Thursday, October 1, 2015

Grading The Units - Offense

Yesterday we looked at the Defense and Special Teams. Clearly, John Chavis and the team have done some real work. It is impressive to see such a sea change from a group. There is still work to be done, and we have a better feel for where the ceiling is on some of the units are now, but overall, this is a defense that will keep the Aggies in games more often than not - certainly not something you could say the last two seasons.

The Special Teams are in many ways fantastic. Only long field goals are really lacking at an "A" level.

But now we need to turn to what should be the strength of the team and look real hard at where it is and is not what it needs to be.

Offensive line – running game – B-

For a unit that is learning new techniques, this is a group that has had some success. In fact the running game has actually been hampered more by the lack of availability of James White than anything else as Spavital has to be cautious not to overwork Tra Carson. In two games against Power 5 teams, the Aggies have been able to move the ball, and the offensive line has done enough to make sure that happened.

Considering this was a point of emphasis for the team in the offseason, this is a big improvement. Frankly, between this and the defensive improvement, Aggie fans should feel very good about the foundation of this team.

Offensive Line – Passing Game – D

Here is where the unit has done enough to stay in games, but clearly there is work to be done. In fact, if this team is to win any games that will elevate them above repeating last season’s 7-5 record, this is one of the units that is going to have to get it together. 

For now, the coaches have done things like design some runs for both quarterbacks, as well as bootleg the signal-caller, to give the passing game more time to develop, which has helped, but at the end of the day, this unit needs to find a way to straight-up protect the quarterback.

Running Backs – Running Game – B

The only thing holding this group back is the injury to James White. Once he is healthy, this is going to be a real strength of the team. As it is, Carson has been doing well in this phase of the game. He can’t do it all season, so White needs to get back as soon as possible. The team catches a bit of a break as they have but one game remaining before their bye, and it is one that they should be able to win at Kyle Field. But after the bye, they play Alabama and they will need White for that game and beyond.

Running Backs – Passing Game – C

To the extent that Carson has had to block, he has struggled along with the offensive line. On the other hand, as a receiver option, he has been good to very good. Again, White is needed here.

Quarterbacks - B

As Greg McElroy said on Paul Finebaum on Monday, Kyle Allen did amazing things last year as a true freshman. And while there are surely things he needs to improve on, he surely has held his own for most of his time running the offense this year. See the WR section for the discussion of some missed throws as I think that is more on them than the quarterback. Overall, Allen’s decisions have been good to great, and when he has needed to get somewhere with his legs, he has done it.

We are nowhere near his ceiling and he is really just now getting to his 10th game as a starter – not even a full season. But the thing that really impresses me is the composure he has had with Kyler Murray injected into games.  I think most people would understand if Allen let the situation get to him some, but unlike the OSU situation, Allen has not only handled the transition well, it has in some ways made him better. Certainly in the Arizona State game, when he came back in after Murray got injured, he seemed more focused, although in a way, so did the whole team.

Speaking of Murray, what a spark plug! Without saying he is JFF, he sure has that elusiveness and awareness of where the sticks are. In fact, he actually seems more focused on exactly what the situation dictates than Manziel usually did. Surely there are things he needs to learn, and he probably has to work on his throws as well, but that aggressiveness, that competitiveness is there.

Bottom line – you have two extremely talented young quarterbacks that are pushing themselves to be their best for the team. Frankly, it probably isn’t fair, although long term it will bear watching as we get into next year and possibly the year after. For now, though, enjoy the riches of two top shelf players.

Wide Receivers – A/B/Inc/C/C

Christian Kirk is an A. Josh Reynolds is a B. Speedy Noil is an Incomplete and Ricky Seals-Jones is a C. The remaining receivers have been good enough and can be counted on to help out on the perimeter, but really can’t step into the starters’ spots.

No description of Kirk is really needed, is it? I mean, he might have a little more he can bring to the table, but he has been really good in just about every game. Josh has been effective. Noil needs to get healthy but has been effective at times when in the lineup. Frankly, I think the Aggies can survive the State game without Noil, but after the bye, he, along with White, needs to be back and ready to contribute in a big way.

