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1. Aggies in flux
A&M fans never hesitate to tell you how talented their team is. It is often true, often not, but that isn't the point. Aggie Confidence never wavers.
Kevin Sumlin looks, walks and talks like a badass. He oozes confidence and hypnotizes you even when he is simply delivering the same coachspeak you hear from everybody else.
Sumlin's staff was exciting: air raid disciple Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator, Jim Tressel disciple Mark Snyder on defense. And because the bones of this program were solid, Sumlin was in position to deliver the one thing A&M didn't have: late-game confidence.
I wrote that more than two seasons ago, after A&M's classic upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Everything about Sumlin's presence made perfect sense in his first season. A team that couldn't close games in 2011 suddenly could. Sumlin's Aggies were an unstoppable killing machine on offense and had a defense athletic enough to make the right plays. A&M went 11-2, peaking with not only a win over eventual national champion Alabama, but an incredible Cotton Bowl performance over an Oklahoma that finished ninth in the F/+ rankings. Thanks to the late heights, A&M finished second in F/+.
The defense stumbled in 2013 thanks to the loss of all-world playmaker Damontre Moore and most of the rest of the front seven. The defense was too young, but the wins continued. Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans made A&M's offense even scarier -- second in Off. S&P+ in 2012, first in 2013 -- and only tight losses to Alabama and Auburn marred an 8-2 start. At that point, Sumlin was 19-4 and recruiting well enough to envision the Aggies as fixtures in the top 10, despite life in the nation's toughest division.
Since then, Texas A&M is 9-7. Losses to LSU and Missouri ended Manziel's career on a frustrating note, and while the defense improved in 2014, it wasn't enough. With youth all over and not nearly enough discipline, A&M slipped to 8-5 and 42nd in F/+.
Swagger only matters when you've got your other bases covered. Sumlin signs great recruiting classes and plays his star recruits early. But when combined with some off-the-field issues, this has resulted in a two-deep too young to succeed, even by the standards of a program that produced the first redshirt freshman Heisman winner.
A&M is in flux. Because of the highs, the Aggies are still a top-15 program in five-year averages and have been recruiting at a top-10 level. But no one has much faith in them.
The Aggies boast an offense that is young but all sorts of dangerous, and Sumlin hired one hell of a defensive coordinator to right that ship: longtime LSU D.C. John Chavis. The last time so many of us wrote the Aggies off, they won 11 games. There is upside for another surprise, even if every other team in the SEC West has similar upside.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 42|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|28-Aug||at South Carolina||38||52-28||W||92%||33.2||99%|
|4-Oct||at Mississippi State||13||31-48||L||25%||-15.9||0%|
|29-Dec||vs. West Virginia||40||45-37||W||88%||27.5||97%|
|Points Per Game||35.2||28||28.1||77|
2. Sometimes stats and eyeballs see the same thing
Five games into last season, the tone was different. Despite the turnover on offense, the Aggies were rolling behind new quarterback Kenny Hill. On the opening Thursday, they went on the road and emasculated a South Carolina team many thought of as a top-10 team.
And after laying waste to three lower-level teams (including a Rice squad that would win eight games), they survived an overtime battle with an Arkansas team that turned out to be quite good. The offense was averaging 51 points per game and 8 yards per play, and a remade defense was allowing 15 and 5. And while some of that had to do with the schedule, even the opponent-adjusted numbers were sold.
The Arkansas win required magic -- A&M trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter and needed a 59-yard bomb with two minutes left to force overtime -- and the magic ran out. Opponents got a read on Hill, and the defense reverted to 2013 form. Against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Alabama, the Aggies were outscored by a 142-51 margin, allowing 7.1 yards per play and averaging 4.9.
A&M totally collapsed.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 5 games): 94% (~top 8 | record: 5-0)
- Average Percentile Performance (next 7 games): 42% (~top 75 | record: 2-5)
The Alabama game was the nadir, and while it required luck, the Aggies upset Auburn a couple of games later (Auburn lost two fumbles inside the A&M 30 in the final six minutes). Still, while the offense began to find its footing under freshman Kyle Allen, prompting Hill to transfer, the defense never came around. Missouri and LSU rushed for a combined 719 yards, and the regular season ended with consecutive home losses.
