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Big 12 Conference - Bowl Game Preview: Texas A&M vs Northwestern

Courtesy: Ryan Maloney / National Underclassmen Combine
          Release: December 30, 2011
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Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

December 31, 2011, 12:00pm EST

Northwestern (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

Texas A&M (6-6, 4-5 Big 12)

Texas A&M has played their last game against a Big 12 rival in an intra-conference game. Next up in 2012, the Aggies kick off their campaign as a member of the SEC.

First, however, will be a New Year's Eve match-up against the Big Ten's Northwestern University.

The Aggies didn't exactly wrap up their Big 12 conference history with any authority at all. While their 2011 season was an up and down battle, Texas A&M lost four of their last five games with the only win coming against Big 12 punching bag, the University of Kansas' Jayhawks.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 3,415 yards and 28 scores while completing 61.1% of his passes. It will be output the Aggies are greatly going to miss next season. Wide receiver, Ryan Swope, a junior, led the way for the Aggies' receiving core this year with 81 receptions, 1,102 yards and 11 TDs. He will return to the starting line-up in 2012 if he is not drafted next summer. Without Tannehill calling the shots, it will be interesting to see what kind of season Swope comes up with, along with the rest of Texas A&M's offensive output.

If Tannehill and Swope find a way to land one last hurrah in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, then Northwestern is in trouble. Northwestern's defense hasn't been the most consistent this year either, giving up 27.3 points per game, ranked just 67th in the nation.

The Northwestern Wildcats posted impressive victories against Boston College in their opener (24-17), Indiana on October 29th (a 59-28 final) and against then #10 ranked Nebraska (a 28-25 thriller). If they play up to their potential then this battle will be one that likely finds itself in overtime. However, if they hit this game as part of a losing streak coming off a loss to Michigan State, it could be an easy final game of the season for the Aggies. The Wildcats' 2011 season fell short of the high hopes the coaches had for the team this year as their season included a five game slide starting in week three to Army, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Penn State.

Northwestern was unable to beat any ranked teams this season so it goes without saying that they are benefitting from a weak field and barely capturing their sixth win in sneaking into bowl eligibility this year.

The Aggies snuck in as well, however, they have the offensive power to truly compete with the best in the game. This is something that Northwestern lacks and the Aggies' offense will be too much for the Wildcats to handle this New Year's Eve.

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