2013 Texas A&M football's 10 things to know: How the hell do you top that?

Scott Halleran

How do you beat your best season in decades, especially now that your new conference is gunning for you? An all-world quarterback, a navigable schedule, and a rush of new talent sounds like a good start. For more on the Aggies, visit Texas A&M site Good Bull Hunting.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Nailed it (sort of)

From last year's Texas A&M preview:

In a season that saw Texas A&M lose four games by four points or less, they lost an average of 4.3 points per game to sheer luck and bounces. With neutral luck, it is conceivable that 6-6 turns into 10-2. And it is probably worth pointing out that a 10-2 A&M team returns seven offensive starters and all sorts of four-star talent would probably be a top-10 to -15 team heading into 2012.

Texas A&M managed to simultaneously prove me both right ("they aren't going to win as many games as people think") and wrong ("they won't play like a legitimate top-10 to -15 team") last year. And heading into 2012, the Aggies really aren't that far away from the level of greatness many predicted of them last year, even if everybody has given up on them for a little while. […]

Every year, by mid-October, we reflect on the exploits of some unexpectedly hot, highly-rated team, and we realize we should have seen their rise coming. Last year, it was, to some degree, Clemson (who faded) and LSU (who did not). In 2010, it was perhaps Oregon. I'm not saying Texas A&M will be that team in 2012, but if you're looking for a darkhorse, they are a pretty good one.

For the second straight season, Texas A&M managed to prove me both wrong and right at the same time. I drank the Aggie Kool-Aid and told everybody I knew that I was pretty sure the A&M would be pretty damn strong in 2012. (Pardon me while I pat myself on the back.)

But I thought the Aggies were going to do so despite some glitches at the quarterback position. I also didn't think they were going to be a top-five team. Like everybody else, I didn't even think Johnny Manziel would be the starter in 2012, and I honestly questioned new head coach Kevin Sumlin a bit when he took the chance on the redshirt freshman.

Texas A&M caught lightning in a bottle in 2012. As I wrote when the Aggies beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa for their eighth of 11 wins, Aggie Confidence was finally justified by reality. But now comes the hard part.

SEC defensive coordinators have had time to prepare for Manziel. Manziel's blind side will no longer be protected by an Outland winner (at least, last year's Outland winner), and he will be throwing to an almost entirely new receiving corps. The front seven of a defense that was good but flawed has to be rebuilt. Johnny Manziel has gone from scrappy hero to scourge of uptight columnists. And perhaps most importantly, nobody's getting caught by surprise this time around.

Proclaiming A&M a top-15 team a year ago got a pretty condescending, "Yeah, okay" response. This time around, proclaiming the Aggies only top-15 would be predicting disappointment. The game has changed; is A&M ready?

2. A&M was lucky … and unlucky

There were some losses along the way, but for the most part Texas A&M had some very good injury luck in 2012. Their College Injury Report page from last year is strangely small. The same five offensive linemen started every game. Running back Christine Michael wasn't lost for the season for the first time in three years. The starting front seven on defense missed a combined two games.

I mean, this is almost Oklahoma-in-2000 (when the Sooners lost no starts to injuries all season) stuff. It's worth noting, then, that OU quarterback Jason White went down in 2001, and basically every national title contender in Norman since then has had to deal with a devastating injury at a key time, be it to Jason White or Demarco Murray or Sam Bradford. One can never predict injuries, but let's just say that the Aggies had a pretty blessed run in this regard.

On the flipside, however, the Aggies were also unlucky for the second straight year when it comes to turnovers luck. They recovered only 42 percent of fumbles and only picked off 12 of 82 defensed passes (15 percent, well below the national average of 21 percent), giving them negative turnovers luck of about 3.3 points per game, ninth-worst in the country.

