Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. On a loop
Sure, the 2012 team was headlined by freshmen. Quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans were stars beyond their age and gave Kevin Sumlin's Aggies upside they wouldn't have otherwise had. Manziel won the Heisman as a redshirt freshman, and A&M won 11 games in its SEC debut.
Here's what else that 2012 team had: experience. The running backs were a junior (Ben Malena) and a senior (Christine Michael). The receivers complementing Evans (Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu) were seniors. The line was led by a senior (Patrick Lewis) and two immensely talented juniors (Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews).
The defense had seniors Spencer Nealy and Jonathan Mathis. The linebacking corps was loaded with seniors. The secondary had seniors (Steven Terrell and Dustin Harris) and a junior (Toney Hurd Jr.).
The young players provided upside, but they were able to thrive because of the structure.
The stability has vanished. The 2013 and 2014 defenses were ridiculously inexperienced, with recent star recruits and quite a bit of turnover drastically tamping down upside. And after Manziel left, the leadership on offense has been desperately young.
Sophomore Kenny Hill began 2014 as the starting quarterback, then got usurped by true freshman Kyle Allen and transferred. Allen began 2015 as the starter but saw his playing time limited by true freshman Kyler Murray. Freshmen and sophomores made up five of the top six receivers in 2014 and three of the top four in 2015. Meanwhile, the running game has been underutilized.
The last few years have been one giant "whole less than the sum of its parts" experience, and it's gotten worse. After finishing second in S&P+ in 2012, the Aggies have fallen to 12th in 2013, 30th in 2014, and 42nd in 2015.
Only a couple of years after being rumored for NFL jobs and supposedly taking over the state, Sumlin finds himself on one hell of a hot seat. Immediate success sets an impossible bar, and he has gotten further from it.
But if he is to be saved in 2016, it will be with experience. His offensive line has very little of it, but juniors and seniors have infiltrated the two-deep. Senior grad transfer Trevor Knight is the likely starting quarterback. Juniors James White and Keith Ford could carry the running backs. Eight of the top nine returning wideouts are either juniors or seniors. And a defense that improved dramatically under coordinator John Chavis is loaded with experience at each level.
Texas A&M will boast one of the best pass defenses in the country, and while Knight was far from impressive in most of his last two seasons at Oklahoma, he will have one of the more seasoned skill units in the SEC. There are still landmines galore -- a questionable line, a still-shaky run defense, a schedule that features eight projected top-25 opponents -- but one of the largest recent problems won't be one anymore.
Because of recruiting and returning production, A&M is projected to improve by quite a bit in 2016, back to 25th in S&P+. But per S&P+ the Aggies have a better than 50 percent chance of winning in only four games and are projected to win only 6.7. There are four virtual tossups and two likely wins among the first six games on the schedule; I, uh, recommend they win some of those.
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 34 | Final S&P+ Rk: 42|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|5-Sep||vs. Arizona State||50||38-17||W||84%||96%||+21.8||+17.5|
|24-Oct||at Ole Miss||5||3-23||L||17%||0%||-15.0||-14.0|
|Points Per Game||27.8||71||22.0||28|
2. Nosedive, part 2
In 2014, Texas A&M started 5-0 while playing magnificent football; the Aggies' average percentile performance was 94 percent, as good as you'll see for a five-game span. The final seven games: 42 percent with a 2-5 record.
In 2015, it was nearly the same story.
- First 5 games:
Record: 5-0 | Average percentile performance: 84% (~top 20) | Yards per play: A&M 6.5, Opp 5.3 (+1.2)
- Last 8 games:
Record: 3-5 | Average percentile performance: 49% (~top 65) | Yards per play: Opp 5.5, A&M 5.0 (-0.5)
Some combination of injury and opponents adjusting to young players have caused the same issues in back-to-back years. The defense mostly held up last year, which should be seen as immensely exciting, but the offense's collapse resulted in a total restart.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was sent away, replaced by UCLA's Noel Mazzone; Allen and Murray transferred away, with Allen providing a damning critique on the way out the door:
"I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny's era there. ... They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny … and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now. ... A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'"
Your good traits create your bad ones. Sumlin's ability to bring swagger to the 2012 team reinforced his reputation as a players' coach. But young players need more discipline than A&M's have had. We'll see if this offensive reset has the same effect that his hire of Chavis did a year ago.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||43.0%||47||Succ. Rt. +||106.7||46|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||28.0||30||Def. FP+||26.9||17|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.0||100||Redzone S&P+||101.2||72|
|Q1 Rk||16||1st Down Rk||56|
|Q2 Rk||37||2nd Down Rk||58|
|Q3 Rk||119||3rd Down Rk||33|
3. A Mazzone offense
Mazzone has put together one of the more unique careers in college football. He has served as a coordinator under Tommy Tuberville, Dennis Erickson, Chuck Amato, Ed Orgeron, and Jim Mora. He has coached Deuce McAllister, Cadillac Williams, Steven Jackson, Philip Rivers, Brock Osweiler, Brett Hundley, and Josh Rosen.