The bowl game was a bright spot. After a slow start, the defense made stops during a 31-10 run, and Allen completed 63 percent with four scores against a strong WVU secondary. Still, the 5-0 start begot a 3-5 finish, and A&M headed into the offseason with issues.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||46.8%||20||Succ. Rt. +||118.9||14|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.1||11||Def. FP+||104.0||26|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.2||5||Redzone S&P+||112.8||33|
|Q1 Rk||21||1st Down Rk||13|
|Q2 Rk||9||2nd Down Rk||10|
|Q3 Rk||23||3rd Down Rk||29|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Kyle Allen||6'3, 210||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9950||118||192||1322||16||7||61.5%||12||5.9%||6.1|
|Conner McQueen||5'10, 175||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Jake Hubenak||6'3, 195||So.||NR||0.7000|
|Kyler Murray||5'11, 185||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9862|
3. The Allen experiment better work (and probably will)
Aggie fan HQ
Aggie fan HQ
[Update: To the surprise of very few, Kyle Allen was named the starter over Kyler Murray.]
Even if you remove the output from the two cakey games (Lamar and SMU), Hill's full-season stats were better than Allen's. Without those games, Hill's completion percentage was 66 percent to Allen's 61. He averaged 11.6 yards per completion to Allen's 10.9. He threw touchdowns less frequently (6.2 percent to Allen's 8.1), but he threw interceptions less frequently (2.6 percent to 3.7) and took fewer sacks.
And without the cake games, Hill faced tougher defenses, too. Allen faced LSU (ninth in Def. S&P+) and Missouri (15th), but Hill faced Ole Miss (first), Alabama (third), and Arkansas (sixth).
This isn't to say that Hill is better than Allen, or that dumping Hill following A&M's wretched 59-0 loss to Alabama was a panic move. But while we all assumed Allen might end up starting, Sumlin appeared to have something special in Hill, too. Hill is now sitting out a transfer year at TCU.
Being blessed with two good quarterbacks can be a curse. You probably can't get away with playing both of them, and one is probably going to leave. Five games into 2014, Hill was a legitimate Heisman candidate. He was on pace for 4,500 passing yards, 40 touchdown passes, and nearly 400 rushing yards. And despite A&M's October funk, Hill threw for 400 yards in a comeback effort against a great Ole Miss defense.
Hill showed some questionable judgment and got suspended in November, and Sumlin decided to hitch up to Allen for the coming seasons. Allen's pedigree suggests that will be a perfectly smart move. But the decision to let Hill leave puts an extra level of pressure on everybody. Hill's really good; Allen better be great.
|Tra Carson||RB||6'0, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8786||124||581||5||4.7||3.5||40.3%||0||0|
|Brandon Williams||RB||6'0, 205||Sr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9921||87||379||3||4.4||3.1||39.1%||1||0|
|James White||RB||6'0, 220||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8917||22||153||3||7.0||4.1||54.5%||0||0|
|Kyle Allen||QB||6'3, 210||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9950||17||113||1||6.6||3.2||64.7%||2||1|
|Brice Dolezal||RB||5'9, 180||Sr.||NR||NR||15||104||1||6.9||6.8||46.7%||0||0|
|Jay Bradford||RB||5'11, 196||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9016|
|Kendall Bussey||RB||5'9, 200||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8856|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Josh Reynolds||WR||6'4, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8746||78||54||885||69.2%||15.8%||60.3%||11.3||241||11.2||130.0|
|Speedy Noil||WR||5'11, 187||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9951||73||46||583||63.0%||14.7%||68.5%||8.0||25||7.9||85.6|
|Ricky Seals-Jones||WR||6'5, 235||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9869||68||49||463||72.1%||13.7%||58.8%||6.8||-117||6.8||68.0|
|Edward Pope||WR||6'4, 180||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8970||41||30||454||73.2%||8.3%||58.5%||11.1||100||11.1||66.6|
|Boone Niederhofer||WR||6'0, 207||Jr.||NR||NR||40||29||293||72.5%||8.1%||65.0%||7.3||-50||7.6||43.0|
|Sabian Holmes||WR||5'11, 175||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8439||31||13||197||41.9%||6.3%||71.0%||6.4||24||6.1||28.9|
|Tra Carson||RB||6'0, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8786||12||9||78||75.0%||2.4%||50.0%||6.5||-28||6.4||11.5|
|Jeremy Tabuyo||WR||5'11, 191||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||11||7||102||63.6%||2.2%||90.9%||9.3||17||5.9||15.0|
|Brandon Williams||RB||6'0, 205||Sr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9921||11||9||65||81.8%||2.2%||63.6%||5.9||-39||5.5||9.5|
|Frank Iheanacho||WR||6'6, 225||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9589||4||2||23||50.0%||0.8%||50.0%||5.8||-2||5.9||3.4|
|Jamal Jeffery||WR||5'9, 175||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8767||3||2||12||66.7%||0.6%||33.3%||4.0||-12||5.8||1.8|
|Brandon Alexander||TE||6'6, 238||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9036|
|Damion Ratley||WR||6'1, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8661|
|Christian Kirk||WR||5'11, 200||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9886|
|Jordan Davis||TE||6'4, 262||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9079|
|Kemah Siverand||WR||6'1, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8995|
4. Keep your eye on the ball
A&M receivers were their own worst enemy. For every confirmation of upside, there was a dropped pass, and inconsistency (plus a change in QB) meant the Aggies seemed to have a different go-to receiver every game.
