Why Texas A&M is a dark-horse team ready to break through as a contender in the 2020 season (Details)

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Will the 2020 season be the 12 months Texas A&M lastly breaks by way of and turns into a contender on a nationwide scale? Texas A&M is a program with numerous custom, a prolonged historical past, a tremendous gameday environment and one of the crucial passionate fanbases within the nation. It is also a program that does not have almost as a lot success as you would possibly anticipate.

Sure, the Aggies have claimed three nationwide titles of their historical past, however the final was earned in 1939. It is a program that has received 18 convention titles however solely considered one of them has come since 1993 — that was in 1998 when the Aggies received the Large 12. It is the lone convention title for the reason that Southwest Convention disbanded and the Aggies helped type the Large 12. A&M joined the SEC in 2012 and made one hell of an entrance, going 11-2 total, 6-2 within the convention, defeating No. 1 Alabama and boasting quarterback Johnny Manziel as the primary freshman to win the Heisman. Life hasn’t been as enjoyable since. Up to now seven seasons, A&M has gone 57-33 total and 28-28 in convention play. 

There are causes to imagine that the Aggies can break by way of in 2020, nevertheless. Numerous issues are of their favor proper now, and if they’ll take benefit, it is a workforce that would discover itself competing for an SEC title and a doable School Soccer Playoff berth.

That is why the Aggies are one of many groups included in my 2020 Darkish Horse Collection this spring. Final 12 months, I wrote about one other faculty in Texas I felt was on the precipice of a giant season: Baylor. The Bears went from 7-6 in 2018 to taking part in for a convention title and ending the season 11-Three in 2019, proving as soon as and for all that I am a genius. Or, at the very least, that I can decide up on groups with an opportunity to take a step ahead. 

Enable me now to interrupt down why I imagine A&M suits the invoice to stand up as a contender within the 2020 season. 

1. The SEC West has numerous query marks: Take a look at the SEC West getting into the 2020 season. As has been the case so typically in current a long time, it is the house of the reigning nationwide champion after LSU put collectively one of many biggest seasons in faculty soccer historical past final 12 months. Properly, almost each key piece related to that workforce is gone, and I do not simply imply Joe Burrow and fellow star gamers. I imply the Tigers have additionally misplaced each defensive coordinator Joe Aranda in addition to passing-game coordinator Joe Brady, who acquired a lot of the credit score for reinventing the LSU offense final season. Whereas LSU may win the division once more, it is extra possible the Tigers will take at the very least a slight step backward in 2020. 

The favourite within the division is Alabama, however even the Tide enter 2020 with issues. Tua Tagovailoa, arguably essentially the most proficient QB in program historical past, is gone, as are all of his favourite targets and different key gamers on each offense and protection. In accordance with returning manufacturing rankings of ESPN.com’s Invoice Connelly, Alabama ranks 88th nationally. In fact, there isn’t any program higher geared up to reload each on the sector and the sidelines than Alabama, because it’s accomplished so seemingly each season. Nonetheless, Nick Saban has by no means needed to substitute a Tua Tagovailoa earlier than.

Elsewhere, you could have three packages with new head coaches in Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas. Three packages with new head coaches who misplaced numerous follow time this spring as a result of coronavirus. Whereas it is not possible to foretell what the influence of COVID-19 will likely be on faculty soccer heading into the season, it is common sense to imagine that packages with new teaching staffs will likely be affected by this shutdown a bit extra severely than others. Then there’s Auburn, which has Bo Nix coming again at QB in addition to most of its teaching workers but additionally loses 13 starters off final season’s workforce.

The Aggies, in the meantime, carry again their senior QB with 36 profession video games underneath his belt, main rusher in Isaiah Spiller and main receiver Jhamon Ausbon. The protection sees eight starters returning, although the lack of Justin Madubuike, who led the workforce in sacks and tackles for loss, cannot be ignored, nor can Charles Oliver’s departure (15 passes defended in 2019). Nonetheless, the workforce’s four-leading tacklers all return.

Merely put, the Aggies enter the 2020 season because the workforce with the least quantity of query marks and essentially the most expertise at crucial spots. This does not harm their probabilities at overtaking the SEC West.

2. A kinder schedule: Final offseason, I projected schedule power for each FBS program within the nation. That passionate A&M fanbase I discussed on the high of the story did not take kindly to my projections as a result of Texas A&M’s schedule ranked third within the SEC and 24th nationally. As Aggies followers identified, they needed to play not solely the required SEC West schedule but additionally drew Georgia from the East in addition to a street recreation in opposition to Clemson. They have been taking part in three of the 4 playoff groups from the 2018 season. What they did not perceive, nevertheless, was that my projections did not simply embrace the hardest video games but additionally nonconference video games in opposition to doormats like Texas State, UTSA and Lamar. That dragged issues down (For what it is price, the Aggies SOS completed 28th nationally and fifth within the SEC in my inner rankings final 12 months, proving once more that I am a genius).

