Today we continue our conference wide preview and take a look at Texas A&M, the new comer in the SEC West. The 2011 season will be briefly reviewed and a team by team break down of the schedule will be included along with a couple of keys to the season. Stats and returning starters will come from Phil Steele.
Coach: Kevin Sumlin (0-0 at Texas A&M)
Team: Texas A&M Aggies
Last Season: 2011 was a tale of two halves in College Station. The Aggies finished with a 7-6 record in 2011, but the real story was what could have been. Four times in 2011 A&M saw double digit leads evaporate into losses. Two of those teams will be on the slate in 2012 (Arkansas and Missouri). The Aggies got off to a solid start by rolling up and coming SMU and Idaho. Half time of game three saw the Aggies post a 20-3 half time lead over Oklahoma State. Turnovers and a hot OSU offense doomed the Aggies to a 29-30 loss. Week four against new division rival saw the same thing. A 35-17 half time lead wasted away as the Hogs mounted a furious comeback to knock Texas A&M to 2-2 in the W-L column. The Aggies bounced back to post three straight wins (Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa state), including a 55-28 pasting of Baylor led by Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. Old demons came back to haunt A&M as the Aggies would drop two of the next three, both in over time. Those games again saw the Aggies post double digit leads against Missouri and Kansas State, with the Kansas State game going to four over times. A&M rolled Kansas the following week before losing a closely contested game to bitter instate rival Texas.
Best case/Worst case: (9-3/5-7) A&M has a fairly daunting task. The Aggies have a new coach, a new quarterback, and play in the toughest division in football this side of the NFC East. With everything breaking their way, 2012 could see a 9-3 regular season for Texas A&M. If the breaks go against them, the Aggies could spend the Bowl season at home.
Texas A&M opens the season on the road against Louisiana Tech which should be a helmet win for the Aggies. Week two, A&M gets introduced to SEC Football, when the Gators roll into town. Will Muschamp has experience against A&M in College Station, as well as the spread offense that Sumlin will be installing. Despite Florida's struggles in 2011, the Gator defense should be good enough to find a win. The Aggies will finish September with wins against SMU and South Carolina State before taking on Arkansas. An October 6 trip to Oxford will end with the Aggies notching their first SEC win. LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama will be a tough gauntlet with the last three of those games being on the road. A&M will do well to pick up a win. Sumlin's Aggies will end the season with a two game home stand against pay for play fodder Sam Houston State before taking on old Big 12 foe Missouri. The Aggies and Missouri went to overtime in 2011, but November could very well put a beating on this team that you can't prepare for.
Sumlin will take A&M bowling in 2012, but the Aggies will be traveling between Christmas and New Years. La Tech, SMU, SCSU, and Sam Houston State are pay check wins. Hugh Freeze has serious work to do in Oxford and the Rebels should be the fifth win for Texas A&M. I expect the Aggies to knock off an SEC team (think Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State, or Missouri) to get bowl eligible.
Losses: Arkansas, LSU, Alabama.
Toss up: Florida, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri.
Show up and win: La Tech, SMU, SCSU, Sam Houston State.
Keys: In 2011, A&M struggled mightly in the second half of ball games. This is a sign of not only wearing down physically, but mentally. That is a bad habit to have in the SEC West. Can Sumlin turn the program around? Yes. Can the Aggies finally put their intense passion and deep resources to work and focus them into becoming a top 10 program? Yes. But it won't happen in 2012. The Aggies return four starters on the offensive line, but lost 4 key back ups. As we have seen in this league, it is not about your best 20 players, it about your best 45 players. Depth could be an issue for the Aggies in the SEC West.
Other LOHD previews:
Bryant Roberts is a life long SEC fan, has 2 autographed pictures of Steve Spurrier, is addicted to BBQ, and a graduate of Presbyterian College. Follow him on twitter here.