Notre Dame Football 2024: 5 Things to Know About Texas A&M, August 31

It's one of the most interesting showdowns of the first big weekend of college football. What do Notre Dame fans need to know about Texas A&M?
Sep 2, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; /Texas A&M Aggies linebacker Sam Mathews (12) runs the 12th Man flag out prior to the game against the New Mexico Lobos at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; /Texas A&M Aggies linebacker Sam Mathews (12) runs the 12th Man flag out prior to the game against the New Mexico Lobos at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's college football so every game matters.

Week 1 counts as much as Week 11, the first game is a tone-setter, the pressure is on, and blah, blah, cliché, blah ...

Notre Dame at Texas A&M on August 31st really matters, it counts as much as Week 11 - actually, that might not be true considering Florida State is Notre Dame's opponent - it's a massive tone-setter for both sides, and the pressure IS on.

It goes beyond two mega-football schools getting going on the big stage. It's the start of the Mike Elko era at Texas A&M, and beating a what-will-be top 10 Notre Dame team will be everything for a fan base that needs a positive pivot.

For the Irish, win this, and Northern Illinois, at Purdue, Miami University, Louisville, Stanford, at Georgia Tech, Navy.

Barring a total biff, with a win over Texas A&M, Notre Dame will almost certainly be 8-0 going into the Florida State game.

One step at a time. It starts with actually beating the Aggies.

The five things you need to know about Texas A&M, Irish fans, are ...

5. Mike Elko's team almost got Notre Dame last year

There but for a Sam Hartman run went Notre Dame last year against Duke and head coach Mike Elko.

The Blue Devils had the Irish buried. Up 14-13 in the final minute, all they had to do was stop Notre Dame on 4th-and-16.

Hartman rumbled for a stunning first down, Audric Estime scored the game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds to play, and ... 21-14 Irish.

Hartman and company parlayed that thriller into a 33-20 uggo of a loss to Louisville the next week, but that's for another day.

Now Elko has a better group of players and an even stronger defense. And he knows the opposing quarterback, but more on that later.

4. Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman is a problem

He's not on the national radar yet, but the Texas A&M quarterback is being talked about among the hipster NFL draft circles - they don't get out much - as a potential high-round prospect to watch out for.

He completed 69% of his throws last season with eight touchdown passes and two interceptions - he split time - while showing off the running ability to be dangerous.

If this becomes National Introduce Yourself To Conner Weigman Day, Notre Dame is in big trouble. However, when it comes to the giant national moment ...

3. Texas A&M defensive end Nic Scourton is a BIG problem

There's no one who cranked up the off-the-charts enthusiasm and hype this offseason more than Scourton.

The Purdue transfer came up with ten sacks and 50 tackles last season, but it was his unstoppable play in the Texas A&M spring game that has him already in the College Football Hall of Fame. He really is that talented and dangerous, and it's not like the Irish blocking scheme can fully focus on him.

The Aggies lost future NFL Pro Bowl DT Walter Nolen to Ole Miss, but the rest of the front four is special.

2. Texas A&M lost when it gave up lots of passing yards

Even with the help of one of the best pass rushes in college football, the Texas A&M secondary had its issues.

New season, new team, new coaching staff, but A&M got lit up way too often last season going 0-5 when allowing teams to throw for more than 176 yards. Notre Dame QB Riley Leonard has to be ready to go up top because ....

1. Texas A&M might have the best defensive front Riley Leonard will see all year

Speaking of Leonard, he ran 18 times for 88 yards - and completed just 12-of-27 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown with a pick - in last year's loss to Notre Dame when he was at Duke. Mike Elko has the whole offseason to prepare for his former starter.

Again, Nic Scourton will be amazing, and the combination of Shemar Turner and Albert Regis inside won't be moved - Leonard isn't running for 88 yards in this.

Any sort of jelling the Irish offensive line has to do must be done in camp, because it's about to get hammered on. On the plus side, after this, every other defensive front on the schedule will seem like tissue paper to blast through - at least until FSU.

Notre Dame vs Texas A&M Prediction: Early Summer
We'll do this for real in a few weeks when it gets closer to gametime.

For now, the best guess is that Notre Dame's defense will hold up, the Aggie defensive front will be a wall, and it'll be a battle of field position and third downs.

With that crowd and that atmosphere, Texas A&M will get the field tilted just enough to be in control for 57 minutes, but the Irish will pull off a heartbreaker with one big pass play from Leonard to set up a walk-off field goal.

Notre Dame 23, Texas A&M 20
Full breakdown of Texas A&M here in the 2024 season preview

Week 2: 5 Things To Know About Northern Illinois

Pete Fiutak