I’ve been trying to resist getting caught up in the blowhard’s pre-season predictions because to be quite honest I don’t care about pre-season predictions and talk. I only care about the end of the season. Well, here we sit on the Monday of game week and I can’t focus on work because I’m looking forward to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning when I roll out of Cowtown with the new travel trailer in tow for opening weekend in Aggieland. I’ve got a pretty good “weekend” planned. I’ll be dove hunting on Thursday, Baylor/TCU on Friday, and then Aggieland for the rest of the weekend. The only downfall is class is in session on Monday so PTTS says I have to be out of the RV lot by 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning. I never really had anything against PTTS but they’ll be getting the angry shaking fist as I roll out Monday morning with cobwebs in my head.
Since I can’t focus on work I decided I’d take a stab at predicting the 2011 season for the Fightin’ Texas Aggies. I figure my opinion is worth as much as anyone else’s because it’s all guesswork at this point. For you first timers on this list I used to blog my thoughts on each game but quit last year. I took a new job the first of September and lost my train commute which is where I would do the write ups. I’ve been asked to do it again so I’ll be opining after each game this season if you’re interested.
Before I get to my prediction of each game, I want to touch on each facet of the team.
OFFENSE – I don’t think this offense is as loaded as people think. When I say loaded I’m talking about an offense that just torches teams for over 500 yards a game and 40 points. This is a VERY good offense but Tanny is a game manager and not a playmaker. That’s not a bad thing at all but don’t expect Tanny to light it up deep very often. This offense is built to keep the defense guessing either by pounding the ball or quick read passes/play actions. The center piece is clearly the backfield of Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael. Cyrus is perfect for the blocking scheme and Christine is just a home run hitter. The line is still developing with youth but the interior guys are better at displacing lineman than pass blocking so you’ll see a lot of runs up the middle. Not saying we can’t pass block but it’s pretty clear our guys are better at zone blocking which is fine. Our receivers are VERY solid but Tanny is just not a big arm QB. Not trying to knock him as he’ll be VERY good when it’s all said and done but don’t expect him to be firing downfield like a Ryan Mallett. He’s not going to be on stage in New York for the Heisman so don’t expect it. I’d rather win games than put up yards and lose because you’re playing behind so just sit tight during games and know the outcome should be just fine. The offense will keep us close in the first half but should start to pull away in the second half in most games.
DEFENSE – On defense I think we’ll be less aggressive. Much of it will be due to the loss of Von but I think our LBs are the most questionable part of our defense. I think Coach D will be less aggressive between the 20s leaving his LBs in positions to slow down the offense and not necessarily make plays. When you miss on trying to make a play the results are usually good for the offense. I think he’ll definitely dial it up from time to time but I think he’s going to be careful unless a true playmaker really emerges. The most experience and talent is clearly in the DL and secondary. I don’t think any of them are All-Americans except for maybe Coryell Judie but they’re all solid players with a year’s worth of experience in Coach D’s scheme. I don’t know that this defense will be as good as it was in the last six games but I don’t think it falls off very much at all. It’ll just be more consistent rather than aggressive. With our offense I’m just fine with that. I think our offense and defense will compliment each other very well.
SPECIAL TEAMS – The ghost of Frank Beamer weeps every time he watches the Aggies on special teams. For various reasons we’ve just really sucked on special teams for what seems like 10 years. Not sure this year will be any different. I think we’ll be fine in the field goal department with Randy Bullock back for his 12th season and Judie should be just fine on kickoff returns. I have no idea if we’ll have a serviceable punter but I know for CERTAIN it’ll be better than last year. It can’t get any worse. Any of you reading this could punt and not do worse. As for punt returns just pray we hold onto the ball and worry about yards second.
Here’s how I think the games shake out:
SMU – I know Mike Sherman got a rude awakening against Arkie State his first season and I PRAY that never happens again. I don’t think it happens here. SMU is a MUCH better team than most people think but I don’t think SMU has the ponies (damn right pun intended) to keep up with A&M’s horsepower. SMU will score some points as DeRuyter teaches some youngsters his defense but the Aggie offense will roll. I think we go up at halftime 21-14 causing Aggies everywhere to want to jump off the third deck. SMU will score very quickly due to June Jones spotting something in film and then score another TD on a defensive brain fart sometime in the 2nd quarter. Offensively Sherman will try to work all facets of the game and we’ll have a couple drives stall out. Pass/Run will be 50/50 as he lets Tanny work on his passes and hopefully learning to hit Jeff Fuller deep which is Tanny’s glaring weakness. Tanny is going to have to show on film he can hit Fuller deep or good teams will play Fuller man on man tempting him to throw deep and cheat safeties to cut off all those underneath crossing routes that Tanny and Sherm love. At least that’s what a smart DC will do. In the first half I expect Tanny to hit Fuller deep, hit Swopes in the slot, and then have Cyrus bust off a 20 yarder. In the second half Coach D will make adjustments and June Jones will be out of tricks so they might score 1-2 more touchdowns in the 4th quarter when the second stringers are in. Offensively Sherm leans much more heavily to the run and we score another 3-4 touchdowns walking away with an easy victory. Score – Aggies 45, Mustangs, 24. The other score is PTTS 1, Chewy 0 due to the 7:00 a.m. exit time. Come on Loftin, call a snow day and let me sleep in.