Mazzone has been at the helm of powerful run-first attacks, dual-threat attacks, and precision pass-first units. He has led fantastic offenses (sixth in Off. S&P+ at NC State in 2003, eighth at UCLA in 2014) and dreadful ones (100th at Ole Miss in 1995, 73rd at NC State in 2004, 115th at Ole Miss in 2005).
Mazzone's 17 years as a coordinator have featured enough aspects that it's hard to define what a Mazzone offense is. Most recently he crafted a reasonably efficient attack around a true freshman (Rosen).
His 2015 UCLA attack ran only 53 percent of the time on standard downs and 23 percent on passing downs -- an even more pass-heavy approach than what A&M had last year. But the Bruins were built well around quick passing and accuracy. The top two targets (Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte) each had success rates at 54 percent or higher, and No. 3 target Darren Andrews caught 67 percent of his targets out of the slot. Halfbacks and fullbacks combined for about five to six targets per game with a 72 percent catch rate as well.
In Knight's best moments, efficiency has been his strongest trait. In an 11-game span that included the final three games of 2013 and the first eight of 2014, Knight completed 62 percent of his passes at a relatively impressive 13.1 yards per completion. Passer rating: 140.4.
Knight was done in at OU by injury, a thin receiving corps, and eventually the emergence of Baker Mayfield. He is not as good as his incredible 2014 Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama would suggest, but Mazzone's system might offer him the best possible chance to succeed. And the simple fact that Knight does bring experience could be a tremendous asset.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Jake Hubenak||6'3, 215||Jr.||NR||0.7000||40||75||399||3||1||53.3%||6||7.4%||4.4|
|6'1, 215||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9008||22||40||305||2||2||55.0%||2||4.8%||7.0|
|Conner McQueen||5'10, 175||Sr.||NR||NR|
|Nick Starkel||6'3, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8671|
|Hank Hughes||6'0, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7893|
|Keith Ford (Oklahoma)||RB||5'11, 215||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9873||71||392||5||5.5||4.9||43.7%||3||3|
|James White||RB||6'0, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8917||55||196||1||3.6||2.4||34.5%||0||0|
|Kwame Etwi||RB||5'9, 195||So.||NR||NR||21||151||0||7.2||8.7||38.1%||1||0|
|Christian Kirk||WR||5'11, 200||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9886||11||54||0||4.9||2.2||54.5%||3||3|
|Jake Hubenak||QB||6'3, 215||Jr.||NR||0.7000||9||53||0||5.9||2.0||66.7%||2||1|
|Kendall Bussey||RB||5'9, 200||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8856|
|Trayveon Williams||RB||5'9, 190||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8949|
|Rakeem Boyd||RB||6'0, 195||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8752|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Christian Kirk||WR||5'11, 200||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9886||129||80||1009||62.0%||28.2%||7.8||65.9%||45.0%||1.63|
|Josh Reynolds||WR||6'4, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8746||85||51||907||60.0%||18.6%||10.7||64.7%||52.9%||1.77|
|Ricky Seals-Jones||WR||6'5, 240||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9869||75||45||560||60.0%||16.4%||7.5||52.0%||49.3%||1.35|
|Speedy Noil||WR||5'11, 192||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9951||46||21||226||45.7%||10.0%||4.9||63.0%||39.1%||1.15|
|Damion Ratley||WR||6'1, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8661||32||15||200||46.9%||7.0%||6.3||65.6%||34.4%||1.78|
|Jeremy Tabuyo||WR||5'11, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||15||9||102||60.0%||3.3%||6.8||60.0%||53.3%||1.33|
|Edward Pope||WR||6'4, 171||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8970||12||8||65||66.7%||2.6%||5.4||50.0%||50.0%||0.94|
|Boone Niederhofer||WR||6'0, 207||Sr.||NR||NR||4||2||7||50.0%||0.9%||1.8||75.0%||25.0%||0.61|
|Jamal Jeffery||WR||5'9, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8767||2||2||-1||100.0%||0.4%||-0.5||50.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Tanner Schorp||TE||6'3, 245||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Frank Iheanacho||WR||6'6, 220||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9589|
|Kemah Siverand||WR||6'1, 195||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8995|
|Greer Shetler||TE||6'4, 215||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Quartney Davis||WR||6'2, 181||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9383|
|Aaron Hansford||WR||6'2, 210||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9318|
|Clyde Chriss||WR||6'0, 175||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9191|
4. No excuses for this receiving corps
Knight will have a deeper receiving corps at his disposal than he ever has before.
