2011 Meineke Car Care Texas Bowl Texas A&M vs Northwestern Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ESPN 12/31/11

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Texas A&M vs Northwestern 2011 Meineke Car Care Texas Bowl Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 12/31/11: A pair of 6-6 teams will face off Saturday, when the Texas A&M Aggies meet the Northwestern Wildcats in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Aggies were ranked as high as eighth in the country at one point this year, but seemingly endless string of second half collapses caused the season to unravel. Meanwhile, the Wildcats closed the year on a hot streak to become bowl eligible but the thinnest or margins. The winner will finish above .500 for the year, and the Aggies are 10-point favorites in the matchup.

Texas A&M certainly can’t blame its offense for its problems this season. The Aggies scored nearly 40 points a game to rank 12th and the country, and they did so in balanced fashion. Texas A&M ranked in the top 25 in both rushing and passing yards, and a Northwestern defense giving up more than 27 points a game should be tested early and often.

If there is a silver lining for the Wildcats it is that injuries have decimated the Aggies running game. Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael combined for more than 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns this year, but both players will likely miss the game. As a result, quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have to shoulder the load. Considering he threw for more than 3,400 yards and 28 scores, he is more than capable. That being said, he did throw 14 interceptions, and with the offense likely being one dimensional because of injuries, the Northwestern defense can focus solely on shutting down Tannehill.

Of course, the Aggies’ defense has to worry about shutting down the Wildcats’ offense as well. Northwester is led by senior quarterback Dan Persa, who came on strong after returning from an injury. Persa finished the regular season with 17 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards, and more importantly, he led the country in completion percentage. Persa has two solid options to in the passing game, with Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore combining for more than 1,500 yards and 17 scores. Persa and company should have plenty of chances to put points on the boar against a Texas A&M secondary that was shredded throughout the season, giving up more than 280 yards per game through the air.

The X-factor in the game could be Aggies’ receiver Ryan Swope. With the reliable Jeff Fuller attracting most of the attention, Swope exploded for more than 1,100 yards and 11 scores this season. He has established himself as a big play receiver, and with Tannehill likely being forced to shoulder the load on offense, Swope will be a vital target throughout the game. If he can stretch the field, it should take pressure off the rest of the offense.

At full strength, the Aggies’ offense is one of the best in the country, and it would likely have overwhelmed the Northwestern defense. That being said, Texas A&M must play the game with virtually no running game. With the Aggies becoming more predictable, the Wildcats defense should be able to play damage control. Meanwhile, Persa and the Northwestern offense should be able to find plenty of holes in the porous Aggies’ defense. Texas A&M has to outscore teams to compensate for its defense, and winning by more than 10 while missing Gray and Michael in the backfield will be tough.

Prediction: Northwestern Wildcats (+10) Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: Northwestern +10 to cover the spread

2011 Meineke Car Care Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs Northwestern
Date: 12/31/11
Time: 12 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: Texas A&M -10 Total: Over/Under 69.5

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