Malcome Kennedy caught 30 passes in the first four games and 23 in the next nine. Josh Reynolds caught five passes for 125 yards against Missouri, then two for 16 against LSU. Speedy Noil caught 18 passes in three October games and 13 in four November games. Ricky Seals-Jones caught 17 passes against Mississippi State and Ole Miss and 12 passes thereafter. Edward Pope caught four passes for 151 yards and two huge scores against Arkansas, then more than two in a game just once the rest of the year.
Despite the loss of Kennedy, A&M boasts a foursome of receivers who have all produced huge games and who combined to average 9.2 yards per target with a 69 percent catch rate. With a blue-chip quarterback, that appears to be everything you could want in a spread passing attack. But consistency needs to show up.
A few more big plays in the run game wouldn't hurt. Hill was a nice bonus, and while Allen picked his spots, he wasn't a threat to scramble for more than six or seven yards. While Tra Carson and Brandon Williams were efficient -- 40 percent of their carries gained at least five yards -- they didn't break many big rushes. A&M had only 17 carries of 20-plus yards, 60th in the country; that's not bad, but it still dragged the ratings down.
This is going to be at least a good offense. Even while losing Manziel and Evans and going through quarterback drama, the Aggies ranked 18th in Off. S&P+. But good isn't elite.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Cedric Ogbuehi||LT||43||All-American, 2014 2nd All-SEC|
|Mike Matthews||C||6'2, 290||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9094||24|
|Germain Ifedi||RT||6'5, 325||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9069||24|
|Joseph Cheek||RG||6'7, 311||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8600||9|
|Avery Gennesy||LT||6'5, 300||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9069||0|
|Jermaine Eluemunor||RG||6'4, 315||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9144||0|
|Jeremiah Stuckey||LG||6'4, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8403||0|
|Ryan Lindblade||RT||6'7, 308||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||0|
|Koda Martin||LT||6'6, 302||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697|
|Keaton Sutherland||LG||6'5, 301||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9201|
|Connor Lanfear||OL||6'6, 305||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9181|
|Trevor Elbert||OL||6'6, 320||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9051|
5. It's been a while since we had to worry about the A&M offensive line
The line personified the offense last year: good, but not up to the standard of previous years. A&M had a nearly unimpeachable line in 2012-13, and while the Aggies boasted another All-American tackle last year (Cedric Ogbuehi), the product regressed a hair.
It could be the same story in 2015. Ogbuehi and three-year starting guard Jarvis Harrison are gone, and while three players with starting experience return (57 career starts), including potential All-American center Mike Matthews, A&M might have to settle for top-30 rushing numbers instead of top-10.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||45.8%||108||Succ. Rt. +||95.3||87|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.6||56||Off. FP+||101.0||51|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.3||53||Redzone S&P+||109.6||33|
|Q1 Rk||78||1st Down Rk||86|
|Q2 Rk||75||2nd Down Rk||47|
|Q3 Rk||103||3rd Down Rk||99|
6. Hello, Chief
Chavis plus the air raid?
Chavis plus the air raid?
Tennessee's defense ranked sixth in Def. S&P+ in 2008, the final season before both head coach Phil Fulmer and defensive coordinator John Chavis were let go. The Volunteers have yet to rank in the top 10 again.
Chavis left for LSU and produced five top-10 rankings in six seasons. His Tiger D was as close to a spread-proof unit as any, and it was consistently dominant against Sumlin's offense. In three games against Chavis, Sumlin's Aggies averaged 15 points per game and 4.7 yards per play.
Naturally, when Sumlin let coordinator Mark Snyder go, Chavis' name came up. And A&M offered enough money to woo Chavis away from Baton Rouge.
