Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ET, Charlotte (ESPN)
Wake Forest -3, O/U: 66
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE
Texas A&M: If Kevin Sumlin was on the hot seat when the season began, his seat was pretty much on fire after blowing a 44-10 lead in a Week 1 loss to UCLA. A&M lost starting QB Nick Starkel in the UCLA loss, but freshman Kellen Mond took over and led the team to four straight wins from there, but ended up finishing the season 7-5 with a 4-4 mark in SEC play. Sumlin was indeed fired after the season finale, a 45-21 loss at LSU, and the school went on to hire Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State.
Wake Forest: Wake Forest started the year 4-0 before losing three straight to drop to 4-3. The Demon Deacons rebounded with wins over the likes of Louisville and NC State, which was ranked No. 19, en route to a 7-5 finish. All the while, the Demon Deacons were far more explosive on offense than they had been at any point in the Dave Clawson era. In a 64-43 win over Syracuse on Nov. 11, Wake put up a whopping 734 yards of offense.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: Christian Kirk is one of the most explosive players in the SEC — when he gets the ball in his hands. A&M had some struggles throwing the ball with Mond, a true freshman, starting at quarterback for most of the year, so Kirk’s numbers dropped off a bit compared to years past. Still, he led the team with 58 catches for 730 yards and seven touchdowns. For his career, Kirk has 221 catches for 2,667 yards and 23 scores. He is also a huge threat in the return game.
John Wolford, QB, Wake Forest: John Wolford finally put it all together as a senior. He has played a ton of games in his career, but he entered the year with 30 touchdowns, 35 interceptions and a completion percentage of 58. This year, Wolford has thrown for 2,792 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions while completing 63.7 percent of his passes — all career bests. He also enters the bowl game with 615 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing — also career highs.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: It’s the early game on a day with five bowl games. The first two hours of the game will not go against any others on your television. If you’ve got the day off from work, what else are you going to do? There’s motivation on both sides, too. Wake Forest can rebound from a disappointing loss to Duke in the regular season finale while Texas A&M can snap a two-game bowl losing streak.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: The Belk Bowl is just the 12th bowl appearance for Wake Forest. With a win over A&M, Wake can win a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for just the second time in program history (2007-08). The Demon Deacons can also reach eight wins in a season for the first time since 2008 under Jim Grobe. For A&M, a win would break a two-game bowl losing streak and also establish a bit of positive momentum entering the Jimbo Fisher era.
Nick: Texas A&M 24, Wake Forest 16
Sam: Wake Forest 31, Texas A&M 27
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