Ricky Seals-Jones has been an enigma for me - I keep hearing good things about him, but then do not see it in games. The comments this week make it seem like the team still feels good about him and that he will be more involved as the season progresses. That is great, but until we see the actual production, it is hard to give him more than a C.

Along with the OL pass protection, this is where the Sumlin offense is sputtering at times and is not the juggernaut that it needs to be. Remember, in Houston and in Sumlin’s first two years, scoring first was a regular occurrence? Remember how opponents came into games knowing that they were going to give up points and had to find a way to keep up?

Well, while the Aggie offense has found ways to score, it is not as prolific as it used to be, and it seems that the flow between the quarterback and the wide receivers has been off. And while Kyle Allen probably has some to do with this, I look at how smooth he throws to Kirk most of the time and Josh a lot of the time, and that makes me think that the issue is more with the route running. Granted, last year was a bit of a wash for Noil, what with the whole thing with Kenny Hill, and RSJ has had a variety of challenges.

So again, the team is 4-0, so what happened to this point is water under the bridge. But between the OL and the wide receivers behind Kirk and Reynolds, things have to change if this team is going to be better than last year’s 7-5 regular season record.

The good news is that the wide receivers have continued to do a good job of blocking both in the running game and after a catch has been made. This is definitely an important aspect that will help separate the Aggies from average offenses.

Overall - B+

Considering that this team came into the year with big questions about a soft defense and a faltering offense, and that they up front admitted they wanted to beef up their overall physicality, run the ball better and play better defense, you have to feel good about what the team has accomplished.

Certainly, the running game is better than last year and something the team can use as an effective tool, even though they have been short-handed at the running back position since the first game. And the improved discipline and tackling alone from the defense makes it better, let alone the effective pass rush. The back end of the defense is clearly better than it was in past years, as the the line. Really, it now comes down to the front seven against the run, and it is hard not to trust John Chavis to continue to improve that.

Looking around the SEC, this team has a chance to cement themselves as the top of the middle tier, with the ability to make the top tier earn their victories, and start to work on being elite on a consistent basis. 

It will certainly bear watching how other SEC opponents develop through the course of the season, but for now, it should be safe to assume the team will be at least 8-4 or better, and if certain units can improve more than incrementally, a shot at 10-2 or better is possible.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Grading The Units After Four Games

Okay, so we have played four games, and there has been enough variety of opponents that we can take a snapshot of where each of the units are for our Fighting Texas Aggie Football Team. As we get ready for the big game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, let’s go unit by unit and phase by phase.

Overall, 4-0 (1-0) is as good a way to start the season as possible. Certainly there are some style points that the Aggies left on the field, but undefeated is undefeated. Question is, how good are they really?

Today we start with the defense and special teams. We will look at the offense tomorrow.

Defensive Line – Passing Game – B+

After the Arizona State game, everyone was drooling over this unit as they simply destroyed the Sun Devils’ offensive line. As subsequent games have played out, though, this is a very good, but not that great, unit. That being said, reasonable improvement will continue to happen as the season progresses. The question is, will it progress faster than the level of opponents? Certainly, the Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU games – and possibly the Auburn game – are ones where this unit is going to need to be at its best.

Defensive Line – Running Game – D

This unit has definitely improved since 2014, but it is still vulnerable to making mistakes that make things difficult for the second and third layers behind them. From John Chavis’ comments on Tuesday, it sounds like he is confident that the problems are fixable, which is great to hear, but even moreso than the pass rush, stopping the running game is going to be very difficult, especially against Alabama and LSU. This is in some ways the most important unit on the team because once this team can stop people from running, then it unleashes the pass rush and puts a lot of pressure on the opposing offense to keep up with the Aggie offense – not an easy thing to do.

Linebackers – Passing Game – C

This unit is still getting its bearings due to injuries and suspensions limiting playing time, and in general, it has been effective in both supporting the pass rush and covering its assignments in pass coverage. To a degree, though, this is almost an incomplete as there has not been a lot of reps for this situation (as in, against Arizona State they never really got beyond the line, and the subsequent games did not present a lot of plays testing the linebackers).