On paper, this is perfect. Chavis produces top-10 defenses and will inherit talent that, from a recruiting perspective, is nearly on par with LSU's. He's got nine former four- or five-star recruits on the line, two at linebacker, and eight in the secondary. And youth shouldn't be as much of an issue.
Still, Snyder didn't suddenly become a terrible coach. The now-former D.C. was able to produce elite defenses at Ohio State and top-25 units at USF, and he pushed a lot of the right buttons in his first season in College Station. But his defense was a complete pushover against the run last year, and that might not be suddenly rectified.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Myles Garrett||DE||6'5, 260||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9992||12||41.0||5.4%||14.0||11.5||0||1||0||0|
|Alonzo Williams||DT||6'4, 305||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8658||13||37.0||4.9%||5.5||4.0||0||1||0||0|
|Julien Obioha||DE||6'4, 270||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8721||13||32.5||4.3%||5.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Hardreck Walker||DT||6'2, 300||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8938||13||26.0||3.4%||0.5||0.0||0||3||0||0|
|Daeshon Hall||DE||6'6, 260||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9256||13||19.5||2.6%||6.0||4.5||0||0||0||0|
|Zaycoven Henderson||DT||6'1, 290||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9118||11||8.5||1.1%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarrett Johnson||DE||6'3, 255||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8916||11||6.5||0.9%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Darrell Jackson||DE||6'5, 235||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8333||4||6.5||0.9%||3.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Qualen Cunningham||DE||6'3, 240||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9289||12||6.5||0.9%||2.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Justin Manning||DT||6'1, 300||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9665||5||2.5||0.3%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Reggie Chevis||DT||6'1, 280||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8641|
|Deshawn Washington||DT||6'3, 285||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9333|
|Daylon Mack||DT||6'1, 340||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9915|
|James Lockhart||DE||6'3, 250||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9384|
|Kingsley Keke||DT||6'3, 319||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8913|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Shaan Washington||SLB||6'3, 235||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8507||10||45.5||6.0%||4.0||2.0||0||1||0||0|
|Otaro Alaka||WLB||6'3, 231||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9273||12||27.0||3.5%||3.5||0.0||0||2||2||0|
|Josh Walker||MLB||6'1, 235||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9068||10||18.0||2.4%||1.0||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|A.J. Hilliard||MLB||6'2, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8749||1||3.0||0.4%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Claude George||WLB||6'2, 236||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8640|
|Richard Moore||SLB||6'0, 215||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8833|
7. How quickly can you fix one of the nation's worst run defense?
Overall, Chavis is going to need time to mold the young Aggie front into a coordinated group that gets the most out of its athleticism. He's also going to need to remake the roster by grabbing more coverage players, allowing him to outnumber the run and pack the middle of the field with big athletes.
At LSU, Chavis was aided in that process by Les Miles' hard-nosed culture, which includes one of the most brutish versions of manball offense the modern game has seen. Every day, Chavis' top-notch athletes went up against massive run game personnel, which won't be the case in College Station. Will that matter?
-- Ian Boyd
Texas A&M allowed 5.9 yards per carry on first downs and 6.3 yards per carry in tie games. The Aggies' No. 119 Rushing S&P+ ranking put them behind New Mexico (No. 118), UNLV (No. 117), Miami-Ohio (No. 113), ODU (No. 111), and Idaho (No. 108).
With plenty of size and all the recruiting stars you could want, the Aggies couldn't maintain gaps or discipline, and any run game with a pulse could pierce with ease. And for as well as A&M invaded the line of scrimmage in pass situations -- Myles Garrett had 11.5 sacks, and A&M ranked 21st in passing downs sack rate -- the Aggies were one of the worst in the country at making run stops behind the line.
A&M has all the size and speed you would want. Garrett was woefully undisciplined against the run, but his upside is absurd. Tackle Alonzo Williams is 305 pounds but has enough quickness to have made four sacks, and there could be a decent mix of experience (Williams and end Julien Obioha are seniors, and leading linebacker Shaan Washington is a junior) and ridiculous upside (Garrett, freshman tackle Daylon Mack, sophomore linebacker Otaro Alaka, freshman linebacker Richard Moore, etc.) in the front.