Over the last two years, Josh Reynolds has averaged 11 yards per target and caught 105 passes for 1,792 yards. Christian Kirk is coming off of a high-usage freshman season with decent numbers. Speedy Noil played about like Kirk as a freshman before suffering through a sophomore slump of sorts last year. Ricky Seals-Jones is an enormous, if inconsistent, redzone target. Virginia Tech transfer Kalvin Cline is lengthy and lanky. Edward Pope averaged 11.1 yards per target in 2014 before struggling last year. And now there's another batch of four-star freshmen attempting to pierce the two-deep.
In terms of pure upside, it's hard to top this unit. A highlight reel would make this look like the best receiving corps in the country. But consistency has been an issue, and taking passes from ultra-young quarterbacks hasn't helped that. We'll see if a steady hand like Knight, plus another year of experience for everyone involved, can help.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Avery Gennesy||LT||6'5, 310||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9069||13||13|
|Keaton Sutherland||LG||6'5, 300||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9201||8||8|
|Koda Martin||RT||6'6, 300||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697||0||0|
|Jermaine Eluemunor||RG||6'4, 320||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9144||0||0|
|Connor Lanfear||LG||6'6, 320||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9181||0||0|
|Tank Davis||LT||6'4, 295||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8631||0||0|
|Erik McCoy||C||6'4, 310||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8402|
|Brayden Talbert||C||6'5, 300||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Justin Dworaczyk||OL||6'6, 280||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Kellen Diesch||OL||6'5, 275||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9480|
|Austin Anderson||OL||6'4, 280||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8792|
5. Nobody get hurt
It can be difficult to judge offensive lines in the SEC because of the quality of the competition, but A&M's line graded pretty well in the opponent-adjusted Adj. Line Yards rating. The Aggies were fifth in the country, mostly because they kept the backfield clean. Even when A&M rushers struggled, they weren't losing yardage. Considering the youth in the passing game, the Aggie run game should have been utilized more.
That said, the Aggies stunk in short-yardage situations, a.k.a. the only time they were likely to actually lean on the run. Power success rate isn't adjusted for opponent, but 90th is bad regardless. They converted only about five of eight short-yardage attempts.
Running backs Keith Ford and James White are big enough to be solid in these situations, but no matter how good or bad the line was last year, it's starting over to some extent. Those responsible for only 21 of last year's 65 starts are back, and while there are plenty of former star recruits in the pipeline -- seniors Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor, sophomores Keaton Sutherland and Connor Lanfear, freshmen Kellen Diesch and Austin Anderson -- depth could be a significant issue. A&M is only a couple of injuries away from leaning on either freshmen, walk-ons, or both.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.7%||40||Succ. Rt. +||113.6||26|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.3||56||Off. FP+||31.1||37|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||3.6||14||Redzone S&P+||115.1||20|
|Q1 Rk||83||1st Down Rk||35|
|Q2 Rk||10||2nd Down Rk||62|
|Q3 Rk||47||3rd Down Rk||8|
6. Opponents knew to run
The collapse of the offense distracted us from some serious defensive redemption in College Station. Texas A&M ranked 87th in Def. S&P+ in 2013 and 58th in 2014 but improved back to 30th last fall. And while the run defense was still quite bad, last year's No. 82 Rushing S&P+ ranking is still better than 2014's No. 119 finish.
Chavis spent 14 seasons as Tennessee's coordinator and another six at LSU, and he brought a particularly Chavis defense to town last fall. The Aggies improved against the run and were dynamic against the pass. They allowed only a 111.9 passer rating and improved over the course of a given game: Four of opponents' 10 touchdown passes came in the first quarter.