Linebackers – Running Game – D

Again, a group limited by injuries, etc., and one that it working to get up to speed. It does not help that the interior of the DL has struggled to contain the run, putting the linebackers in an almost no-win situation. Again, though, Chavis spoke highly of the defenses effort to stop the run, saying that he needed to work on coaching them up. Surely, the challenge they faced against Arkansas is a unique one – rarely will you see a line that good. Then again, Alabama and LSU are looming.

Cornerbacks – Passing Game – B-

This group has made plays when they have had to. Again, undefeated is undefeated. But you have seen plays showing there is vulnerability here. The games against Ole Miss and possibly Auburn will really test what they can do. The good news is that there has been enough pressure on this group to see that they have the ability to make plays and this is not the concern it was coming into the season, both because of coaching and of players stepping up.

Cornerbacks – Running Game – C

These guys are not afraid to make a tackle and have generally been disciplined when the opposition has run the ball.

Safety – Passing Game – B

Almost an incomplete, it is clear that Alaka, Evans and Wilson are definitely solid players and will break things up.

Safety – Running Game – C

In part, they suffer because as a unit the defense is poor defending the run. But like the cornerbacks, they have been generally good tackling the running and being in position to make the tackle.

Special Teams – B+

The fantastic work we had in the first game did not continue through the next three, although it stayed at a very high and positive level, and there is no reason to think it won’t maintain that level of danger and production as long as the key players stay healthy. It is a real positive reflection on the coaching staff that each part of the special teams functions so well.

As with the wide receivers, if Speedy Noil can get healthy and back to last year’s levels of production, this group can get even better. Scary….

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where Do The Aggies Stand Now?

Well then. Another OT win over Arkansas. What does that mean?

Well, for now, it means that the Aggies are ahead of Arkansas and it is probably safe to say Auburn, and it sets up a fantastic opportunity with the Mississippi State Bulldogs coming to town to put them in the rear-view mirror as a win in that game would give the Bulldogs two losses on the year.

But looking at how State has played against LSU and Auburn, I don't think we can assume that MSU is a win for the Aggies. Certainly not with the way that Arkansas ran against them on Saturday, especially with Dak Prescott still running the show for the Bulldogs.

That being said, if the team takes the lessons from the Razorback win to heart, a win is very achievable as the game is at Kyle Field and will be MSU's second SEC road game in a row. There are some things that the Ags will need to do, but that is another article. Short version relative to this piece, this is a winnable game.

After that comes Alabama, who had some awkward moments against Louisiana Monroe this weekend. Will they be ready for Georgia? Not sure. But then they have to play Arkansas who, if nothing else, will beat up on them. Then comes Ole Miss. Nothing I saw Saturday makes me think those games will necessarily be easier to win. In fact, I would edge them closer to the loss column after seeing the way the OL and defense played. Fixable? Yes. Enough? Yes. But they are not there now.

After that, the games against Auburn, South Carolina, Western Carolina and Vanderbilt remain winnable, but we saw some signs of life from the Gamecocks and Commodores on Saturday, so they bear watching a little more closely.

The LSU game probably moves the same as Bama and Ole Miss - closer to the probable loss column, although again, a lot can happen between now and the end of November.

But bottom line - this game puts the Aggies at 1-0 and feeling confidence that they will improve on last year's record. One game at a time, one season at a time, but this team is still pointed in the right direction.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Aggies Beat Arkansas - The Takeaways

Here are some first blush takeaways from tonight's 28-21 Aggie victory over the Razorbacks.

Start With The Positives

First, oh my goodness, how impressive was that for the team to respond to a real punch in the mouth? Arkansas had this game in the bag, and the Aggies found a way to still win it. Game balls to Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds.

Second, we saw a number of other players step up and find a way to make plays against the flow of the game. Myles Garrett rose to the occasion to make a key stop late. It didn't turn into the game winning points, but it did keep Arkansas from driving for their own FG attempt. Kyle Allen made the important throws late - and frankly was money for those last few series.

