Houston’s Reliant Stadium has been witness to some winning football in recent years as the home of the Houston Texans. This New Year’s Eve, it will bear witness to a couple of college football teams looking to end their seasons on winning notes.
Northwestern, of the Big Ten conference, will face Texas A&M, out of the Big 12, in what amounts to a near-home game for the Aggies.
These two teams have never met on the football field.
The latest Meineke Car Care Bowl odds list Texas A&M as a 9.5-point favorite, while the total has been posted at 65 points.
The Aggies were 5-2 at one point, but lost four of their last five games to finish 6-6 (4-5) and cost Mike Sherman his job as head coach. Five of the team’s six losses were by four points or fewer or in overtime. The Aggies were 2-3 away from home, and 5-4 in the state of Texas.
Texas A&M features an explosive offense that ranks 11th in the nation in scoring (40 points per game) while compiling 497 yards per game (288 passing, 209 rushing). Ryan Tannehill has completed 6 1percent of his passes for 3,415 yards and 28 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. The offensive line has allowed just eight sacks.
Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael lead the running game with 1,944 combined rush yards and 20 TDs on 5.6 yards per carry, while Ryan Swope is the top receiving threat with 81 catches for 1,102 yards and 11 scores.
While the offense has impressed, the Aggies have struggled on defense, ranking 76th in the nation in points allowed (29 ppg) and surrender 386 yards per game (280 passing, 106 rushing) while recording 43 sacks and posting 15 turnovers with one returned for a TD (Terrence Frederick, fumble).
Jonathan Stewart leads this unit with 89 total tackles, adding two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, while Sean Porter has 8.5 sacks, 73 tackles, a forced fumble and recovery. Damontre Moore has three forced fumbles, 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
Northwestern limped out to a 2-5 start to the season, but came on strong late with four-straight wins, including a huge upset at Nebraska. The Wildcats earned a 3-3 record on the road this season.
On offense, the Wildcats rank 51st nationally in points scored (29 ppg) while compiling 433 yards per game (257 passing, 176 rushing). Dan Persa completes 74 percent of his passes for 2,163 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven INTs. The offensive line has given up 34 sacks.
Jeremy Ebert leads the receiving corps with 71 receptions (28 more than anyone else) for 1,025 yards and 11 TDs, while Kain Colter and Jacob Schmidt anchor the running game with a combined 1,054 yards and 14 TDs on 4.8 yards per carry.
The Wildcats rank 67th nationally in scoring defense (27 ppg) and give up 408 yards per game (222 passing, 186 rushing) while recording 16 sacks and forcing 19 turnovers.
Ibraheim Campbell leads the unit with 89 tackles, adding two picks and a fumble recovery, while Brian Peters has 85 stops to go with four picks, two forced fumbles, a fumbler recovery and a sack. Tyler Scott has three fumble recoveries, 29 tackles, a sack and an interception.