The Texas A&M Aggies begin a season which contains a lot of meaning, but might not have the big payoff at the end. What do we mean by that? The Aggies could have a productive year yet not make the College Football Playoff.
By Matt Zemek
That being the case, the other non-playoff bowl games might not get played this winter, which would mean A&M would be worthy of a New Year’s Six bowl game, yet not get the chance to play in one. Nevertheless, Texas A&M has paid Jimbo Fisher a lot of money to do more than finish third or fourth in the SEC West. The ideal aim is to win the division, but the realistic goal in 2020 is to finish second behind Alabama, given LSU’s many personnel losses from its 2019 national championship team. The pursuit of a top-two finish in the SEC West begins in Week 1 against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Let’s look at this game.
1 – Pandemic simplicity
Any team playing a season opener after this bizarre, disorienting, and ultimately unprecedented offseason should not be expected to play a great game in its season opener. This has not been a normal offseason in which regular preparation and extensive practice have been attainable for any program. A number of season-opening games felt like preseason NFL games – not because fans were absent, but because the ability to install the full playbook has been denied these teams. They haven’t had a legitimate chance to do everything they want to do. Therefore, if a first-game opponent is not an elite opponent – and in this case, Vanderbilt is certainly not elite – a good team should focus on simplicity. Do the basic things well, and the rest will take care of itself. No huge breakdowns. No massive mistakes. Make the routine plays well and focus on development for the remainder of the season. Save the clever plays in the playbook for tougher opposition.
2 – Pass rush
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason hasn’t said who will be his starting quarterback, Mike Wright or Ken Seals. Regardless, Vanderbilt’s quarterback will be new and relatively untested. A strong pass rush in this game will likely create errors from the Commodores, limiting their ability to pull off an upset in College Station. Vanderbilt lost a number of important skill-position players last season, so if A&M can prevent the Commodores’ quarterback (whoever it is) from feeling comfortable, the path to a Vanderbilt win becomes very narrow.
3- Kellen Mond establishing rhythm
This is it. Kellen Mond won’t get another chance to make a mark at Texas A&M. This is the season in which he has to make things count. The talent is there. The speed is there. The athletic ability is there. The accuracy, however, has not been where it needs to be. Touch passes have been tricky. Mond gets one more season in which to put the pieces together. Against Vanderbilt, he doesn’t need to do too much, but he needs to start off right by establishing a rhythm with his receivers, creating a building block for the tougher games which await.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT (7:30 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Alternate Network.