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Kicking the Tires: Texas A&M Aggies

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K-State takes on former conference rival Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. The Wildcats seek a nine-win season as a boost toward a promising 2017 campaign.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Christian Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

K-State faces the Texas A&M Aggies tonight in the Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston. It’s K-State’s seventh straight bowl game. In the modern era of college football, that’s not a significant achievement. But even by today’s standards, K-State would only have attended four bowl games between the end of World War II and 1989.

Texas A&M is a familiar face from the pre-Realignment Big 12. The Aggies moved to the SEC in 2012 and promptly rode the Johnny Manziel wave to brief national notoriety. In five seasons since leaving the Big 12, the Aggies are a respectable 44-20. But A&M’s SEC record, 21-19, looks awfully familiar.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jesse Ertz, 138-244-4, 1,560 yards, 6.4 yards/attempt, 8 TDs, 130.0 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 110 carries, 577 yards, 5.2 yards/attempt, 2 TDs, 48.1 yards/game

Receiving: Dominique Heath, 41 receptions, 413 yards, 10.1 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 34.4 yards/game

Texas A&M

Passing: Trevor Knight, 163-314-6, 2,122 yards, 6.7 yards/attempt, 16 TDs, 212.2 yards/game

Rushing: Trayveon Williams, 147 carries, 1,024 yards, 7.0 yards/game, 8 TDs, 85.3 yards/game

Receiving: Josh Reynolds, 49 receptions, 885 yards, 18.1 yards/reception, 10 TDs, 73.8 yards/game

Am I the only one scared of Trayveon Williams? And Josh Reynolds? No? OK, good.

Normally, I’d throw in some commentary about the opponent, but the only A&M game I saw this year was the LSU game.

Advanced Stats

Thanks as always to JeffP for the charts.

K-State vs. Texas A&M Percentile Performances

K-State vs. Texas A&M Advanced Stats Overview

K-State Offense/Texas A&M Defense

Let’s start with the one thing that’s worked consistently for K-State’s offense this year: running the damn ball. K-State finished the season third nationally in rushing Success Rate. Texas A&M’s defense is 75th.

K-State likely won’t rely on the passing game for much. Texas A&M’s pass defense is nothing special, but K-State’s best passing attribute is that they’re slightly below average in Success Rate. If the Wildcats are lucky, then this will be a push.

Potential trouble spot here: K-State is a top-30 team at finishing drives this season. But Texas A&M defense is 11th nationally.

K-State Defense/Texas A&M Offense

Behind Williams’ seven yards per carry, Texas A&M sports a top-35 ground game. Its efficiency is below average, but explosiveness makes up for it. Will Geary, Elijah Lee and the safeties will be key in this phase. K-State can’t let A&M score on long run plays.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. K-State’s defense might make a normally bad passing offense by Success Rate look good. The Aggies are 84th nationally in passing Success Rate, but K-State’s defense is 113th. A&M makes its passing-game living, such as that’s defined, off big plays. But K-State’s good at preventing those.

Finishing drives on this side probably means little, given that A&M is likely to either score on long plays or punt. But Texas A&M is pretty good at finishing drives (22nd) and K-State is only average (57th).

Note here that K-State’s defense is stout in short-yardage situations, finishing seventh and 26th in Power Success Rate and Stuff Rate, respectively. Texas A&M’s offense is 97th and 12th by the same metrics.

Conclusion

Vegas pegs A&M as a 2.5-point favorite, and this does feel like a game that could go either way. K-State should be able to run the ball, but if the Wildcats have no credible passing threat, then that won’t last. A&M isn’t very efficient, but against K-State’s conservative defense, can the Aggies finish drives?

Of course, all these numbers view the season as an average. But both teams’ seasons were anything but uniform. K-State started 3-3 and was languishing in the 60s or 70s by S&P+ before finishing 5-1, all against conference opponents, and moving into the S&P+ top 40. Texas A&M started 6-0 before finishing 2-4, and the Aggies’ only wins since October 8th have been against New Mexico State and Texas-San Antonio.

A&M has a higher ceiling than this K-State team, but the Wildcats have played better football over the last two months. Let’s hope that continues tonight.

Wildcats 31, Aggies 28