UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
College Football

Top 25 team preview: No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies

Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Quarterback Johnny Manziel tallied 5,116 yards of total offense during his Heisman-winning '12 season.

Texas A&M's 2013 schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 31vs. Rice
Sept. 7vs. Sam Houston State
Sept. 14 vs. Alabama
Sept. 21 vs. SMU
Sept. 28 at Arkansas
Oct. 12 at Ole Miss
Oct. 19 vs. Auburn
Oct. 26vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 2 vs. UTEP
Nov. 9 vs. Mississippi State
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 30 at Missouri

The SEC title game is Dec. 7 in Atlanta.

Top 25 Previews
1
Alabama
By Lars Anderson
 
2
Stanford
By Stewart Mandel
 
3
Texas A&M
By Stewart Mandel
 
4
Ohio State
By Stewart Mandel
 
5
Oregon
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
 
6
South Carolina
By Thayer Evans
 
7
Louisville
By Zac Ellis
 
8
Notre Dame
By Lars Anderson
 
9
Florida
By Andy Staples
 
10
Clemson
By Zac Ellis
 
11
Texas
By Stewart Mandel
 
12
Georgia
By Lars Anderson
 
13
Florida State
By Andy Staples
 
14
LSU
By Lars Anderson
 
15
Michigan State
By Ben Glicksman
 
16
TCU
By Dan Greene
 
17
Baylor
By Elizabeth McGarr McCue
 
18
Michigan
By Ted Keith
 
19
Oklahoma
By Richard Deitsch
 
20
Boise State
By Lars Anderson
 
21
UCLA
By R.J. Rico
 
22
Northwestern
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
 
23
Vanderbilt
By Zac Ellis
 
24
Northern Illinois
By Martin Rickman
 
25
Virginia Tech
By Zac Ellis
 

Can Alabama make a run at a third straight national title? Can Ohio State replicate last year's 12-0 campaign? Can Oregon maintain its standard of success under new leadership? With the college football season approaching, Sports Illustrated unveils its preseason Top 25.

For more college football preview content, check out SI's 2013 schedule guide, four teams that can beat Alabama package, preseason All-America Team, media roundtable and much more.

The case for

If Heisman winner Johnny Manziel isn't declared ineligible amid reports that the NCAA is investigating if he accepted money for autographs, he'll likely follow the trajectory of other quarterbacks in the Kevin Sumlin/Dana Holgorsen coaching tree (Houston's Case Keenum, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, West Virginia's Geno Smith) and improve on his 68.0 percent completion rate. That will make the SEC's top offense last season (558.5 yards per game) even scarier. Up front, All-America senior tackle Jake Matthews slides over to replace Luke Joeckel on the left side. The receivers, led by sophomore Mike Evans, are young but talented. And the backfield could go four deep with returnees Ben Malena and Trey Williams and touted transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon). The Aggies might not catch defenses by surprise this year, but that doesn't mean they'll be easy to stop.

The case against

A&M sustained tough losses to a defense that allowed only 21.8 points per game last year, especially end Damontre Moore, tackle Spencer Nealy and linebackers Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter. In the secondary, cornerback Deshazor Everett and safety Floyd Raven are indefinitely suspended as they face assault charges.

Schedule analysis

Cupcake is the operative word. While the Aggies host a much-anticipated rematch with Alabama the third week of the season, they open with Rice and Sam Houston State, and later face SMU (Sept. 21) and UTEP (Nov. 2). They do face six 2012 bowl teams but avoid SEC East heavyweights Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

Key stat

100: The number of plays the Aggies had that went for 20 yards or more last season, the most in the nation. They were also second in the FBS with 51 plays of 30 yards or more.

Breakout player

RB Brandon Williams: The former five-star recruit, who rushed for 216 yards as a true freshman at Oklahoma in 2011 before transferring to A&M, showed off his skills in this year's spring game with 88 all-purpose yards. He should be a big-play threat for the Aggies. "He's got real gear with the ball. He can run," said Sumlin, though the coach also hopes the 6-foot, 200-pound slasher can become a stronger, more physical runner.

Freshman to watch

WR Ricky Seals-Jones: Seals-Jones is a top 10 national recruit and the headliner of A&M's loaded 2013 class. The 6-5, 225-pounder out of Sealy (Texas) High should see plenty of action since the Aggies play at least four receivers at a time and rotate six or seven.

X-factor

The kicking game: A&M placekicker Taylor Bertolet had an unusual freshman season: He made 3-of-4 attempts from 50-plus yards, but just 2-of-9 tries between 30 and 49 yards and also missed seven extra points. The Aggies played in only four close games in 2012, but Bertolet's two missed field goals and missed extra point proved costly in a 24-19 loss at LSU. They can't afford to keep living dangerously in this department.

Projected 2013 stats (By RotoWire.com)

QB Johnny Manziel: 3,310 passing yards, 26 TDs; 1,175 rushing yards, 20 TDs

RB Ben Malena: 750 rushing yards, 11 TDs; 165 receiving yards, 1 TD

WR Mike Evans: 1,125 receiving yards, 10 TDs; 25 rushing yards

Coach speak: Kevin Sumlin

SI: After last year, what do you do for an encore?

KS: We just got here. We're still trying to catch up. People are talking about, Well, you guys have a target on you. I don't know why. We didn't win the West, we didn't win the league.

SI: Football-wise, what's the next step for Manziel?

KS: Last year he went from being an athlete who's playing quarterback to a quarterback who's an athlete. You look at the first five games versus the last five games, he threw the ball a lot better, read defenses a lot better. Those are the things he's going to have to continue to work at. Defenses are going to show him some different stuff.

SI: How are the pieces around him shaping up?

KS: We lost Luke Joeckel, but we moved Jake [Matthews] to left tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi to right tackle, his natural position. Very rarely do you have your whole line back every year. You're going to lose one or two guys every year. So from my standpoint, you never have the same team. You've got to get those new pieces to fit. We're going to have to fill in some pieces on the perimeter, but I think we've recruited pretty well.

More College Football

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.