It’s been a long time since Texas A&M has been able to compete for the Big 12 South title. In fact, in their history in the Big 12, the Aggies have won the South (and the conference) just once, in 1998. They have not won a bowl game since 2001. The Aggies’ last Top 25 finish was 1999.
A&M comes off a 6-7 season where they lost their bowl game against Georgia 44-20. In head coach Mike Sherman’s first year, the Aggies were 4-8.
But there is reason for optimism in Aggieland. An explosive offense led by quarterback Jerrod Johnson should keep the Aggies in most games. Defensively, A&M is switching to a 3-4 and brought in talented defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter from Air Force.
Realistically, the Aggies should be in contention to win 8 or 9 games if they can show some improvement in key areas.
Here’s the breakdown:
The schedule: The Aggies will start off 3-0. They play SFA, Louisiana Tech and Florida International. The first real test comes at Oklahoma State on Sept. 30. If the Aggies are truly better, it is a winnable game. Should they clear that hurdle, they would be 4-0 heading to the showdown with Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.
From there the Aggies get a better-than-people think Missouri, then travel to Kansas.
Then it’s Tech and Oklahoma at Kyle Field, a trip to Baylor, Nebraska at home and the finale at Texas.
If the Aggies can just go 5-3 after the opening stretch, it would mean eight wins and significant improvement.
Offense: The Aggies have a talented offense led by Johnson and Michael. If Jeff Fuller can bounce back from an injury plagued year, the Aggies will have three serious threats at wideout with Ryan Tannehill and Uzoma Nwachukwu.
The offense line struggled at times last year, but true freshman Luke Joeckel is an absolute beast at tackle.
Simply put, the Aggies should have one of the top two offenses in the Big 12.
Defense: Despite the presence of impact linebacker/rush end Von Miller, the Aggies were overmatched on defense last year. In reality, defense has been a problem since R.C. Slocum was fired. The Aggies have lacked speed in the secondary and in the wide-open Big 12, they have struggled.
DeRuyter will make a difference, and some of the freshmen who were forced into action last year should be better this year, but this will be the big question all season. They do return nine starters, but nine starters off a defense ranked No. 105 isn’t always a good thing. The Aggies played a record 18 true freshmen last year, and that should pay off this season.
Coaching: Sherman had a lot of success in the NFL with Green Bay, and he had a mess to clean up when he came to A&M. The talent cupboard was bare. He made a good move hiring DeRuyter, and will call the plays himself on offense. This is a big year for Sherman. If the Aggies can’t take a big step forward, it might mean he isn’t the right man for the job.
Overall outlook: The good news is the Aggies should take that step forward to an eight-win type team. The offense should keep them in most games. The defense will be better, but will need to take huge strides to get the Aggies where they want to go. The Aggies range should be between 7 and 10 wins. They face probable losses against OU, Texas and Arkansas. Key swing games include Missouri, Nebraska , Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Sure wins in the first three; Baylor and Kansas should also be victories.
The low end: A complete collapse would likely mean a 6-6 season. The overall schedule is just too easy for them to do any worse than that.
The high end: They upset one of the top 20 teams on their schedule, beat Nebraska at home and win 10 games. But there probably just isn’t enough talent on defense for that kind of consistency.
Offensive MVP: Johnson is the obvious choice, but watch out for Michael.
Defensive MVP: Miller.
Projected record: 8-4, third in the Big 12 South.
Back to the Big 12 season preview.