No team participating in this bowl season has had a more tumultuous last month than the Texas A&M Aggies. Most believed that Kevin Sumlin did a great job with the Aggies, but he was dismissed in an effort to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State. The plan worked, but there’s still a question as to just how motivated the current crop of Aggies will be when they play in a de facto road game at the Belk Bowl against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest Bowl History
Just getting to a bowl game is a great accomplishment for the Deacs. This will be back-to-back bowl appearances and back-to-back winning seasons for Wake Forest after having no above-.500 years from 2009 through 2015 and just one losing trip to a bowl game (2011 Music City Bowl).
The Demon Deacons are playing in the Belk Bowl for the first time, and they’re hoping to build some moment from last season’s Military Bowl victory over Temple. It would be just the second time in school history that Wake Forest wins back-to-back bowl games, joining the team in 2007 and 2008 that won the Meineke Car Care Bowl and the EagleBank Bowl.
Texas A&M Bowl History
This is the ninth consecutive season in which the Aggies are playing in a bowl game. Sumlin did his job and got A&M to a bowl in each of his six seasons on the job in College Station, going 3-2 in his six games.
Jeff Banks is in charge of the Aggies now, though, and he’s never been a head coach at the FBS level.
Keep in mind, as well, that Texas A&M hasn’t traveled this far away from home for a while. The last time the team went to either coast for a bowl game was the Holiday Bowl in 2006.
Why Wake Forest Will Win the Belk Bowl
Without mentioning any of Texas A&M’s woes, Wake Forest deserves some merit on its own. Sure, the Demon Deacons started 4-0 and slumped thereafter, but they hung with Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech better than most imagined they would, and they beat Louisville and N.C. State in the back half of the season.
John Wolford had a fantastic year, averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt and accounting for over 3,400 yards of offense. He dramatically cut down on his interceptions with just six in 325 pass attempts, though it should be noted that half of those picks came in his last two games.
Why Texas A&M Will Win the Belk Bowl
If we’re just looking at raw talent, Texas A&M has plenty of it. Nick Starkel is a solid thrower of the football. Yes, he’s maddeningly inconsistent and makes far too many mistakes, but he can also make throws that Kellen Mond never could.
But look no further than the Texas A&M secondary to find its strength. Armani Watts projects to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft in a few months, and Priest Willis could be right behind him in Day 2.
The Aggies still have a dominant defensive line as well, anchored by Zaycoven Henderson and Qualen Cunningham, both of whom could be playing on Sundays next season.
Belk Bowl Prediction
It’s going to be really hard for these Aggies to get motivated to play in the Belk Bowl for a staff that is as lame duck as lame duck can be. Fisher is going to bring an entirely new staff with him to College Station, and it’s hard to see how this one can keep men who are already thinking about their careers on Sundays amped up for a game against Wake Forest.
The Deacons, though, don’t need a moment of motivation for this game. They’d love to take out one of the big boys from the SEC West and do so in their own backyard in Charlotte.
Wolford could find the sledding tough against this defense, but in the end, we think there’s a reason why our buddies in Vegas think the Deacs should be the favorites.
Belk Bowl Pick: Wake Forest 20, Texas A&M 17
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