Allstate Sugar Bowl Looks at Big 12-SEC 2015The Allstate Sugar Bowl secured its future through January 2026 with the announcement that it would host the champions of the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences in eight of the 12 years between 2014 and 2025. If the champion of either or both leagues is selected for the College Football Playoff, a replacement team from that conference will play in the Sugar Bowl. In the four seasons that the Sugar Bowl is not hosting the Big 12 and the SEC (2014, 2017, 2020, 2023), it will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
After last year’s Playoff Semifinal game, this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl will be the first as the official destination for the top available teams from the Big 12 and the SEC. To lead into the season, the Bowl is providing brief previews of each team in the leagues.
Texas A&M2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5, sixth in the SEC West)
Athlon: Tax Slayer Bowl vs. Clemson
Sporting News: Birmingham Bowl vs. Memphis
Phil Steele: Tax Slayer Bowl vs. Miami (FL)
ESPN (Schlabach): Texas Bowl vs. Texas
ESPN (McMurphy): Texas Bowl vs. Oklahoma
AP: Texas Bowl vs. Texas
CBS: Texas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State
Tra Carson (Sr., RB): 124 carries for 581 yards, 5 TDs
Kyle Allen (So., QB): 118-of-192, 1,322 yards, 16 TDs, 7 INT
Josh Reynolds (Jr., WR): 52 catches, 842 yards, 13 TDs, second-team all-conference
Speedy Noil (So., WR): 46 catches for 583 yards, 5 TDs
Myles Garrett (So., DE): 53 tackles, SEC freshman record 11.5 sacks
Shaan Washington (Jr., LB): 64 tackles, 2 sacks
Armani Watts (So., FS): 59 tackles, 3 INT, 8 PBU
The Texas A&M defense ranked last in the SEC, allowing 450.8 yards per game, as well as 28.1 points per game, leading to the Aggies snagging defensive coordinator John Chavis away from LSU. They hope the hire reverses a trend of dimishing wins (11 in 2012, nine in 2013 and eight in 2014). Another stat that may help turn things around – the Aggies return eight starters on both sides of the ball.
Key Early Games
Sept. 5 vs. Arizona State (6 p.m. CT, ESPN): While this is officially a neutral site game, the trip to Houston is much easier for the Aggies and their fan base than it will be for the Sun Devils. ASU, ranked No. 15 in the preseason, is coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons so this game will be an excellent measuring stick for not just the Aggies, but also for the SEC.
Sept. 12 vs. Ball State (6 p.m., ESPNU): Regardless of what happens in their opener, the Aggies can’t overlook the Cardinals, a perennial contender in the MAC that returns the majority of a team that won four of their last six games in 2014.
New Orleans football fans are very proud of their first family of football – the Mannings, but it’s well worth taking a look at another family of footballers. Texas A&M senior center Mike Matthews is the son of NFL Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews – and he is one of seven boys in the family. After two years as Texas A&M’s starting center, older brother Kevin went onto an NFL career. Another older brother, Jake, was an All-American tackle for the Aggies, now playing for the Atlanta Falcons. One of his younger brothers has already signed with Texas A&M as well. “There was definitely a lot of fighting that went on, but my dad never let it get too out of hand,” Matthews said in a Chattanooga Times Free Press story. “With all that testosterone in that house with all those big boys, you can’t stop it. Our backyard games always started out as two-hand touch, but the next thing you knew, people were getting laid out.” While Matthews is small for his family, “just” 6-2 and 290 pounds, he has started 23 games over the last two years for the Aggies. He will be a key to the up-tempo offense that has been so successful for A&M in the Kevin Sumlin era.
The family is not limited to just this branch of the Matthews family either. Grandfather Clay Matthews, Sr., played in the NFL in the 1950s. Bruce’s brother, Clay Matthews, Jr., also played 19 years in the NFL; and his nephew, Clay, III, is an All-Pro linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Another nephew, Casey, is a linebacker with the Minnesota Vikings.
Texas A&M’s offense has been producing some top players in recent years and last year the Aggies received a big boost from true freshman wide receiver Speedy Noil from New Orleans. A receiver and return man, take a look at some of his freshman highlights in this video (our favorite is the catch at the 1:30 mark of the video).
Texas A&M capped one of its greatest seasons with a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the 1940 Sugar Bowl. The Aggies were billed as the best in college football, but their opponent, Tulane, was also undefeated, and playing in its home stadium. A&M drew first blood on a John Kimbrough plunge from the one-yard line, but Tulane would score twice in the second half, taking a 13-7 lead. The Aggies returned to Kimbrough, their burly All-American. The 210-pounder had a pair of bruising runs, including an 18-yarder into the end zone on a lateral for the game-winning score. Kimbrough finished the game with 25 carries for 159 yards and the Aggies finished as the undefeated national champions.
Another Sugar Bowl connection for the Aggies is sophomore Speedy Noil, a New Orleans product who attended Edna Karr High School. He was named the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month in October of 2012 after helping his team to four straight victories. He threw for 557 yards and six touchdowns while running for 400 yards and three more scores.