Third, more props to Allen for the composure when they brought in Murray again. It really takes someone with a special focus to handle that. And winning the turnover battle? Me likey! Drew Kaser showing he can tackle does not bother me one bit.

Finally, a little perspective - the Aggies won the first half. It may not have felt like it, but they did. They stole a possession with an interception, and they got another stop. Holding an opponent to 7 points in a half is a good thing. Yes, things got real loose in the second half, and we all had doubts, but for much of the first half, it seemed like this was a game the Aggies would survive. Little did we know how close the shave was going to be...

But unfortunately, while there were positives that came out of the game and clearly, this team is better than they were last year, it is also very clear this team is not championship caliber and there is much to fix. To wit:

Offensive Line - not as bad as it could have been, but certainly there are issues. In a huge game that meant a lot, they were not able to dominate. In the SEC, that is a real problem. Especially when the other positions on offense are not clicking. The Aggies won today because they made some really key plays at the right time, not because they were able to dominate the game, frankly, at any point.

Defense - there was a sense of accomplishment from the Arizona State game, and it was deserved. They overwhelmed a young offensive line with one of the best pass rushes in college football. But that masked other issues. Specifically, a run defense that was clearly exposed - granted, but a formidable running game. Also, surprisingly, a short passing game that Arkansas used early to score their first touchdown. True, it was a surprising tactical move and one that I did not expect to succeed, even with the element of surprise on their side. But we knew coming into this game that the linebackers and corner-backs were potential liabilities, and we saw that for much of this game.

While there is gobs of talent on the defense, it is not the Wrecking Crew, and probably won't be this year. What they are, though, is a significant improvement over last year, even after today's showing. They have clear work to do, but they found a way to win and now know where the gaps are. They will be better for it.

Offense/Passing - this is what should really scare people. The Sumlin Offense is supposed to be full throttle, dangerous and effective. For long stretches tonight, it was anything but. While Allen, Reynolds, Kirk and Carson made key plays down the stretch, the pressure this offense is supposed to put defenses under has really not materialized this season.

And I can't tell what the cause is. Certainly, the offensive line struggles don't help. But also for a lot of passes, it appears that the quarterback and the wide receivers are not in synch, outside of Kirk almost all of the time and Josh Reynolds often enough. The smooth plays that Allen makes to Kirk sure makes me think that it is not Allen but the wide receivers, but maybe it is just that Allen has worked with Kirk more? I don't know, but this offense won't be what it needs to be until that changes. Noil, Ricky Seals-Jones and others need to be viable threats otherwise the opposing defense can just focus on Kirk and Reynolds and shut it all down.

One final note - Taylor Bertolet has been good until today, and today he missed a game winning kick. Needles to say, that is not good, but don't jump off the deep end - he has been consistent at the "gimme" stuff that he was missing at times before John Lambo. So let's just know that he will most likely make the stuff we need him to make, but he has work to do on the mid-range stuff.

Summary points

1 - They survived an absolutely desperate SEC foe that certainly has enough talent to win. That shows some real effectiveness under pressure - pressure they will feel again and again. Certainly next week's game against Mississippi State will be at least as intense. And in the games against Auburn, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, there will need to be composure.

2 - They learned a lot about themselves, especially in terms of what they need to work on. There is always value there, if the coaching staff and team leadership sets things up right and the players put in the work to make it pay off.

3 - At least for now, we can slow our roll about beating Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. That isn't to say that there isn't the talent, or that this team can't find a way to win those games. But for now, we have good reason to believe this team is going to have to work to earn wins against Mississippi State and the teams listed in Point 1.

Bottom Line

A win is a win. And a win against a talented but desperate team is big. Eight wins before a bowl game is an improvement for this team from last year, and deserved improvement. But let's not waste the learning opportunity this team got tonight by enjoying the success of the team - rather, let's recognize the team is still a work in progress and make the most of it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Aggies v Razorbacks - more unit v unit evaluation

So after reading through the various takes on the game this weekend, we have a few more thoughts on certain match-ups and the game as a whole. Most of them favor the Aggies, but do not underestimate a few things.

