Dec. 31
ESPN                         Texas A&M vs Northwestern

Offense: Texas A&M brings the 11th ranked offense in the country into this game. QB Ryan Tannehil is in charge on offense for a team that has blown 5 doubled digit halftime leads. He has passed for 3415 yards and is also a rushing threat. His top receiver this year has been Ryan Swope, who has received for over 1100 yards. The second leading receiver is Jeff Fuller. Fuller has had a very dissapointing season, but is still a threat for the Aggies. Running the ball, RB Cyrus Gray has done well, gaining over 1000 yards. The Aggies need consistent offense throughout the whole game to win this one. Northwestern will look to build on its momentum from the second half of the season, where the Wildcats have won 4 of their last 5. They have a balanced attack, ans score about 30 points a game. They are quarterbacked by Dan Persa, who has recovered from injury to throw for 17 touchdowns. his best receiver and go-to weapon is Jeremy Ebert. The senior has caught 71 passes on the season and has found the endzone 11 times. They will look to throw short passes and let the receivers run. They are also effective on the ground, led by Kain Colter, who can play just about any position on the field.

Defense: Texas A&M has really struggled on defense, giving up just under 30 points a game. Like I said, they have been very poor in the second half. They get to the quarterback, but struggled against the pass, which is a cause for concern against the potent Wildcat offense. Sean Porter has 8.5 sacks, so look for him to hit Persa a couple of times. Northwestern may have success because of the quick passes which could neutralize the Aggie pass rush. Northwestern brings in a defense that gives up just under 28 points a game. They struggle in the pash rush, only having 16 sacks on the season. That will need to change or it could be a long day for the Wildcats. Northwestern must also avoid big plays, so the secondary must step up. Brian Peters anchors that unit and his play could be crucial. Ibrahiem Campbell leads the team in tackles for Northwestern.


The Pick: I like Texas A&M to win this game. Their offense is too good and they will not blow a huge lead. Aggies win. If you agree or disagree let me know why by tweeting me @bowlseason or emailing me at . I'll post them if you send them.





Robert Cessna, of The Bryan-College Station Eagle answered some questions for us.


 BS: Mike Sherman was fired after 4 seasons of .500 football. Please comment on the Mike Sherman era and what do you believe led to his firing?

Robert Cessna: Sherman did a lot of good things that incoming coach Kevin Sumlin should benefit from. The talent level is much higher, and the program’s visibility is higher and he’s done a good job building relationships with h.s. Coaches in Texas and La. He’s also handled what few off-field problems had well, and he’s made the players responsible for their actions, especially academics. That being said, he didn’t win enough, which is the bottom line in this business. 25-25 doesn’t cut it.

BS: The offense, led by QB Ryan Tannehill averaged 40 points a game. What makes this offense so good and who are his top weapons?

Robert Cessna: A&M had a pair of NFL-type running backs in Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray, though both got hurt. WR Ryan Swope had a huge year, but senior WR Jeff Fuller was plagued by injuries. A&M had great numbers on offense, but struggled in the third quarter of all its losses. The offense just seemed to make turnovers that ended up costing them games.

BS: The defense gave up alot of points. In what areas do they struggle, and what do they have to do to be successful in the bowl game?

Robert Cessna: A&M was great at sacking the quarterback, but porous against the pass. That’s not a good combination against Northwestern because of QB Dan Persa (he’s completed 74.2 percent of his passes — 193 of 260 for 2,163 yards with 17 touchdowns) and wide receiver Jeremy Ebert (71 catches for 1,025 yards with 11 TDs). A&M has to force turnovers or keep Persa from getting into a rhythm, if not this has a potential to be high-scoring game, provided Gray (shoulder) is able to play.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Robert Cessna:  Well, it will be the last game for several seniors including Gray, Fuller and Tannehill. They have the potential to help A&M score 40 points, which might be needed.

Thanks a lot to Robert Cessna. Check his work out at




Josh Walfish, who covers Northwestern football for the Daily Northwestern answered some questions for us....


BS: The Wildcats started 2-5, but finished by winning 4 of their last 5 including a win over Nebraska. What changed over the second half of the season and how would you rate the season overall?

Josh Walfish: The second half of the season was triggered by the loss at Iowa. That loss helped the team figure out its weak points and after that loss to the Hawkeyes, the Wildcats have played better on both sides of the ball. As the defense got better, so did the offense and Northwestern was back to playing up to its talent level.
Its tough to rate this season until we figure out whether or not NU wins its bowl game. The regular season was disappointing since this team had high expectations and had a chance to win each game they played in, but kept letting momentum slip away. The only way for me to say this season was not a total failure would be to win a bowl game for the first time since 1949. If this team ends the bowl drought than that is what this season will be remembered for not the missed opportunities.
BS: Dan Persa and Jeremy Ebert are one of the most lethal QB-WR duos in the country. Talk about how the offense works and who are some other weapons?
Josh Walfish: Northwestern runs the spread offense. It rotates constantly through a large amount of personnel and tries to use short to intermediate routes to set up the running game and deeper passing game. Persa and Ebert are a dynamic threat for the Wildcats, but some other players to look out for include Big Ten tight end of the year, Drake Dunsmore and the ever so versatile Kain Colter. The two are players that can stretch the field for the Cats and should play a big part in the offense. Colter will be particularly exciting to watch since he lines up at three different positions (QB, RB and WR). His speed and athleticism adds a wrinkle to the NU offense which has been effective so far this season.
If you are curious about how NU runs its spread offense, here is a link to offensive coordinator Mick McCall talking with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg about the offense.
BS: The defense has been average this year. What do they need to do to be successful and who are the key guys?
Josh WalfishIf Northwestern is going to shut down Ryan Tannehill and the Texas A&M offense, the front seven needs to put pressure on Tannehill. The Aggies have only surrendered eight sacks this season and the Wildcats only have 16. If Tannehill has a lot of time to throw, NU will be in big trouble. Tyler Scott, Quentin Williams and Kevin Watt are going to be the key guys for the Cats to get pressure on Tannehill. NU also will need Brian Peters to step up and help lead an inexperienced secondary which took a blow with the loss of Jordan Mabin. If NU can't pressure Tannehill than Peters will need to keep the secondary focused and in the right position to avoid the Aggies getting the big play that has haunted the Cats.
BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?
Josh Walfish: This is the hardest question to answer for me. Northwestern really does not have any secret weapons they can throw out like Kain Colter last year. If I had to pick someone I would go on defense and say cornerback Jeravin Matthews. With the loss of cornerback Jordan Mabin, Matthews is going to have to step up and have a big game and I expect he will. Matthews has improved a lot since the game against Boston College and I expect that in his last game as a Wildcat he will step up to the challenge.
Thanks alot to Josh Walfish. Check his work out at  and follow @joshwalfish .

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