The Texas A&M Aggies are in a unique position. They have one of the better teams in the United States – at least on paper – and yet no one is talking about their national championship or SEC championship prospects, because they are slim to none.
By Matt Zemek
Texas A&M has the toughest schedule in the country this season, and it’s not close. Clemson, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia. A&M could go 9-3 this year and have a great season, because a 9-3 record would mean it would have won at least two of those five games. Many other programs would go 0-5.
This week, however, the Aggies can’t worry about Clemson in Week 2. They have to deal with the Texas State Bobcats in Week 1. Here are three keys:
1 – Mond Over Matter
Kellen Mond is a talented quarterback. He can be dynamic with his legs. He creates a sense of possibility with his athleticism. Yet, he can be maddeningly erratic and inconsistent. This game, the warm-up for Clemson, has to give Mond a very clear understanding of what he needs to do and how he needs to do it heading into Death Valley against Dabo Swinney’s squad.
Good habits, sound reads, clean throws, lucid decisions. Mond needs to deliver these ingredients to Thursday night’s game. He needs to get into good habits and not break them as the season continues.
2 – The Support Of Spavital
Jake Spavital, who once coached as an assistant at Texas A&M, returns to AggieLand for this game. He is Texas State’s head coach at 34, one of the youngest FBS coaches in the country. Spavital’s work at A&M and West Virginia (with current Houston coach Dana Holgorsen) has given him an understanding of how vital the passing game is in modern college football. A&M’s defense should receive a test – not from Texas State’s athletes, but from Spavital’s imagination. The Aggies will be forced to defend the whole field and account for a lot of assignments on vertical pass routes. This will conceptually offer a taste of what the Aggies will face against Clemson. Again, the athleticism of Texas State is no threat at all, but the experience of having to cover the whole field against a sophisticated play-caller could enable this game to give the Aggies a partial idea of what is coming their way in Week 2 against the defending national champions.
3 – Lots of bodies, lots of youngsters
Coaches get four games in which to play freshmen or other players they intend on redshirting. This is part of a reform which began last year. This gives coaches a lot more flexibility in playing players. In previous years, they couldn’t even play once, at risk of burning the redshirt. With Clemson and that SEC gauntlet appearing later in the season, this has to be a game in which young players get some work and learn on the job. Moreover, preceding a road trip to Clemson, Jimbo Fisher has to get a better sense of how well players react in the heat of live competition. Giving lots of players meaningful snaps and a legitimate chance to show what they can do must become an important part of this game.