Let's talk in a little more specificity than we did in our earlier piece (HERE) about certain match-ups. Don't miss our other articles about the first look at Arkansas v A&M, as well as Importance of the Nevada Game.

Aggie DL v Arkansas OL

When the Arkansas massive OL is in pass protection, they have yet to give up a sack this season. That changes Saturday as that is due in large part to their opposition. The Aggie DL, unlike their previous challengers, is just too good, too fast, and strong enough in enough places to not pressure Allen some and nick him a few times. At least once they will get the sack.

This is good for A&M because it puts more pressure on their running game to be perfect, and very few running games are perfect.

In run blocking, their OL will be effective, but if the A&M linebackers and secondary stay disciplined, the defense will eventually force mistakes, getting the ball back into the hands of the offense.

This is a great challenge for this unit as they have given up a few big plays in the running game by not staying disciplined, and if they rise to it, it will be a fantastic growth moment for the team as a whole.

Aggie LBs, Secondary v. Arkansas RBs, TEs, WRs

This is the game - period, paragraph. The back half of the A&M defense will need to do their job to contain the Razorback offense and force them to make the mistakes that kill drives and cost teams scores. Frankly, with the Sun Devil OL so terrible, this will be the first real test of Chavis' system. Has it simplified the game enough that his limited talent options at certain positions (CB, to a degree LB) can be aggressive yet not lose containment?

If the answer is yes, then this game should be a blowout barring abject failure from the offense. Considering that the Texas Tech defense - which is not as talented as the Aggie unit - kept Alex Collins from breaking long runs and kept the Arkansas receivers in front of them, you would think that Chavis' players can do the same.

In that case, Arkansas might score some, but probably not more than 21-24 points, and that should be more than enough for the TAMU offense to eclipse.

Aggie OL v. Arkansas DL

Simply put, the Arkansas defense as a whole is not what it was last year, and that includes the DL. On the other hand, the Aggie OL has not been good in pass protection, so this might be a bit of a push.

In the running game, it probably is an advantage of the Aggies as they have worked well to run the ball this season. It is in the passing game that there is some worry for Sumlin's crew. Spavital spoke this week about how the team had been working on establishing a running game in the first three matches and that they expect improvement in pass protection, but this is a big step up from what they had been facing the first 3 weeks.

But whether it is the OL being more successful or it is rollouts and other designed plays to keep the rush from the quarterback, the key on offense will be to getting the QB time to make plays. Do this, and the clear advantage A&M will have will break the game open.

Aggie RBs, TEs, WRs v. Arkansas LBs, Secondary

It is here that A&M has the clearest advantage, and with the way Tech had their way with the Razorbacks last week, you have to think this is where the game turns into a blowout. Arkansas really struggled last week with skill players on the perimeter, but Tech has no one like Christian Kirk or Speedy Noil.

This is why the trick for the Aggie offense is making sure Allen or Murray have time to make good decisions and not make mistakes. If the offense can be effective at getting the ball into the hands of their skill players on a consistent basis, the scoring may never stop.

The Concerns

So that is a lot of stuff on paper. On film. In other words, not this day, these opponents, these referees (and it sure seems like Arkansas has gotten some tough calls of late). Any given Saturday and all that.

My biggest concern - because of the impact it would have on the game, not the likelihood of it happening - is coming out flat. There is zero chance Arkansas comes out flat as their backs are against the wall. If this young team comes into the game with an air of "we bad" like they did last year, this more desperate Arkansas team could really put a scare into the game and possibly steal it. With the OL struggling in pass protection, a hurried interception or a sack and a fumble is entirely possible. That is how the script gets flipped.

Another concern is the Aggies running the ball, but not being able to take advantage of it - either because the QB doesn't have time to make plays or WRs are dropping the ball. Or, possibly, slowing the game down via the run enough that Arkansas can stay close. I do expect the Aggies to run the ball successfully. But if they don't pressure the back half of the Arkansas D until it is too late, the pucker factor may not work in the Ags favor.

