Oh the month of August. It’s the month where Hollywood releases the 2nd string blockbusters (ex. Total Recall) and all of primetime television consists of “reality” shows or re-runs. Usually this would be a great case for doing something productive like read a good book or even do a load of laundry but one thing trumps over the responsibility and mediocre cinema—the beginning of football season. And this year, we’ll cap off the hottest month of year with the opener of arguably the most anticipated season in Texas A&M football history.
What’s funny is most of the anticipation has nothing to do with how the Ags may actually fare. Ever since Justin Tucker booted that 40-yard field goal that will forever scar any Aggie fan, nothing on the A&M campus was more important than three letters, “S-E-C”. Now the moment has finally arrived. All the speculation, rumor mills, countdowns, ribbon cuttings, flag raising, everything—the move is complete. And in just a few weeks, A&M finds out whether the ride will be an exciting learning experience or a sobering reality check.
In a way, A&M is like a freshman moving into a new frat house. Let’s face it, A&M IS a freshman moving into a new frat house, and now the classes are starting and we’ll see whether the maroon and white can handle the workload. The consensus seems to be a resounding, “No, they won’t.” The main argument? SEC is another class of athlete; A&M can’t come close to that league right now. At the moment, that may be valid. The Ags are coming off one of the most heartbreaking seasons in recent memory going 6-6 after being a dark-horse BCS Championship contender. On top of it, they lose a top-10 draft choice in Ryan Tannehill and half of a defense that already had many questions to begin with.
Even Aggie fans will be challenged. In the Big 12, the 12th Man’s only had to contend with OU and Texas for ultimate fanhood, but now with every school that comes to town or A&M visits, they’ll be faced with the top fan bases in the entire country. Even one of the worst teams in the SEC, Ole Miss, is considered to have one of the best tailgating environments in the U.S. Every facet of the Aggie culture will face a big test this year in the SEC.
Whatever the arena may be, all eyes may have a better understanding when the Florida Gators come to town for the home opener, the expectations for A&M this season are generally low. The public accepts that there will be growing pains and a successful season may look like the Little Caesars Bowl or whatever new post-season creation there will be this year. But recent memory shows that it’s just that type of scenario that the Ags thrive in.
A&M’s lone Big 12 title happened when everyone believe Kansas State would win and go on to the National Title. And it was just two seasons ago that A&M stood at 3-3 with many thinking the season could only get worse and ripping off six wins in a row and defeating two top 10 teams in Oklahoma and Nebraska. Hypothetically, the schedule could set up well for the Aggies to make a splash. Yes, LSU and Alabama have put themselves in another pedestal from the rest of the nation, but the rest of the SEC could be vulnerable.
Despite the elite recruiting, Florida finished 7-6 with the quarterback position still up in the air. Will Muschamp have yet to prove himself as a formidable head coach--making this season just as much of a coin flip as it is for the Ags. With so many question marks, Texas A&M will have a real shot to make their presence felt in the SEC on September 8th the Gators come to College Station. If Muschamp remembers anything from his time at Texas, he knows he’ll have a deafening Kyle Field howling for 60 straight minutes.
Yes, they are currently #10 in the pre-season rankings. Yes, they return much of their team from 2011 including arguably the best quarterback in the SEC, Tyler Wilson. Yes, they have a three game winning streak against A&M. BUT. Arkansas finished in the top-10 last season. And for most of a game, they were being thrashed by Texas A&M. The Aggies owned the Razorbacks for the first half until the eventual 2nd half woes cost the maroon and white a victory. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin knows very much about the 2nd half plagues the Ags possessed last season, which is why he brought in Larry Jackson as director of sports performance (re: strength and conditioning) to make sure fatigue will never be an excuse for a loss. If you need proof that Larry Jackson may be the answer to that problem, the players refer to the coach as “The Black Death”.
Auburn & Mississippi State
It’s been proven that anything can happen each week in the world of college football. Let me remind you. It took recovering an onside kick for Auburn to beat Utah State. The Tigers are fast and athletic on defense but they still miss Cam Newton a great deal and have many kinks to work out on offense. Auburn right now sits in the crowded middle of the pack with Mississippi State. It’ll take a good game from A&M to beat these guys on the road, but it will just an equally good game from the Tigers and Bulldogs to put a W next to the Aggies.
Thanksgiving weekend. Kyle Field. Final game of the regular season and the team you’re playing has beaten you twice in a row on YOUR OWN TURF. Guys like Sean Porter, Christine Michael and Ryan Swope will want a win desperately. I wouldn’t be surprised if A&M has multiple circles around this game on their schedules.
Many bumps and roadblocks line road for Texas A&M this year but the core leaders of this group are seniors who experienced each agonizing collapse of 2011. To the public, this year may be a clean slate, but there’s much to prove for those men in the locker room. And the SEC will get an idea of how worried they should be come August 30th.
Best Case Scenario: A&M gets a huge victory over Florida and rolls into the murderer’s row of their schedule (LSU, @Auburn, @Miss State, @Alabama) at 5-1. The Ags come out of it alive defeating Auburn and Mississippi State on the road. They cap off the season finally getting their revenge on Missouri and finishing the year at 9-3.
Worst Case Scenario: Florida comes to Kyle Field and lets College Station know that it will be a long while before the Aggies are a competitor in the SEC. Outside of Ole Miss, it’s one humbling experience after another and A&M goes to the off season licking their wounds finishing 4-8.
My Prediction: Pandemonium will fill Kyle Field when A&M takes down the Gators and host the LSU Tigers at 5-1 but things will go down hill afterwards. A&M will take one of the three from Auburn, Miss. State or Missouri along with a nice pick-me-up from Sam Houston and go to a bowl game and next season with much to look forward to at 7-5.