against Florida State, and that was a big disappointment to coach Bobby Petrino and his staff. Louisville trailed 7-6 at halftime and did a decent job containing Dalvin Cook in the first half. But the Cards gave up 34 second-half points and ended up getting blown out. When asked about the lack of effort afterward, Petrino said, “In my however many years coaching, it's really the first time I've seen it. I just don't get it. I really don't."
Key player: Keith Kelsey, LB. Kelsey leads the Cards with 100 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, and was their only selection to the All-ACC first team. He is the most dependable player on a Louisville defense that has the capability of shutting people down when everybody is pulling in the same direction. Another player to watch is Jackson, who finished the regular season with a team-high 734 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, along with 1,613 yards passing and another 10 touchdowns.
Motivation level: High. Louisville had an up-and-down season but ended on a high note. The players are sure to be motivated to end with eight wins and a much better performance in their bowl than last year, when Georgia won 37-14 in the Belk Bowl.
-- Andrea Adelson