We've already predicted the season's wins and losses for each SEC school, including Texas A&M, now we'll work backwards through the 2013 Alabama schedule and preview each SEC game, ending with Va Tech.
Texas A&M Aggies
What Happened Last Year?
How Does A&M Look In 2013?
Some people have been forecasting doom and gloom for the Aggies long before the Johnny Hancock Summer of Scandal took place. Admittedly, I've even been guilty of that, going back to my spring preview, where I said "Do you see that light streaking across the night sky? It's a falling star soon to meet its end. First off, hats off to Manziel, who played great last year. But this season's song will be much closer to a dirge than a true encore." Now, that is a fantastically written slam, but in hindsight, I think I was massively underselling the Ags.
Offensively, A&M's biggest losses were left tackle Luke Joeckel and wide receiver Ryan Swope. Joeckel would seem like an impossible to replace player, until you realize that they have another first-round-quality tackle in Jake Matthews that they can just slide over. Similarly, the Ags lose their number two receiver in Ryan Swope, but return their leading pass catcher in Mike Evans.
Through what had to have been some extensive backcounting, A&M was able to sign a small army this February, snagging 31 players. One player to watch is wide receiver JaQuay Williams, who was rated the number 3 prep school recruit.
Defensively, A&M could have some growing pains, as they only return four starters. The Ags stand to miss defensive end Damontre Moore mightily. Moore left for the NFL last year and took his 12.5 sacks with him. The pass rushing situation doesn't get any rosier as you go down the list and see that the next four players on the sacks list were seniors that graduated last year (linebackers Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart, Steven Jenkins, and defensive lineman Spencer Nealy). In fact, the Aggies don't return a single player that logged at least two sacks last year. Basically, the Ags are depleted in the front seven.
The defensive backfield isn't a whole lot better off, but they do have the benefit of some high quality young talent in Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris, so at this point, I would say that the back four are probably the strongest element of the Aggies defense. Time will tell whether that distinction is an affirmation of their talent or an indictment of the front seven.
How A&M Might Win
Do I have to do this part? Obviously, it's not impossible that A&M could win this game. The offense that will take the field on September 14th will almost certainly be the best we see all year. And I know that all Bama fans like to take refuge in the mental image of Nick Saban burning the midnight oil crafting a master plan that will leave Johnny Football in a confused, weeping heap on the sideline, but I think that's unrealistic.
A&M is going to get their shots in. Their offense is just too potent to avoid that entirely. If the Ags can sneak in a couple of shots and get a couple uncharacteristic turnovers, they can definitely win this thing. Remind me again why that sounds so familiar...
Why Alabama Might Win:
Here's the thing. Given A&M's personnel losses, the part of Bama's game that we probably would like for the team to lean on is power rushing. Unfortunately, that figures to be one of our weakest traits (or at least, that's how it seems at the moment). It will be interesting to see which side prevails when the two teams have their relative weaknesses go head to head. Then again, perhaps we won't rely that heavily on the run this time.
For all of the armchair quarterbacks among us that were screaming "RUN THE BALL" during last year's tilt, there's a reason we were passing, as the Aggies finished the year with a passing defense ranked 88th in the country. Of course, some of that is a "chicken or the egg" situation, as many opponents felt pressure to pass more against the Ags to either keep up or try to build a cushion to preempt that potent offense.
Or maybe the problem really wasn't the offense last year. After all, we completed 62% of the passes for 309 yards (a season-high for the team). The team also ran the ball for 3.94 yards per carry (which is not a great stat, but it is better than A&M managed (3.6 YPC)). The only place the offense "dropped the ball", so to speak, was in turnovers. If Alabama had merely sputtered out and kicked field goals instead of turning the ball over, they would've won.
So how can Alabama win? Don't turn the ball over. I think it really is that simple.
What I Think Will Happen:
I think the fan base will walk into this game underselling A&M. I think Bama's players will be coming for blood. And I think by the time that the final seconds tick off the clock, us fans are going to be breathing a sigh of relief, as we have just witnessed a back and forth battle that shaves a few months off our lifespans. Final score: 27-23, good guys.
I'll hear nothing about how this prediction contradicts my Ole Miss prediction.
|08/31/13||vs Virginia Tech||Atlanta, GA|
|09/14/13||at Texas A&M *||College Station, Texas||WIN|
|09/21/13||vs. Colorado State||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|09/28/13||vs. Ole Miss *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|10/05/13||vs. Georgia State||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|10/12/13||at Kentucky *||Lexington, Ky.||WIN|
|10/19/13||vs. Arkansas *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|10/26/13||vs. Tennessee *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|11/09/13||vs. LSU *||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|11/16/13||at Mississippi State *||Starkville, Miss.||WIN|
|11/23/13||vs. Chattanooga||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||WIN|
|11/30/13||at Auburn *||Auburn, Ala.||WIN|