MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia received an invitation to the Liberty Bowl, its rumored destination for weeks. Deciding which SEC opponent would face the Mountaineers took some dealing and shuffling Sunday afternoon.
The Southeastern Conference nixed a WVU-Tennessee matchup before settling on Texas A&M, pairing teams with 7-5 records and coaching staffs that are deeply connected.
Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen was offensive coordinator at Houston under Kevin Sumlin, who has since steered Texas A&M to three consecutive bowls. The Aggies’ offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was quarterbacks coach at West Virginia under Holgorsen.
The game will be played Monday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. Eastern
The rapid reaction:
— Texas A&M has been streaky, starting 5-0 and zooming into the Top 10 before sophomore phenom Kenny Hill encountered attitude problems. After a three-game losing streak that culminated with a 59-0 loss at Alabama, Hill was demoted (and suspended) in favor of freshman Kyle Allen. He sparked the Aggies to a narrow win over Louisiana-Monroe and a 41-38 upset win at Auburn before closing the season with home losses to Missouri and LSU.
— Half the free world was rooting for a Texas A&M-Texas pairing in the Texas Bowl, but that might’ve been too much Texas. Some reports speculated the SEC was scared for the Aggies to face the Longhorns, which would only make sense if SEC officials didn’t see the BYU and TCU games.
— How close were we to watching Tennessee-West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl? So close the matchup was listed temporarily on the NCAA’s website. Ultimately, the SEC sent the Vols to Jacksonville to face Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl (formerly known as the Gator).
— The Aggies rank 101st in total defense and 111th against the run (223 yards allowed per game). They are 109th in turnover margin, having forced 12, which is one fewer than WVU.
— West Virginia received 8,000 tickets, some of which will be used for the band members and internal distribution.