Chavis picked his spots well, too -- on fourth downs, opponents were only 1-for-12 for seven yards and two interceptions.
You did not want to fall behind the chains against this defense because of the combination of awesome pass rush (ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall: 34 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles) and dynamic secondary.
Unfortunately for A&M, opponents didn't have to pass all that much. They got away with running 68 percent of the time on standard downs and 39 percent on passing downs because the run defense was still a dramatic weakness.
A&M was able to get a strong push in short-yardage situations, and Garrett, Hall, tackle Daylon Mack, and linebackers Shaan Washington and Richard Moore all had at least six non-sack tackles for loss, which is indicative of an invasive run defense. But glitches were still prominant: A&M allowed 98 rushes of at least 10 yards, 123rd in FBS.
Almost all of the front seven returns, which certainly can't hurt. But the pressure is on -- the secondary returns quite a few exciting pieces, but that will only matter so much until opponents are actually forced to pass.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Myles Garrett||DE||6'5, 262||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9992||13||48.0||6.3%||19.5||12.5||1||2||5||0|
|Daeshon Hall||DE||6'6, 260||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9256||13||37.5||4.9%||14.5||7.0||0||2||2||0|
|Daylon Mack||DT||6'1, 335||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9915||13||23.5||3.1%||9.5||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Zaycoven Henderson||DT||6'1, 300||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9118||11||22.0||2.9%||6.5||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarrett Johnson||DE||6'3, 260||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8916||13||15.0||2.0%||3.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Qualen Cunningham||DE||6'3, 240||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9289||13||14.0||1.8%||3.5||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Hardreck Walker||DT||6'2, 290||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8938||8||7.5||1.0%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kingsley Keke||DT||6'3, 315||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8913||13||5.0||0.7%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|James Lockhart||DE||6'3, 260||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9384||4||2.5||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Reggie Chevis||DT||6'1, 290||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8641|
|Justin Madubuike||DE||6'3, 245||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9714|
7. No excuses for the line
The upside is obvious. Garrett is maybe the scariest defensive end in college football, and Mack, also a former blue-chipper, held his own as a freshman for the most part. Now, for the first time in basically four years, there is experience to go with the high ceiling.
That also means there are no more excuses. Granted, there are a couple of openings on the two-deep at tackle, where Alonzo Williams and Julien Obioha have departed, but a starting four of Garrett, Hall, Mack, and Zaycoven Henderson could be fantastic, the end position has plenty of depth, and at worst a veteran tackle like Hardreck Walker could fill in in the middle. Monstrous sophomore Kingsley Keke has excellent speed for his size and looked pretty good in the spring.
There are also no excuses at linebacker. Injuries were a massive problem here last year, as of the six LBs to average at least 1 tackle per game, only Washington lasted all 13 games. The effect was obvious when you look at A&M's big-play numbers.
With a healthy Otaro Alaka and Richard Moore this time around, A&M should be able to match attacking talent with a propensity for fewer breakdowns.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Shaan Washington||WLB||6'3, 235||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8507||13||55.0||7.2%||7.5||1.0||0||4||1||0|
|Richard Moore||SLB||6'0, 210||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8833||8||31.0||4.0%||7.5||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Claude George||MLB||6'2, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8640||11||14.0||1.8%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Walker||MLB||6'1, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9068||11||13.0||1.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Riley Garner||WLB||6'3, 220||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8398||13||12.0||1.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Otaro Alaka||WLB||6'3, 240||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9273||3||7.0||0.9%||1.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Dwaine Thomas||SLB||6'2, 230||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8370||10||2.5||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyrel Dodson||LB||6'2, 235||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8796|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Armani Watts||FS||5'11, 200||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9160||13||104.5||13.6%||6||0||1||2||2||0|
|Justin Evans||SS||6'1, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8762||12||62.5||8.2%||1||0||1||3||0||0|
|Donovan Wilson||NB||6'1, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8224||13||49.5||6.5%||8.5||2||5||3||3||0|
|Nick Harvey||CB||5'10, 180||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9698||13||24.0||3.1%||2||0||0||4||0||0|
|Justin Dunning||FS||6'4, 225||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9388||11||16.5||2.2%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Noel Ellis||NB||5'10, 185||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9078||12||13.5||1.8%||1||1||0||1||0||0|
|Alex Sezer Jr.||CB||5'9, 180||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8433||12||4.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Victor Davis||CB||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697||6||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|DeShawn Capers-Smith||CB||6'0, 190||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8722||7||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|CB||6'2, 200||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9800|
|Larry Pryor||SS||6'0, 205||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9294|
|Roney Elam||CB||6'2, 180||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9164|
|Travon Fuller||DB||6'0, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9095|
|Charles Oliver||DB||6'2, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9039|
|Ikenna Okeke||DB||6'3, 200||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8761|
8. A sudden lack of cornerbacks
A&M ranked second in the country in Passing S&P+ last year and returns almost every safety. The combination of Armany Watts, Justin Evans, and nickel back Donovan Wilson in the back should convince opponents to keep the ball on the ground, even if A&M's pretty good at defending the run, too.
