In trying to figure out my bowl prediction it’s really hard to guess what’s going to happen. Across the board A&M is the better team from a pure talent standpoint. Obviously we have a major question at quarterback considering it’s Hubenak’s first start but outside of that our only real weakness is across the offensive line and linebacker. Every other group of players is good enough to compete against anyone we play and win more than 75% of the time. Unfortunately this season we only won 67% of the time.
The thing that I can’t quite get over is coaching. I still don’t trust Spav to call plays and the fact he’s using a first time starting quarterback who took VERY limited snaps only makes it worse. With Kyle Allen’s first start last season he went really conservative and in Kyler’s first start this season it was the exact same offense as he had run for a year and a half with no new wrinkles. Kyler has great mobility but Spav still seemed to run the same offense so I don’t expect too many offensive wrinkles with Hubenak under center. I think we all want to be surprised by Hubenak but Spav’s body of work as an OC says to expect otherwise. While Jake Hubenak is no slouch he hasn’t seen a lot of live action and the Louisville D will have a really solid idea of what to expect and be ready. Big difference between practicing against guys you know and a live game against guys scheming against you every play.
Louisville while not as talented has some really solid coaching at the top level. Bobby Petrino is a great offensive mind. Our defense will get the better of Louisville most of the game but I have a feeling Petrino will have a few tricks along with making adjustments to move the ball into field goal scoring positon. Todd Grantham was a really solid DC at Georgia and is the kind of DC that giggles going up against someone like Spavital. I have a feeling Grantham will have watched a ton of film and have his defense ready for Spav’s tendencies.
Louisville got blown out in their bowl game last season but they played a pretty solid Georgia team that just ran Nick Chubb down their throat. Georgia won that game 37-14 while Chubb carried the ball 33 times for 269 yards and two scores. I love Tra Carson but he and our offensive line are no Nick Chubb even if Spav does give him the ball 33 times. I don’t think their bowl game last year is a great comparison for what to expect in our game.
Louisville was 7-5 this season but their losses were at the hands of Auburn, UH, Clemson, Florida State, and Pittsburgh. The losses to Pittsburgh and Auburn are questionable but there is no shame in losing to UH, Clemson, and Florida State this season. I think A&M and UH would be a toss up but I’m positive we’d have lost to Clemson and Florida State as well. We obviously lost to Auburn so that’s kind of equal and Louisville lost to Pitt on the road. That’s really the difference in these two team’s season. A&M is one win better than Louisville against what can be perceived as better opponents but our record is not all that better than Louisville when you really look at it. So all things considered Louisville is not too terribly far behind us performance wise this season. A&M has the talent to be better than 8-4 but our record is indicative of what we actually did.
I see this game playing out much like the ASU game to start the season with two main differences. We won’t get the amount of sacks or turnovers which allowed us to blow out ASU towards the end. That ASU game was in question until about midway through the 4th quarter when we were finally able to pull away. Louisville has some inexperienced offensive tackles like ASU but I don’t think Petrino will allow his QB to be a punching bag like ASU did with theirs. I think we’ll get 3-5 sacks but we won’t have 9 like against ASU.
I expect us to be up 10-7 at half. Our defense will contain Louisville except for a big play likely on a screen or mis-direction where they’ve detected a blitz. Offensively we’ll move the ball for the most part but won’t sustain most drives except a couple that allow us to get a touchdown and field goal.
It’s the second half that has me concerned. I think their defense will mostly shut down our offense except for a couple drives where we get into the red zone but come away with field goals. We didn’t score a TD in the second half of the Vandy or LSU game hence my concern. I think Louisville gets a couple turnovers thanks to Hubenak’s inexperience and Spav’s predictability. Much like Kyle Allen threw a pick six in last year’s bowl game I think Hubenak throws one was well. We’ll also have a turnover on our side of the field that sets up a field goal. Along the way they’ll bust a big run for another field goal. The final result will be a 20-16 Louisville win. I hope I’m wrong but that’s just how I see things shaking out.
Now if Spav comes out forcing up tempo with wrinkles Louisville hasn’t seen then we can win this game walking away. If we can get up by two scores early that will allow our defense to bring pressure and tee off on Louisville where we get the turnovers. If we play it close and predictable I just don’t see how we get the breaks to win. Spav will be scared with Hubenak in his first game and call a very conservative game I have a feeling. It’s just who he is. There’s a chance of a 2014 opener against South Carolina in Spav but I only see that as a 25% chance.
A&M has the talent to win this game in convincing fashion but it’s hard to believe that will happen based on the offensive play calling the last two seasons. It’s just not good and has held this team back for 2 seasons now. This has Auburn written all over it where the lesser talented team with better coaching pulled off the win. I hope Sumlin and Co. proof me wrong as I’ll be cheering for the Aggies to do just that.