Ten most unlucky teams in college football in 2012 (according to turnovers luck):
124. New Mexico State (minus-6.2 points per game)
123. Virginia (minus-4.6)
122. UConn (minus-4.5)
121. Illinois (minus-4.3)
120. Boston College (minus-4.1)
119. Hawaii (minus-4.1)
118. Vanderbilt (minus-3.6)
117. Texas Tech (minus-3.5)
116. Texas A&M (minus-3.3)
115. Southern Miss (minus-3.3)

Considering their only two losses came by a combined eight points, this could have made a significant difference. The Aggies were good enough to overcome this for the most part, but against LSU, they were 0-for-2 on fumbles, and LSU picked off three of its nine defensed passes in a 24-19 LSU win. Split the turnovers luck against the Tigers, and A&M is in the SEC title game and, potentially, the BCS title game.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 11-2 | Adj. Record: 13-0 | Final F/+ Rk: 3
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
8-Sep Florida 17-20 L 34.7 - 27.7 W
15-Sep SMU 48-3 W 37.6 - 16.6 W
22-Sep S.C. State 70-14 W 27.8 - 21.4 W
29-Sep vs. Arkansas 58-10 W 54.1 - 21.7 W
6-Oct at Ole Miss 30-27 W 39.4 - 26.7 W
13-Oct at Louisiana Tech 59-57 W 34.9 - 25.7 W
20-Oct LSU 19-24 L 27.7 - 17.7 W
27-Oct at Auburn 63-21 W 47.9 - 36.2 W
3-Nov at Mississippi State 38-13 W 43.8 - 27.2 W
10-Nov at Alabama 29-24 W 48.2 - 24.6 W
17-Nov Sam Houston State 47-28 W 43.3 - 25.8 W
24-Nov Missouri 59-29 W 41.0 - 38.8 W
4-Jan vs. Oklahoma 41-13 W 43.0 - 23.8 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 44.8 4 22.5 28
Adj. Points Per Game 40.2 3 25.6 43

3. Cotton Bowl as microcosm

For most of the first half of the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma played Texas A&M exactly as you should. The Sooners kept A&M's offense off the field with long drives (their first two drives of the game went for 34 plays and 13 minutes), they forced a turnover in the red zone (Javon Harris picked off Manziel), and midway through the second quarter, the Aggies had only seven points. The problem, of course, was that OU had only six after settling for field goals on the two long drives.

And like so many other teams in 2012, the Sooners could only contain the Aggies for so long. In the span of seven possessions, A&M scored five touchdowns, gained 394 yards, and turned a 7-6 game into a 41-13 laugher. Contained for a while, A&M still finished the game averaging a ridiculous 9.6 yards per play and gaining 633 yards. A lot of teams had success against the Aggies over a two-, three- or four-possession span; only a couple (Florida and LSU) could do more than that.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 3 3 4 2
RUSHING 11 1 2 1
PASSING 14 19 19 20
Standard Downs 10 9 13
Passing Downs 1 3 1
Redzone 17 11 24
Q1 Rk 8 1st Down Rk 8
Q2 Rk 1 2nd Down Rk 15
Q3 Rk 6 3rd Down Rk 1
Q4 Rk 32

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Johnny Manziel 6'1, 200 So. *** (5.7) 295 434 3,706 68.0% 26 9 22 4.8% 7.8
Jameill Showers


27 44 319 61.4% 2 1 1 2.2% 6.9
Matt Joeckel 6'4, 234 Jr. *** (5.7) 5 11 42 45.5% 0 0 0 0.0% 3.8
Matt Davis 6'2, 206 RSFr. **** (5.8)






Kenny Hill 6'1, 205 Fr. **** (5.9)






Kohl Stewart 6'3, 185 Fr. **** (5.8)






4. It's the passing downs that kill you

A&M didn't have to unleash the crazy, wild version of Johnny Manziel that frequently. The Aggies were 10th in the country on standard downs, mainly throwing short passes to Mike Evans and Ryan Swope, mixing in some carries by Ben Malena and Christine Michael, and moving the ball with strong efficiency.