The Bottom Line

Frankly, though, those are just things to look out for, not things I expect. I expect Texas A&M to be ready for this game. Between last year's experience, this years team leadership and John Chavis (anyone want to play flat under that guy? Me neither), the Aggies will come out ready to play and prove themselves. In fact, I expect them to be pretty hungry to prove themselves in SEC play. Surely some sense the opportunity there with Auburn and Arkansas struggling. Put Arkansas into major difficulty with a loss in this game, and you can pretty much scratch them off the list of concerns. Whoever loses the Auburn-Mississippi State game will also be out of the running. So with one victory, the Aggies can move past at least two teams with a chance to move past a third the following week.

As for the game itself, I expect Arkansas to run the ball and keep things close for a half. I expect the Aggie offense to be moderately effective - enough to take a lead but not really stretch the game. It could even be tied at half. But unless Spav or the quarterback has a horrible day, the Arkansas defense will eventually buckle under the pressure and A&M will break away. Arkansas simply does not have enough strengths in enough places. In fact, this is a great example of how the Sumlin-Chavis system will separate A&M from the middle of the pack in the SEC.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Aggie Schedule Sets Up Well

Coming into the year, a lot of people looked at the Aggie schedule and was very high on how it set up for TAMU. And certainly, the number of home games and home games against key opponents sure looked like the table was set for success.

Now we all know that a schedule means little in college football when so many unknowns litter the landscape. And as we have seen, many preconcieved notions about the SEC West in 2015 have proven false.

Arkansas? Not a dark horse to win the league. Auburn? Not a national championship contender. Alabama? Can't just reload - some of their talent actually needs to learn how to play together.

As for our Aggies, John Chavis really can work miracles. Holy hand grenades, Batman, has he turned what was a poor unit last year into one that can really beat up on teams, and while the offense still needs to develop, especially in terms of a vertical passing game, they have successfully developed a real running game.

So let's look at the schedule now that we know more about most teams.

First, Arkansas this weekend. Considering the talent gap, it really comes down to execution by the Aggies. If the coaches and team leadership can get A&M to play at a high level, the win should be theirs. But there are a number of things to watch out for as we wrote earlier.

Mississippi State

Then the Aggies host Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are coming off a very successful season based on a senior heavy team. The problem with teams like that is seniors graduate and there are a lot of questions about how good this team will be. The only real result we have to look at for them this season is their home loss to LSU - a team that has played above expectations early.

So how good is this Bulldog side? We will probably know more after this weekend as they play fellow early-season-disappointment Auburn in what has to be considered an elimination game. It will be the second conference loss in two games for whoever does not win with games against powerhouses Ole Miss, Alabama remaining on the schedule.

Initially, I had this as the most winnable SEC West game for the Ags. Now I think the Arkansas game takes that slot with this game probably at the same level or possibly a bit tougher if they can find a way to beat Auburn. Obviously, we will have to see how both State and our Aggies play, but considering their personnel losses, and that it is the first SEC game at New Kyle, it would take either a monumental step up from the Bulldogs or a real dip in form for this to be a loss. Again, the asterisk is still there until we see how they play, because LSU could be a lot better than expected....


Oh boy, this one could be interesting. If the Aggies have matured the way they probably should, then odds are you have them coming into this game undefeated. Bama could very well come into this game on 2 losses as they have already lost to Ole Miss and have to travel to Georgia. On top of that, they have to play Arkansas at home while the Aggies have a bye.

The table could not be set any better for A&M to get their first home win against the Crimson Tide at Kyle Field in SEC play. Then again, Alabama is still extremely more talented and by the time they face the Aggies, they will have been through more games and had an opportunity to see which players were settling out and which ones needed to be replaced.

This is still going to be a very tough game, but it certainly seems like the window is cracked a touch more than it was coming into the season. Both teams have some big games between now and then, so we will know more as we get closer, but suffice to say, I am super excited about seeing how this team would fare playing against a one-loss Tide team with a chance to stay undefeated.