It's almost impossible to imagine A&M's run front won't improve with Chavis in charge. But how quickly?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Armani Watts||SS||5'11, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9160||13||48.5||6.4%||2||0||3||8||0||0|
|Devonta Burns||SS||6'0, 211||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8700||13||44.0||5.8%||1||1||0||1||2||0|
|De'Vante Harris||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9509||10||42.5||5.6%||1.5||0||1||5||0||0|
|Floyd Raven Sr.||SS||13||22.5||3.0%||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Donovan Wilson||SS||6'1, 205||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8224||10||18.0||2.4%||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Victor Davis||CB||6'0, 195||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697||12||16.0||2.1%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Nick Harvey||CB||5'10, 180||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9698||13||12.0||1.6%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Sam Moeller||FS||5'11, 191||Sr.||NR||NR||13||7.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Alex Sezer Jr.||CB||5'9, 180||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8433||12||4.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tavares Garner||CB||6'0, 183||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8755||4||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Noel Ellis||NB||5'10, 185||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9078|
|Justin Evans||SS||6'1, 195||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8762|
|Justin Dunning||DB||6'4, 215||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9388|
|Larry Pryor||DB||6'0, 195||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9294|
|Rodney Elam||DB||6'2, 173||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9164|
8. Fine against the pass
When opponents did feel the need to pass, it was mostly fine for A&M. The pass rush was a strength, and A&M's No. 24 ranking in Passing S&P+ wasn't due entirely to sacks. The senior-freshman combo of Howard Matthews and Armani Watts was solid when the ball was in the air (combined: 4.5 tackles for loss, 19 passes defensed), and corners Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris were decent.
There are two main problems. First, unless the run defense improves dramatically, the pass defense only matters so much. Second, Matthews and Everett are gone. Watts could be a stud, and Harris and safety Devonta Burns give the Aggies a senior presence. But what else does A&M have?
As Ian wrote, Chavis' ability to combine a stout run front with what seemed like 17 defensive backs flying around the ball was what made his LSU defenses so dangerous. A&M has three proven DBs and is relying entirely on potential after that. Sophomores Donovan Wilson, Nick Harvey, Victor Davis, and Noel Ellis all have untapped upside, and a new trio of four-star freshmen arrives. But can the Aggies avoid a dropoff without its two leaders?
|Drew Kaser||6'3, 210||Sr.||62||44.1||6||22||22||71.0%|
|Taylor Bertolet||5'9, 190||Sr.||78||63.1||42||2||53.8%|
|Speedy Noil||KR||5'11, 187||So.||27||23.9||0|
|Speedy Noil||PR||5'11, 187||So.||15||12.0||0|
|Nick Harvey||PR||5'10, 180||So.||4||15.5||0|
|Special Teams F/+||33|
|Field Goal Efficiency||23|
|Punt Return Efficiency||53|
|Kick Return Efficiency||91|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||7|
9. Few worries in special teams
Speedy Noil didn't score any return touchdowns but proved dangerous enough (and, as a freshmen, predictably inconsistent) to assume that A&M is set in this regard. Plus, while opponents had a few decent returns, Drew Kaser's punts and Taylor Bertolet's kickoffs were sufficiently deep. If Bertolet is ready to be more consistent as a place-kicker (he was all over the place in 2012-13), this special teams unit should be fine. It was in the top 40 last year, and everybody but place-kicker Josh Lambo is back.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|5-Sep||vs. Arizona State||24|
|24-Oct||at Ole Miss||6|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||34.7% (13)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||8 / 18|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-7 / -1.5|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-2.1|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (8, 8)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||7.5 (0.5)|
10. Step 1: Find groove. Step 2: Keep it this time.
What a schedule. Texas A&M faces eight teams projected 31st or better, which means if the Aggies are a top-35 team, they could still struggle to reach a bowl.
There's hope for a fast start, though. A&M doesn't leave the state of Texas until mid-October, and while Arizona State and Arkansas are potentially awesome neutral-field opponents, at least those games are in Houston and Arlington. Win those tossup games, beat Ball State and Nevada, and get revenge on Mississippi State -- all doable -- and you're 5-0 when Alabama comes to town.
The Aggies have plenty of pieces. They've got a blue-chip quarterback who played his best game the last time we saw him. Their receiving corps is loaded with both production and upside. Their offensive line is at least good. Their pass rush should be as good as or better than last year's. And while their secondary isn't deep, the starters should be strong. And they just brought in one of the nation's most proven defensive coordinators.
That sounds like a top-25 team, doesn't it? But can the run defense improve enough? A No. 25 ranking might only put you sixth in the SEC West.
The 2012 season was the best and worst thing that could have happened to Sumlin. It proved what A&M is capable of, something that has only been backed up by strong recruiting. But the potential-to-production ratio has fallen. This year, with this schedule, would be a good time to even that ratio.