Strangely, it was when they fell behind schedule that the Aggies became truly dangerous. On second- or third-and-long, it was pretty much Johnny-go-make-a-play time, and Johnny made plays. Manziel's eyes-in-the-back-of-the-head routine, his strangely innate ability to escape a collapsing pocket at the last possible instant and suddenly find himself in the open field with all sorts of run-or-pass options was downright confusing to watch. "How did he know to escape backwards and to the left?? Surely he won't be able to do that again ... that doesn't make any sense." But he did it all year, and A&M had the best passing-downs offense in the country in 2012.

It shouldn't surprise you to learn that passing-downs success is tied rather closely to quarterback play; this means very good things for A&M in 2013, obviously, but with Alabama, LSU, and five other SEC defenses that have now faced Manziel on the schedule, it will be interesting to see what adjustments opponents make.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Johnny Manziel QB 6'1, 200 So. *** (5.7) 162 1,310 8.1 8.2 21 +49.6
Ben Malena RB 5'8, 195 Sr. **** (5.8) 130 752 5.8 5.4 8 +15.8
Christine Michael RB 88 417 4.7 5.8 12 +5.1
Trey Williams RB 5'8, 185 So. ***** (6.1) 59 335 5.7 4.9 5 +4.3
Brice Dolezal RB 5'9, 170 So. NR 17 70 4.1 1.5 0 -1.0
Jameill Showers QB 8 47 5.9 5.4 0 +0.6
Brandon Williams
(Oklahoma 2011)
RB 6'0, 192 So. ***** (6.1) 46 219 4.8 N/A 0 N/A
Tra Carson
(Oregon 2011)
RB 6'0, 227 So. *** (5.6) 45 252 5.6 N/A 1 N/A

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Mike Evans WR 6'5, 225 So. *** (5.5) 121 82 1105 67.8% 9.1 25.5% 67.8% 9.1 144.3
Ryan Swope WR 102 72 927 70.6% 9.1 21.5% 68.6% 9.2 121.0
Uzoma Nwachukwu WR 39 26 471 66.7% 12.1 8.2% 69.2% 11.8 61.5
Thomas Johnson WR 38 30 339 78.9% 8.9 8.0% 65.8% 9.0 44.3
Malcome Kennedy WR 6'0, 200 Jr. *** (5.6) 36 26 285 72.2% 7.9 7.6% 66.7% 8.2 37.2
Kenric McNeal WR 36 19 265 52.8% 7.4 7.6% 72.2% 7.4 34.6
Ben Malena RB 5'8, 195 Sr. **** (5.8) 28 18 111 64.3% 4.0 5.9% 71.4% 4.2 14.5
Trey Williams RB 5'8, 185 So. ***** (6.1) 14 12 171 85.7% 12.2 3.0% 57.1% 11.7 22.3
Sabian Holmes WR 5'11, 175 So. *** (5.5) 9 6 48 66.7% 5.3 1.9% 66.7% 5.6 6.3
Derel Walker WR 6'2, 185 Sr. *** (5.7) 9 8 85 88.9% 10.0 1.9% 44.4% 11.1 10.4
Nehemiah Hicks TE 6'4, 250 Sr. *** (5.6) 8 7 60 87.5% 7.5 1.7% 87.5% 8.3 7.8
Edward Pope WR 6'4, 170 RSFr. **** (5.8)








Boone Niederhofer WR 6'0, 180 RSFr. NR








Cameron Clear TE 6'6, 270 Jr. *** (5.6)








Ricky Seals-Jones WR 6'5, 220 Fr. **** (6.0)








Ja'Quay Williams WR 6'3, 210 Fr. **** (5.9)








Laquvionte Gonzalez WR 5'10, 148 Fr. **** (5.8)








Sebastian Larue WR 5'10, 175 Fr. **** (5.8)








Kyrion Parker WR 6'3, 185 Fr. **** (5.8)








5. Bring on the reinforcements

On most teams, Mike Evans would have been a major story; he succeeded at a rather high level as a redshirt freshman despite only marginally decent recruiting rankings. But Manziel one-upped him, the jerk. Evans returns for what should be another prolific season, but most of the rest of the receiving corps will be brand new. Four of last year's top six receivers are gone, including Ryan Swope; in all, Manziel will have to replace 45 percent of his targets. This is not insignificant.