At Ole Miss

No real change here. If anything, this game has gotten tougher as Mississippi now has the confidence of having beaten Alabama on the road, and we know what that does to a team.

The challenge for the Aggies is that Ole Miss does not have a real challenge between now and then. They host Vandy this weekend, then go to Florida the following week. That might require some effort, but it isn't like having to go to Death Valley or Tuscaloosa. Then they host New Mexico State before traveling to Memphis the weekend before the game against A&M.

Barring injuries, the Aggies are really going to have to elevate their play to take a win in this game.

South Carolina

Trap game. No other way to put it. The Gamecocks' season is going in the toilet and will likely be a lost cause by the time they come to Kyle Field. With what happened last year, this is definitely a game they might get up for and the Ol Ball Coach has been known to pull out an upset or two. No matter the record the team comes into this game with, it will be a natural let down from having prepared to play the Tide and Ole Miss.

This is a game that should not be a challenge on paper. This is a game that is all about mental preparation and execution, especially with Auburn up next. If the Aggies get caught looking forward to War Eagle, it could cost them.


Who knows where Auburn will be when this game happens. Already, they are wheels-off and starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback and their defense just pulled an Aggies at Bama circa 2014 in their game against LSU.

This is another place where the schedule helps the Aggies as War Eagle will have to play Ole Miss the week before they come to Kyle Field. Even if they survive their game against Mississippi State and games at Kentucky and Arkansas, that Ole Miss game will be a physical test. In fact, the back to back to back of Arkansas, Ole Miss and the Aggies will make it very difficult for what has already proven to be a thin roster to survive.

That being said, these Tigers certainly have the talent if their coaching and team leadership can get their act together. And like South Carolina, this is a revenge game for the opponent.

Western Carolina

Surely this game should not be a question, but rather a chance to rest some nicks and cuts, bumps and bruises, but this team is still very very young (three leading tacklers are sophomores) and so staying focused is going to be important.

Here is where the let downs against Ball State and Nevada make me a little nervous....

At Vanderbilt

This is a road game in the SEC, so it should not be taken lightly, but if there is a team in the SEC that is falling behind the pack, it is the Commodores. This game is sandwiched between games against Kentucky and at Tennessee, so probably not one that Vandy will be super excited for.

It also sounds like there might be a decent traveling contingent. This is another focus game where it is going to be important for the coaches and team leaders to keep everyone on target.

At Louisiana State University

Oh, the game this could turn out to be. The great news for the Aggies is that unlike the A&M schedule, LSU comes into this game having had to play Ole Miss on the road. Yes, the Aggies have to travel as well, but it is to Vanderbilt after a game against Western Carolina, whereas the Bayou Bengals will have to face Arkansas then travel to Ole Miss before hosting the Aggies, interestingly similar to Auburn.

Like the Aggies, we simply don't know enough about LSU to really forecast this game well. What we do know is their defense has not taken any sort of step back, which is not really a surprise although I am sure some hoped the loss of Chavis might slow their roll a bit. Unluckily for the Ags, at least for this season, that does not appear to be happening. They also have a monster running game.

The question is whether a high-powered, hurry up offense can force them out of their game plan as we certainly have not seen them be able to pass very well. The great thing is the Ole Miss game the week before ought to give us a good barometer of where their current weaknesses might be.


The bottom line here is that this is still a very young team that is figuring out what works best for them. That "figuring out" makes me nervous against Arkansas and Mississippi State, but I think it is a good bet that Sumlin and Co. find a way to get those victories. That leaves the Alabama game as the first real chance for a loss, and at this point, it is a huge unknown. The Ole Miss game after that is likely a loss unless some real magic is happening in College Station.

After that pair, that could be 1 or 2 losses, the Aggies then need to avoid let downs to keep winning before the game in Louisiana.

Barring a real collapse, this team should end up somewhere between 8-4 and 10-2, which is a moderate improvement on last year, but more importantly, for a sophomore heavy team, is a great foundation for the next two seasons.

My educated guess at this point has the Aggies losing to Ole Miss and probably Louisiana State and one other game - either Alabama or a trap game - for a 9-3 season.