That schedule resulted in A&M going 0-5 in opposition to the groups it performed that completed the 12 months ranked within the high 15 and 8-Zero in opposition to everyone else. This 12 months, the Aggies schedule seems to include three top-15 packages, at most, in Alabama, Auburn and LSU. Alabama and Auburn are on the street, and the common season finishes with the Tide and LSU in consecutive weeks. That will not be straightforward, however no SEC West schedule ever is. Taking the glass-half-full strategy, the remainder of the schedule is far more manageable. It is exhausting to see a loss in nonconference with 4 house dates in opposition to Abilene Christian, Colorado, Fresno State and North Texas, and Georgia has been swapped out for Vanderbilt. That is like dropping AP Calculus for Newbie’s Algebra.

So if the Aggies lose 5 video games once more in 2020, they will not have the ability to level to the schedule as the rationale.

3. A expertise infusion: In the case of recruiting and the extent of expertise on a workforce, context is commonly ignored, significantly within the SEC. Whenever you break down how proficient an SEC roster is, you’ll be able to’t simply say, “they’ve had three straight top-20 lessons, so they need to be a top-20 workforce.” It isn’t that easy. 

To show that time, you do not have to look additional than the Kevin Sumlin period. In Sumlin’s six seasons as coach, A&M by no means had a recruiting class ranked decrease than 18th nationally in 247Sports activities’ Composite Rankings. That is an awesome factor on the floor, and also you see these rankings and understand A&M underachieved underneath Sumlin based mostly on the expertise stage. The issue is that whereas A&M’s lessons underneath Sumlin featured two top-10 teams and a mean total rating of No. 12 nationally, it is common rating throughout the SEC was the No. 5.Eight class. Even in 2013 and 2014, when the Aggies have been driving the momentum of that 2012 season and completed No. 9 and No. 5 nationally, their lessons have been the fifth and third-best within the SEC these seasons.

This has modified slightly below Fisher. A&M’s three lessons underneath this regime have had a mean end of No. 9 nationally and No. 3.25 throughout the SEC. In different phrases, whereas it is nonetheless behind Alabama, Georgia and LSU within the recruiting world, it is handed everyone else up. Plus, A&M’s 2018 class completed at No. 17 nationally. Within the final two years, the Aggies have completed No. Four and No. 6. Mix the returning manufacturing from final 12 months’s workforce with the expertise infusion from the final couple of seasons for depth, and you’ve got the elements wanted for a workforce to take a step ahead.

That is Fisher’s third season in School Station, and that is usually whenever you begin to see the progress made. 

4. Senior expertise at quarterback: In fact, whereas every little thing I’ve written about is nice for A&M, the reality is none of it’ll matter a lot if Kellen Mond does not play nicely. He is the wild card on this state of affairs. Mond enters the 2020 season because the unquestioned starter, however whereas he is improved underneath Fisher, he is been maddeningly inconsistent. As you’d anticipate, he is struggled in opposition to the higher groups. Final season in opposition to non-ranked opponents (A&M’s eight wins), Mond accomplished over 67 p.c of his passes for 7.9 yards per try with 1.75 touchdowns and 0.63 INT per recreation. In opposition to ranked groups (all 5 losses), Mond accomplished solely 55.6 p.c of his passes for five.9 yards per try with 1.2 TD and 0.Eight INT per recreation. 

These numbers could be a little deceptive, nevertheless. Mond spent numerous the time underneath strain when dropping again to go final season. A few of this was on Mond and his incapacity to seek out the receiver and decide, however nonetheless, the offensive line performed its half as nicely. A&M’s OL does not stand out in any specific space of Soccer Outsiders’ line metrics, and it ranked 90th total in sack fee together with 102nd in sack fee on passing downs. Mond was let down by his receivers at occasions, too. There have been 56 FBS QBs who threw at the very least 350 passes final season, and Mond’s completion fee of 61.6 p.c ranked 35th amongst them. His on-target fee of 74.5 p.c, nevertheless, ranked 23rd. Nonetheless not elite, nevertheless it signifies Mond was extra correct than the normal numbers recommend. 

You all the time hope to see your senior QB enhance in his last season, significantly once they have as a lot expertise as Mond. In his third and last season underneath Fisher, Mond does not should show to be an elite participant or the perfect QB within the SEC, but when he continues to enhance like he has the final couple of years, it could assist the probabilities of Texas A&M taking a giant step ahead significantly.

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