That said, it's impossible not to be a little bit excited about the youngsters entering the rotation this year. Five four-star freshmen, from big Ricky Seals-Jones to tiny Laquvionte Gonzalez, will vie for immediate playing time against four-star redshirt freshman Edward Pope and sophomores Evans and Sabian Holmes. The upside here is huge, but the experience is minimal. How long will it take some of the four-star prospects to play like four-star college football players?

Meanwhile, at running back, A&M will boast two five-star backups. Ben Malena did a lovely job last year, but Trey Williams and Brandon Williams saw all sorts of hype as high schoolers. Neither really did anything to match the hype as freshmen, but between those two and Tra Carson, you have to figure one will at least match the numbers Michael posted in 2012.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 130.7 3.15 4.24 43.5% 71.2% 16.5% 109.8 4.0% 7.7%
Rank 2 30 4 17 47 24 53 51 82
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Luke Joeckel LT 39 career starts; 2012 1st All-SEC; 2012 Outland Trophy
Jake Matthews LT 6'5, 305 Sr. **** (6.0) 33 career starts; 2012 1st All-SEC
Patrick Lewis C 48 career starts
Cedric Ogbuehi RG 6'5, 300 Jr. **** (5.9) 19 career starts
Jarvis Harrison LG 6'4, 320 Jr. ** (5.2) 17 career starts
Shep Klinke LG 6'7, 305 Sr. **** (5.8)
Ben Compton RG 6'4, 307 Jr. *** (5.5)
Mike Matthews C 6'3, 280 So. **** (5.8)
Joseph Cheek RT 6'7, 300 So. **** (5.8)
Germain Ifedi RG 6'5, 320 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Garrett Gramling C 6'6, 309 RSFr. *** (5.5)
Jeremiah Stuckey LT 6'4, 285 So. *** (5.6)
Ishmael Wilson OL 6'5, 275 Fr. **** (5.8)

6. Replacing Joeckel

The stats don't quite back this up, but the eyeball test told me last year that A&M was the only team that could even threaten Alabama's Best Offensive Line in College Football title; the sack numbers were iffy, but that comes with the territory when you're attempting to protect the watterbuggiest waterbug quarterback of all time.

A&M was devastating in run-blocking, with three-year starters Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews on the edges and four-year starting center Patrick Lewis in the middle. Joeckel, the Outland winner and No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft is gone, and obviously Lewis is, too (it's hard to become a five-year starter). But between Jake Matthews (who surprised many, including me, in returning to school), some experienced guards and four-star youngsters like Mike "Yes, Another Damn Matthews" Matthews, the Aggies should easily field another good line. It won't be as good as last year's, but it will suffice.

Jake Matthews. Brett Davis, USA Today.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 58 11 11 12
RUSHING 35 8 11 8
PASSING 88 17 17 17
Standard Downs 15 8 18
Passing Downs 6 17 5
Redzone 58 60 65
Q1 Rk 5 1st Down Rk 52
Q2 Rk 22 2nd Down Rk 35
Q3 Rk 46 3rd Down Rk 14
Q4 Rk 102

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 118.6 2.73 2.52 38.7% 62.5% 20.1% 123.0 3.9% 11.9%
Rank 11 34 16 60 30 50 30 83 4
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Spencer Nealy DT 13 32.0 4.4% 7.5 2 0 3 0 0
Julien Obioha DE 6'4, 255 So. *** (5.6) 12 19.0 2.6% 1.5 1 0 6 1 0
Jonathan Mathis NG 13 16.5 2.3% 1 1 0 4 0 0
Kirby Ennis NG 6'4, 300 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 15.5 2.1% 2 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Alexander (2011) DE 6'6, 255 So. *** (5.7) 4 8.0 1.0% 1.5 0 0 0 0 0
Gavin Stansbury DE 6'4, 270 Jr. *** (5.5) 11 7.5 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ivan Robinson DT 6'3, 270 Jr. **** (5.8) 10 4.0 0.5% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Alonzo Williams DE 6'4, 280 So. *** (5.6) 7 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Isaiah Golden DT 6'2, 295 Fr. **** (5.9)

