The Texas A&M Aggies lost to Clemson. They lost to Auburn. They lost to Alabama. They still have two games left on their five-game “death march tour” in 2019. They won’t be able to go to a top-tier bowl game.
By Matt Zemek
They won’t be able to say that they improved upon their 2018 season, chiefly the encouraging late-season wins over LSU and then North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. This season isn’t what A&M hoped it would be… but if the Aggies can at least split this next pair of games against the two teams which will play for the SEC championship on December 7 in Atlanta, they can say that they have something to build on.
It might not be very sexy or exciting to say, “Hey, we went 1-4 against the five toughest teams on our schedule!” Nevertheless, 1-4 for A&M, compared to 0-5, would be a notable achievement late in the season, and a real building block for Jimbo Fisher and his staff heading into 2020.
The three keys against Georgia begin with the most obvious one:
1 – Mond needs a “Mond day” on a Saturday
This was always true. It is true. It will always remain true: Kellen Mond needs to be his very best for A&M to have a real chance in these big games against elite opponents. We haven’t seen an A-plus game from Mond against a high-level opponent. We haven’t seen a game against top-tier opposition in which Mond hits his deep balls with regularity and shows perfectly-calibrated touch, combined with flawless instincts on when to scramble. Jimbo Fisher is paid an enormous sum of money not only to create a top-level football team, but to get the most out of his starting quarterback. He has utterly failed in his attempt to develop Mond this season, but he still gets two very big bites at the apple. If he can finally break through and guide Mond to make adjustments on his throws which lead to more accuracy on downfield passes, the A&M vertical attack can do damage.
Part of why Georgia has been so successful in the SEC the past few years is that the Dawgs don’t face elite quarterbacks. Florida hasn’t had one in the past three years. Tennessee hasn’t. South Carolina hasn’t. Missouri hasn’t. Kentucky hasn’t.
The QBs who have beaten Georgia over the past three seasons 2017-2019): Jarrett Stidham, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, Sam Ehlinger… and Dakereon Joyner, the obvious exception to the rule (but only because South Carolina’s defense stood on its head in Athens).
Kellen Mond isn’t an elite QB, but can he be elite for one day? He needs to be.
2 – Third-down pass rush
If Georgia’s opponents can’t rush Jake Fromm and bother him on third downs, Georgia will keep the ball long enough to rest its defense and maintain good field position, which enable Kirby Smart’s 1970s-style offense to not get in the way of his defense. A&M needs a third-down pass rush and a lot of defensive three-and-outs to have any shot of winning, especially if Mond can’t play at an elite level.
3 – Contain Swift
D’Andre Swift will play on Sundays, and probably become a dependable running back in the pros. No Georgia offensive player deserves nearly as much attention as Swift. Containing him is a central prerequisite for an A&M victory.