No, it hasn’t been the season A&M fans envisioned when the Aggies were a top 5 team back in early October, and a trip to the Liberty Bowl won’t exactly have people falling over themselves to sell out the place.
But you A&M loyals who do make the trip — and we know there’s a lot of you in the Houston area — will find Memphis to be one of the better bowl destinations in the south. Though it’s no Rose Bowl, with its glimmering vistas, or Orange Bowl, with South Beach and warm temperatures in the air, Memphis is a better destination for Aggie travelers than, say, Shreveport or Birmingham. Those were the other options for a 7-5 bunch that still doesn’t have a defensive coordinator and is an underdog to a 7-5 West Virginia squad.
You’ll find plenty to love, as Houston and Memphis are somewhat kindred spirits, especially when it comes to football, beer and barbecue.
CENTRAL BBQ: We all know what good meat is about here in Texas and no one’s underselling that. But I’d be lying if I didn't say the best — and perhaps simplest — barbecue I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting came at one Central BBQ. The sauce is some of the sweetest in the south, so if you pictured dry rub when you thought of Memphis, you’re missing out. The BBQ nachos are an instant hangover cure, with smoked meat, cheese, jalapeños and even bacon smothered atop crispy chips. If you’re going for a meal, the sandwiches are piled high with slaw and sauce, all absolutely delicious. Even the location is perfect, with the midtown location right down the road from the Liberty Bowl.
BREWERIES: Houstonians are no stranger to good craft beer, what with at least a dozen breweries now operating in the area. Memphis isn’t quite on that level yet but four local breweries are making their mark. Wiseacre Brewing’s taproom is the place for your Happy Hour festivities in the area, before you stumble over to the many restaurants in the Broad Avenue area. High Cotton is perhaps the local favorite and it’s also ideally situated next to Sun Studio, so you can take in the musical history of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash before or after you gulp down those dark porters or Scottish Ales to keep you warm.
SHELBY FARMS: Need to work off all that food and drink? Shelby Farms will have you covered, as its among the 20 largest urban parks in the country. Though flat by most standards, it’s hilly enough to satisfy us bayou dwellers, but then wetlands and lakes meander through the park. There’s a six-mile hiking and biking trail that goes straight through the woods, while the Shelby Farms Greenline traverses roads with a pedestrian hybrid beacon at major intersections. There’s also horseback riding, room for dogs to run without a leash and an 18-hole disc golf course for you frisbee bros. The park might be pretty barren in the dead of winter, but a bowl trip is no time to relax on the fitness.
- Welcome Party ($25) for both teams on Friday, December 26 at 5 p.m.
- Get up close to both players and coaches at the Players & Coaches Dinner ($40) on Saturday, December 27 at 5 p.m. at the Hilton Memphis Hotel.
- A free pep rally for both teams will be held on Beale Street on Sunday, December 28 at 5 p.m.
- Pre-game buffet with live music, performances by both university bands and famous Memphis barbecue ($40) just before kickoff on Monday, December 29 at 10 a.m.
The game itself kicks off at 1 p.m. on Monday, leaving you plenty of time to get back to Texas for the new year. And just remember, Aggie fans in Houston, if you need a last-minute impetus to make the trip and get out of town, the hated Longhorns will be playing Arkansas at NRG Stadium that same day.