Watts, Evans, and Wilson combined for 15.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, eight break-ups, and five forced fumbles last year, a majority of which came from Wilson. Chavis has been as good as almost any coach in the country at employing an aggressive nickel back, and Wilson took to the position like a duck in water.
Of course, you still need cornerbacks. And without Brandon Williams and De'Vante Harris, A&M appears a bit lacking in known quantities. Nick Harvey returns, Victor Davis was successfully aggressive in a reserve role, and UCLA transfer Priest Willis offers an experienced hand. But Williams and Harris combined to defense 17 passes; you don't have to be a spectacular cornerback to take advantage of this pass rush and safety play, but corner could still be an issue here until otherwise noted.
|Daniel LaCamera||6'4, 220||So.||4||63.0||2||0||50.0%|
|Daniel LaCamera||6'4, 220||So.||3-3||0-0||N/A||0-0||N/A|
|Christian Kirk||KR||5'11, 200||So.||20||19.3||0|
|Speedy Noil||KR||5'11, 192||Jr.||11||21.9||0|
|Christian Kirk||PR||5'11, 200||So.||14||24.4||2|
|Speedy Noil||PR||5'11, 192||Jr.||2||8.5||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||38|
|Field Goal Efficiency||49|
|Punt Return Success Rate||34|
|Kick Return Success Rate||87|
|Punt Success Rate||54|
|Kickoff Success Rate||13|
9. Can Kirk kick, too?
Between Kirk and Noil, A&M has two of the scariest return men in college football. Kirk was absurd in punt returns last year, and Noil was consistently strong in kick returns in 2014. Kirk's punt returns alone make this a solid special teams unit, but A&M must now replace two big legs: those of punter Drew Kaser and kicker Taylor Bertolet.
Bertolet was scattershot on shorter kicks (making two-thirds of your long field goals is great, but making only three-quarters of your shorter field goals is below average), and Kaser occasionally outkicked his coverage (A&M was third in punting average and 98th in punt return average), but they were assets. New kicker Daniel LaCamera and punter Shane Tripucka will struggle to match the upside of those they're replacing, though consistency could help.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|10-Sep||Prairie View A&M||NR||45.7||100%|
|1-Oct||at South Carolina||63||6.2||64%|
|29-Oct||New Mexico State||117||29.4||96%|
|5-Nov||at Mississippi State||21||-4.6||39%|
|Projected wins: 6.7|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||33.2% (13)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||13 / 10|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-6 / -5.3|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-0.3|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||65% (59%, 72%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||7.8 (0.2)|
10. Another fast start would be stupendous
Last year's schedule provided a pretty interesting litmus test. A lot of writers saw the Aggies as a potential top-10 team, and if that's what you were projecting, the schedule set up perfectly: A&M was scheduled to only leave the state of Texas three times, got Alabama and Auburn at home, etc.
Others saw A&M as a borderline top-20 or top-25 team; I was in this camp. I saw a schedule that featured seven projected top-25 teams, called it "brutal" in the headline of last year's preview, and got some pushback.
In the end, the schedule only featured five top-25 teams, but I'm guessing by any definition, "brutal" applies to this year's schedule. Granted, there are still only four trips out of state, but for a team looking desperately for stability, the early going includes quite a few trying games: a visit from UCLA, a trip to face equally desperate Auburn, the annual Arkansas game in Jerry World. A visit from Tennessee caps the first half of the season, and a trip to Tuscaloosa starts the second half.
A&M faces a schedule with four likely wins and six games with win probability between 39 and 49 percent. A fast start and strong season are certainly on the table, especially if experience leads to the Aggies exceeding projections on offense. But wow, is this a tricky schedule. And wow, is this year's Hotseat Bowl on September 17 in Auburn going to be interesting.