Texas A&M Just Shy Of Top 10 Finish In Way-Too-Early Rankings
COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M football might be the rising team of the new decade. Much like LSU in 2019, things could be going the Aggies way for a chance to win the Southeastern Conference for the first time since joining in 2012.
A&M will return nearly all their starters on defense while bringing eight players back to the offensive side of the ball. Veteran starting quarterback Kellen Mond will have another season under his belt, while freshman talent that thrived last year should improve with experience. A more relaxed schedule should also give fans of The 12th Man hope for the future.
Still, teams like A&M could be too good to be true in the media's eye. One way or another, a trap game could have them just outside of a championship window, or one bad loss could lead to another disappointing season. Most fans believe that an early-ranked Top 10 team is usually in contention of a title the upcoming season.
Sadly, ESPN isn't sold that the Aggies will be in the running for the date set in South Beach just yet.
In his latest "way too early top 25", ESPN's Mark Schlabach still has Texas A&M on the outside looking in, coming in at No.11 overall. Despite a quality victory over Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl, Schlabach isn't sold that Mond's road struggles will be corrected before the start of next season's conference play.
"With Auburn and LSU having to reload, and Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas each undergoing head-coaching changes, is this upcoming season when Texas A&M makes its move in the SEC West? It's Year 3 for coach Jimbo Fisher, and the Aggies should start seeing better on-field results," Schlabach wrote. "The Aggies played 19 true freshmen last year, and Fisher signed another top-10 recruiting class. If Texas A&M is going to climb the pecking order, it will have to get more from quarterback Kellen Mond (especially on the road), find Isaiah Spiller help in the running game, and get stronger performances from its offensive line. Fisher added three new assistants: defensive backs coach TJ Rushing (Memphis), tight ends coach James Coley (Georgia) and linebackers coach Tyler Santucci (Wake Forest)."
A&M's returning starters should be the base of the team's success in 2020, but Mond will be the x-factor. When playing at Kyle Field, the San Antonio native thrived from the help of The 12th Man fans. Throwing for 1,871 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions, Mond excelled to a 5-2 record.
On the road, his mishaps were the biggest blow to Jimbo Fisher's offense — throwing for just over 1,000 yards and seven interceptions against six touchdowns. The Aggies would win only one actual road game at Ole Miss and secured a victory over Arkansas at AT&T Stadium as part of the Southwest Classic.
The No.6 recruiting class in 2020 will begin their careers against Abilene Christian in September. The year prior, A&M saw up to seven newcomers earn starting roles. For the start of the new decade, players such as wide receiver Demond Demas, cornerback Jaylon Jones and running back Devon Achane might be considered focal points of the new members of the maroon and white.
The schedule should help A&M find early success to begin the year off right. With Arkansas and both Mississippi schools transitioning under new head coaches, perhaps those three games could be in favor of Fisher's staff. Clemson and Georgia were tough matches last season, but since have been replaced by Colorado and Vanderbilt, respectively. Troubles could arrive towards the end of the season with a date against the Crimson Tide in Alabama before hosting 2019 National Champion LSU to close out the season.
The Aggies are projected to produce better results entering the third season under Fisher's 10-year, $75 million contract.