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Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl Preview: Texas A&M, Northwestern Go Down to the Wire

'You got any tips on how to beat these Aggies?'
'You got any tips on how to beat these Aggies?'

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl, December 31, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: We've all been wondering this for about five years now

The Sponsor: I'm not entirely sure whether it's Meineke Car Care or simply the Meineke Car Care locations in Texas, but it's one of them

The Teams: Texas A&M and Northwestern

How Texas A&M got here: Despite the second half -- or perhaps because of it. The Aggies led at halftime in four of their six losses and were tied with Kansas State in the other. Because of that, A&M ended the season at .500 but 17 points short of an 11-1 record. That's the difference between shooting for the BCS and playing in Houston at the end of the season. The 497 yards per game somehow ended up just fourth in the offense-happy Big 12. It drew heavily on the legs of Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray, both of whom carried the load at different points of the season (mostly Gray after Michael's injury) while the ground attack churned out 209.1 yards a game. The defense was middling in the conference, but the worst moments came with the game on the line, and that led to the outcomes that hurt A&M most.

How Northwestern got here: Despite a five-game losing streak. After a couple of wins at should-be FCS program Boston College and against actual FCS program Eastern Illinois, Northwestern lost consecutive games at Army, at Illinois, against Michigan, at Iowa and against Penn State. With games at Nebraska and against Michigan State still on the schedule, it seemed like the Wildcats' bowl chances were over. But Northwestern managed to split those games with an upset in Lincoln and won all the games they should have to finish at .500 and go to the postseason. Most of that was on the arm of Dan Persa, whose 240.3 yards a game led the conference on a per-game basis despite Persa missing the first three games with an injury.

College football fans care because: It's the last chance to see Dan Persa.

SEC fans care because: There's a solid chance that Texas A&M is going to be on your team's schedule next year.

Watch this game if...: You like watching a game all the way through.

The result: Northwestern 34, Texas A&M 23