December 29 College Bowl Picks: Liberty, Russell Athletic, and Texas Bowls

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Nov 1, 2014; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers celebrate after scoring against the TCU Horned Frogs at Milan Puskar Stadium. TCU Horned Frogs defeated West Virginia Mountaineers 31-30. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 is winding quickly to a close, but the postseason is nowhere near done. The December 29 college bowl picks include three bowls: the Liberty, Russell Athletic, and Texas Bowls.

Unlike some of the pre-Christmas games, the three on Monday involve teams from power five conferences with recognizable names. The SEC, ACC, and Big 12 are all represented in these contests — the Big 12 is in all three, so their conference has the most to gain or lose from the proceedings.

Who takes these three bowls and ends their season the right way?

December 29 College Bowl Picks: Liberty Bowl

Texas A&M vs. West Virginia (-3.5) | Memphis, TN | 2pm ET (ESPN)

In a way, this is an all-Big 12 matchup; a meeting of the conference’s old and new. Texas A&M used to be a part of their conference, and West Virginia couldn’t flee from the Big East to get there fast enough. The Big 12’s pride might be a tiny bit on the line here.

Things started so well for the Aggies this year. On opening night all the way back in August, they pounded South Carolina on the road and ran through a bunch of minor opponents by gigantic margins before beating Arkansas in overtime to move to 5-0. In late September, A&M was ranked sixth in the nation.

Sadly for them, they finished the season going 2-5 over their last seven. The Ags played just three games in October, but they were brutal: #12 Mississippi State, #3 Ole Miss, and #7 Alabama. They lost them all and that was about that. A&M earned one big win over #3 Auburn but lost every other SEC game of note late in the season.

West Virginia is a team that also tasted the blessings of the rankings. After beating Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers were ranked number 20, but they too backslid to a 7-5 record.

Both of these teams have offenses that performed well overall in 2014, though on A&M’s part, the good season averages were heavily padded early in the year and sheared away late. For example, the Ags averaged 47.8 points per game in their first six and 21 ppg in their last six. Quarterback Kenny Hill went from a Heisman contender in September to suspended and benched by season’s end.

West Virginia’s arc was less depressing, though disappointing. Their offense was more consistent than A&Ms and their defense was tolerable. At present, it is ranked 61st in scoring defense with 26.2 per game and 59th in total defense at 388.6 yards per game. Not great, but not terrible.

The A&M offense is flat recently and their overall trajectory has been down for a long stretch of time, which concerns me quite a bit in picking this game.

West Virginia -3.5

Next: Russell Athletic Bowl