Coach Kevin Sumlin made a huge splash arriving in College State in Texas A&M’s first season in the Southeastern Conference. The Aggies were 11-2, which included a Cotton Bowl rout of former Big 12 partner Oklahoma 41-13 and they knocked then No.1 and later national champion Alabama on the road. What does Texas A&M and Sumlin do for an encore?
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As this article is being written, there unknown factors surrounding the A&M football program as Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is being investigated for collecting cash signing autographed pictures by the NCAA. With less than two weeks before the season, there is rampant speculation Manziel could be suspended anywhere from two to six games. Most sportsbooks opened the Aggies at 9.5 wins for the regular season; however, most online sportsbooks are no longer taking wagers until this matter is settled.
Let’s start with the Texas A&M schedule which is softer than the guy wearing ‘kittens’ on the Hanes TV commercial. The Aggies are presently favored in every game except against top-ranked Alabama on Sept. 14 and at LSU on Nov. 23.
Sumlin’s crew should have no problems with Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, UTEP and Auburn. The first two from this grouping certainly would not require the presence of Manziel, leaving either sophomores Jameill Showers or Matt Joeckel to run the fast-paced offense, which last year was tops in running and passing in the SEC. What many people did not realize coming into the season was how good the A&M offensive line was. This group kept Manziel upright and afforded him huge lanes to pass or run the ball unencumbered.
Though tackle Luke Joeckel left for the NFL Draft, the cupboard is hardly bare and is led by NFL-ready tackle Jake Mathews, this will be at worst be one of the top 15 offensive lines in the country and probably rated even higher as the season progresses.
Looking into the Aggies other contests, there are four conference clashes in which they will be favored, just likely by smaller margins. Road games in the SEC are never a walk in the park and at Arkansas (Sept. 28) and at Missouri (Nov. 30) figure to be challenges. At Kyle Field, an improving Vanderbilt squad will pay a visit the last Saturday of October and they catch Mississippi State at the right time on Nov. 9th, right after South Carolina and before the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This is where the defense will be called upon to step up and be heard from as five starters return from an aggressive bunch. The defense was underrated last season, allowing less than four yards per carry and giving up 21.8 points a game despite being on the field for nearly 32 minutes per contest because of the offense’s quick strike capabilities. The loss of Damontre Moore’s 12 1/2 sacks will likely be felt, but this is where DE Julien Obioha has to be a breakout star along with the rest of the defense.
By our projections, the key game whether the Aggies are a Play On or Play Against team for our college football picks will take place Oct. 12 at Ole Miss. The Rebels lost 30-27 as 12.5-point home underdogs in 2012 and get another shot with 19 returning starters and full year understanding coach Hugh Freeze’s desires.In the end, Manziel is living life to the fullest, but his ways could be jeopardizing his team and we believe the distractions this has caused will affect Texas A&M on the field as well as off. That being said, I predict that the Aggies finish 9-3, and below the original college football odds.