Justin Manning DT 6'2, 275 Fr. **** (5.9)

Hardreck Walker DT 6'2, 280 Fr. **** (5.8)

Daeshon Hall DE 6'6, 240 Fr. **** (5.8)






7. A gaping hole at defensive tackle

A&M signed three four-star tackles in last year's stellar recruiting class. The odds are good that at least one of them will become a stalwart up front.

But at least one will probably need to play at a high level immediately following the losses of Spencer Nealy and Jonathan Mathis. Nealy was an occasional wrecking ball in the middle, racking up more tackles for loss than the rest of the line combined. In Jim Tressel disciple Mark Snyder's hybrid 3-4 defense (where the rush/OLB spends quite a bit of time with his hand on the ground), the three designated linemen aren't asked to make a lot of plays, just occupy blockers and bat down passes. But Nealy was a disruptive force and will be missed.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Damontre Moore RUSH 13 71.0 9.7% 21 12.5 0 2 1 0
Jonathan Stewart MLB 13 63.5 8.7% 2.5 2.5 0 4 0 0
Steven Jenkins WLB 6'2, 220 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 57.0 7.8% 5.5 2 1 2 2 0
Sean Porter SLB 13 52.0 7.1% 6.5 3.5 1 4 1 1
Donnie Baggs MLB 6'1, 230 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 22.0 3.0% 4.5 1.5 1 2 0 0
Justin Bass MLB 6'2, 217 Jr. NR 12 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Michael Richardson LB 6'2, 230 So. *** (5.7) 9 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shaun Ward MLB 6'2, 244 Jr. *** (5.7) 8 5.0 0.7% 1 1 0 1 0 0
Tyrell Taylor RUSH 6'4, 230 Jr. ** (5.4) 11 4.0 0.5% 1.5 1 0 1 0 0
Nate Askew SLB 6'4, 225 Sr. *** (5.7)

Cody Johnson WLB 6'1, 220 So. NR

Tyrone Taylor RUSH 6'3, 240 RSFr. *** (5.6)

Tommy Sanders SLB 6'2, 215 Jr. *** (5.7)

Brett Wade WLB 6'1, 225 Fr. *** (5.7)

Reggie Chevis MLB 6'1, 250 Fr. *** (5.6)






8. Wanted: LB Depth

Take a look at A&M's spring two-deep (pdf). Six of the eight spots are filled by players who didn't make a tackle last year; three are newcomers (including two projected starters), and one is a former wide receiver. Now, the list doesn't include Steven Jenkins, who missed the spring with a torn labrum. Jenkins was a steadying force last year along side more aggressive players like Damontre Moore and Sean Porter. But Jenkins and Donnie Baggs are the only players who logged any serious playing time last year. The rest of this unit is as untested as untested can be.

