Aggies Rank Outside Top 10 in ESPN's Early 2020 Rankings
COLLEGE STATION - It's never too early to look to the future. With the LSU Tigers reigning supreme with their 2019 National Championship, it's another victory for the Southeastern Conference.
Over the past decade, three teams from the SEC have hoisted either the crystal ball or the nation's trophy. Alabama has won four times while the Tigers of the Bayou and Auburn each won a title to begin and close the decade. That could be credited to excellent recruiting and coaching styles from the men in charge.
With LSU finishing at 15-0, this could be the end of their success due to the loss of talent. Meanwhile, Clemson will be returning a plethora of players, hoping to keep its dominance for the start of the 2020 era. But while some teams will fall, Texas A&M is hoping to find their way into the new decade's powerhouses.
ESPN could have the Aggies trending in that direction.
According to the new initial ESPN's Mark Schlabach, the Aggies will begin next season as the 11th ranked team in his way-too-early top 25 rankings. With a strong recruiting class and a handful of veteran players returning, the team should pick up the pieces and only improve next season.
"After two seasons, the Aggies have 17 wins and two bowl victories to show for their $75 million investment in coach Jimbo Fisher. They have only one win over the SEC West's top three teams: Alabama, Auburn and LSU," Schlabach wrote. "Of course, the schedule has been difficult. This past season, Texas A&M was the first team in FBS history to play three teams that were ranked No. 1. Year 3 might bring better results, with the Aggies expected to bring back 18 starters on offense and defense. Fisher took his lumps playing 19 true freshmen this past season, and that decision might pay dividends in the near future. The Aggies need to do a better job protecting quarterback Kellen Mond after allowing an SEC-high 34 sacks this past season. Mond needs to do a better job throwing the ball down the field and not turning it over. With nonconference games against FCS opponent Abilene Christian, North Texas, Colorado and Fresno State, the Aggies might be 6-0 going into an Oct. 17 road game at Auburn. They close the regular season with back-to-back games against Alabama (road) and LSU (home)."
For the first time in NCAA history, a team faced the No.1 team in the country three times during the regular season. That also doesn't include the fact that A&M also was the first team to meet the AP's preseason top 3 since 1975. Throw in that, plus a rigorous SEC schedule, the Aggies were destined for a lackluster season.
The team could struggle on offense once more, even if Mond improves. Both Kendrick Rogers and Quartney Davis declared for the NFL while the team lost four running backs to the transfer portal. As is stands now, Isaiah Spiller is the only runner from the 2019 season who will enter next year on scholarship.
Mond's struggles away from College Station have been prevalent as well. Playing in a Jekyll/Hyde effect, the rising senior showed promise at Kyle Field, but never found his footing on the road. Minus a 67-yard touchdown run in the Texas Bowl against Oklahoma State, the San Antonio native underachieved in his final game of the season.
Should everything click, perhaps the Aggies could see a similar turnaround to that of LSU. The Tigers returned a majority of veteran players while seeing younger talent transition under the direction of now Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
It should be another tough season in the SEC should the rankings indicate how the year will pan out. Seven teams from the conference all rank inside the top 25, with six coming inside the top 12. Alabama (No.3), LSU (No.4), Georgia (No.6), Florida (No.7), Auburn (No.12) and Tennessee (No.25), all impressed late into the season, leading to an early ranking for the start of the new decade.