Last Updated: 2017-08-30
The Kevin Sumlin era at Texas A&M has been very interesting. Top-ranked quarterback recruits haven’t worked out in the post-Johnny Manziel era, so the Aggies have turned to defense and have put more of an emphasis on running the football. Through it all, Texas A&M has won at least eight games in each of Sumlin’s five seasons and has pulled off some premier upsets in some of those seasons. Heading into 2017, the Aggies, truthfully, look like a tough team to gauge.
A lot of talent is gone, but a lot of talent remains. The quarterback position is still a major question mark with Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight out of eligibility, but the Aggies are in the high school football recruiting hotbed that is the Lone Star State and the program’s conference affiliation makes the school the only Texas university in the SEC. Everybody wants to play in the SEC, right? So, talent goes and talent goes out. It’s just the cycle of life in the top conference in the country. Has too much talent left College Station for the Aggies to meet expectations?
Here’s the thing…Expectations are fairly low this season. Oddsmakers at 5Dimes Sportsbook have a win total of 7 with the under at -115 for Texas A&M this season. They’ve won seven games at least every year since 2010. Keep in mind that the number does not include conference championships or bowl games. It only applies to the regular season.
||Arkansas (N – Arlington)
Total Expected Wins: 7.09
Last year’s transition to more of a pro-style attack led by former UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone went quite well. The Aggies scored nearly 35 points per game and ran the ball very effectively. Their 5.7 yards per carry was the most for the offense since the 2012 season. The passing attack wasn’t efficient, with just a 54.4 percent completion percentage, but it was potent with over 250 passing yards per game. Jake Hubenak, who had 104 passing attempts last season, is back for his senior season. A talented crop of freshmen and redshirt freshmen will challenge Hubenak for reps, with Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond as unknowns, but as high-upside recruits.
The problem for whichever guy gets the nod as the starting quarterback is that the receiver corps is in need of a rebuild. Christian Kirk led the team with 83 receptions last season and he’s back in the mix, but the only others back that caught passes are running backs. That might be the best part of the offense, with two-headed monster Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford back for their sophomore and senior seasons, respectively. Williams ran for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman and Ford, who was backed up a bit, averaged over five yards per carry. With three offensive line starters back, this should be a potent rushing attack, but the passing game is a major unknown.
Replacing the top pick in the NFL Draft is never easy. That’s the task at hand for third-year defensive coordinator John Chavis with Myles Garrett playing on Sundays for the Cleveland Browns. While Garrett will draw the majority of the headlines, given his 8.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 10 quarterback hits, losses of guys like Shaan Washington, Justin Evans, and the defensive end opposite Garrett, Daeshon Hall, the losses on this side of the ball are very significant. Texas A&M had 39 sacks last season and held opponents to 4.4 yards per carry, the best mark since 2012. Expect a big step back in those two departments.
Armani Watts turned down the chance to play on Sundays, so he’ll be the leader and star of this defense. Chavis was formerly the defensive coordinator at LSU, so he’s no stranger to having to replace a lot of studs on the fly. The thing about losing a lot of talent is that the players next up on the depth chart have been blocked for a while, so, while they haven’t had a chance to shine in games, they still have lots of practice experience and game reps in the substitution rotations. There are still a lot of seniors atop the depth chart and seven starters back.
The schedule for teams in the SEC West is always a challenge. Texas A&M has UCLA on the schedule again, but this time the Week 1 tilt is in California. Alabama and Auburn are at Kyle Field, which is one of the stronger home fields in the country with capacity approaching 103,000. The Aggies also play only four true road games, with a “neutral” site game in Arlington against Arkansas. College Station is a three-hour drive. Fayetteville is a five-hour drive, so it will likely be a pro-Aggies crowd.
Win Total Pick: Over 7
There’s no value one way or another on this pick, but we’ll slide the lean to the over because of the lack of true road games and the history under Kevin Sumlin, who does seem to get a lot out of the talent that he has. Though my numbers have A&M as a virtual pick ‘em at UCLA, the Week 1 lines have the Bruins -3.5. That means A&M is favored in seven games and a dog in five. There will probably be a deviation or two, but looking at things right now, it seems very likely that A&M will win when they should and lose when they should, which makes for a 7-5 season.
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