If you're looking to win nine or 10 games, you can figure out a way to avoid catastrophe in the front seven when you've got a fantastic offense. But if you're looking to win a national title, you probably can't. This front seven has to be at least competent, and while there's no evidence that it won't be, it's still a question mark until it proves itself.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Toney Hurd, Jr. BS 5'9, 180 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 54.0 7.4% 4 0 1 1 0 1
Steven Terrell FS 13 49.0 6.7% 4 0 2 5 2 0
Howard Matthews BS 6'2, 200 Jr. **** (5.8) 12 46.0 6.3% 1 0 0 6 0 0
Dustin Harris CB 13 44.0 6.0% 1 0 1 11 0 1
Deshazor Everett CB 6'0, 185 Jr. *** (5.6) 12 43.5 5.9% 3 0 2 7 0 0
De'Vante Harris CB 5'10, 175 So. **** (5.9) 12 25.5 3.5% 2.5 0 1 3 1 0
Tramain Jacobs CB 6'1, 190 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 19.0 2.6% 1 0 1 3 0 1
Floyd Raven, Sr. FS 6'2, 190 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 14.5 2.0% 2.5 1 1 1 0 0
Sam Moeller FS 5'11, 186 So. NR 5 9.5 1.3% 0 0 0 0 1 0
C.J. Jones DB 13 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Johntel Franklin BS 6'2, 200 Sr. *** (5.5) 11 7.0 1.0% 0.5 0 0 2 0 0
Clay Honeycutt FS 6'2, 200 Jr. *** (5.5)

Kameron Miles DB 6'2, 200 Fr. **** (5.9)

Alex Sezer, Jr. CB 5'9, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)

Noel Ellis DB 5'10, 170 Fr. **** (5.8)

Tavares Garner DB 6'0, 170 Fr. **** (5.8)

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ryan Epperson 41 42.0 1 14 13 65.9%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Taylor Bertolet 5'9, 174 So. 130 63.1 65 50.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Taylor Bertolet 5'9, 174 So. 67-74 9-15 60.0% 4-7 57.1%
Josh Lambo 6'0, 215 So. 2-2 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Trey Williams KR 5'8, 185 So. 25 22.3 0
Uzoma Nwachukwu KR 4 19.2 0
Dustin Harris PR 34 12.7 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 89
Net Punting 16
Net Kickoffs 7
Touchback Pct 8
Field Goal Pct 105
Kick Returns Avg 87
Punt Returns Avg 15

9. Just think of the points A&M could have averaged…

…if it had a reliable place-kicker. Taylor Bertolet missed seven PATs and six field goals of under 40 yards last year as a freshman. He missed two fourth-quarter field goals against LSU (granted, one was from 52, but the other was from 33), and generally speaking, he looked like a freshman. He was a hell of a weapon on kickoffs (clearly he's got a cannon), but he cannot give away free points this year.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug Rice 92
7-Sep Sam Houston State NR
14-Sep Alabama 1
21-Sep SMU 82
28-Sep at Arkansas 37
12-Oct at Ole Miss 29
19-Oct Auburn 59
26-Oct Vanderbilt 49
2-Nov UTEP 108
9-Nov Mississippi State 51
23-Nov at LSU 3
30-Nov at Missouri 39
Five-Year F/+ Rk 25
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 11
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -5 / +9.8
TO Luck/Game -3.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 10 (6, 4)
Yds/Pt Margin** -4.9

10. The world stops at 2:30 p.m. CT on September 14

Aside from the LSU game, the Aggies' 2012 season was one for the ages; considering the circumstances (i.e. the move to the SEC), it may have been the best season in College Station since the national title run of 1939. It saw the Aggies' first Heisman campaign since 1957, their first top-five finish since 1956, and their first road win ever over a No. 1 team.

Only an SEC and/or national title run will top last year's (mostly) unexpected success, and Texas A&M's schedule is rather ridiculously well set up for a run at the top five in the polls. The Aggies face just four road games (seriously, schedules with eight home games are just obnoxious) and only one against a team projected higher than 29th. They get Alabama at home and don't host another opponent projected better than 49th.

I don't think A&M will be as good as it was last year -- injuries could be a problem this time around, both lines will regress at least a bit, the receivers and linebackers are terribly green, and we haven't even mentioned the fact that 2012 offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is now the head coach at Texas Tech -- but it might not need to be. Just beat Alabama on September 14, and it will take a pretty decent-sized upset to knock you out of the BCS top two before the late-November trip to LSU. And hell, even if you lose to Alabama, you're still potentially in decent shape for a title run. This doesn't feel like a title-caliber team to me this year, but that might not matter.

I can't wait to see how A&M proves me both right and wrong this year.

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