IDAHO – I honestly don’t know much about the Vandals other than they play in a big ass gym. Seriously. It’s like the Alamodome had relations with the McFerrin Facility and produced some half field house half Alamodome structure of amazement. Think I’m joking, check this thing out. It’s unreal – http://www.govandals.com//pdf4/414253.pdf?DB_OEM_ID=17100 I also know that the Vandals (reminds me of my youth) have improved over the recent few years where they get some mention from time to time for having a decent record but I also know they haven’t upset anyone and tend to shy away from bigger games. Think a Nuevo Wyoming if you will. Boise trucked them in that whatever the hell it is venue last season so it’s pretty clear they just don’t have the talent of the better programs in college football. I expect much of the same from the SMU game but a better defensive effort. We’ll go into half 28-3 and pretty much replicate it in the second half. Wish we had a better tune up game for Okie State but you take what Bill Byrne and Dan Beebe schedule. Score – Aggies 55, Vandals 6. This is also when I get back to owning PTTS because I can sleep late in the trailer and roll out of Dodge when the Gatorade and ibuprofen finally kicks in.
OKIE STATE – Third game of the year and the Pokies from Okie roll into town thanks to our new 9 game B12 schedule. Wait, maybe I should say our ONLY 9 game B12 schedule. Suck it Dan and DeLoss! For some reason I’m not too nervous about this game. OSU is ranked much like us hovering right around the Top 10 depending on the poll you look at. It’s going to be a tough game no doubt but we know exactly what OSU is. We’ve played them tough the last two seasons and legitimately should have beaten them last year. Blame JJ all you want but the reality is we came out flat in the 3rd quarter on both sides of the ball and that’s the real reason we lost. Turnovers hurt no doubt but if we don’t come out flat in the 3rd quarter those turnovers just don’t happen. Because of that I think the Aggies win this game. OSU has a suspect defense, lost their genius OC, and lost the very underrated Kendall Hunter. I think Coach D brackets Blackmon and runs a few blitzes that get to Weeden to slow them down. Offensively I wouldn’t be surprised to see a run/pass ratio of 70/30. There’s no reason not to. OSU can and will score points, so in an ode to the great R.C. Slocum, Sherm plays ball control offense just pounding the ground and controlling the clock. If Sherm has appeared to have learned one thing in his past three years it’s that he can’t abandon the run game like he’s done a few times. He’s got a seasoned line and two DAMN good backs so there’s no reason he shouldn’t lean on them and we win. Score – Aggies 31, Pokes 17.
ARKANSAS – One of our new conference rivals. Now all of a sudden the game in JerryWorld makes more sense but I don’t think it’s what Byrne had in mind back in the day. Now this is a game that makes me nervous. Real nervous. It looks like Arkansas should be “worse” with the loss of Mallett and Kniles Davis but don’t let Bobby Petrino fool you. Dude is an offensive mastermind. Tyler Wilson is no slouch and I think he’ll actually be more productive than Mallett. Mallett had all the talent in the world but much like gunslinging quarterbacks he made some costly mistakes in the 4th quarter in the Bama and Sugar Bowl costing his team a chance at a victory. Mallett doesn’t make those mistakes and Arkie could be 12-1 with their only loss being to Auburn. Speaking of the Auburn game, Tyler Wilson filled in admirably on the road and actually lead Arkie to a lead early in the 4th quarter over the eventual national champions. Auburn just had too much but Wilson looked pretty good in a true baptism by fire. Then again, Garrett Gilbert didn’t actually look all that bad as a non-experienced true freshman when he had to replace Colt McCoy in the national championship game and completely spit the bit last season. Then again, Bobby Petrino certainly isn’t Greg Davis and Mack Brown. I fully expect this to be a complete chess game that will be VERY close. I think the difference is that Petrino will know when to take his shots and get them. You’ll see a lot of ball control on both sides of the offense with neither coach wanting to make a mistake but for some reason I think Petrino will get a couple big scores. Sherm is going to do what he should have done in the Cotton Bowl which is to lean on the running game so I think we’ll have a real punchers chance needing Cyrus and Christine to deliver a couple big blows. We get those big blows and I think we win. However, the beat down Aggie in me says Arkie gets them and we lose. Score – Aggies 16, Arkie 20.
TEXAS TECH – Our first true road game and at Tech no less. For some reason I don’t worry about Tech under Sherman like I do with Fran and R.C.’s late years. I love Tubbs as a head coach because the man can flat out recruit but his talent is still lacking. I think Sherm comes in and just absolutely leans on Tech’s new 4-2-5 defense. It won’t be a blow out by any stretch but I think A&M establishes their dominance early and often. Coming off the Arkie game the Aggies will find the Red Raiders much less talented and like what Sherman is going to try and do all season is establish the run early and often. No reason not to with the team he has assembled. I think defensively we’ll be fine in this game as I don’t think Tech has near the offense they had under Leach. I know that’s like saying water is wet but that’s a huge difference in our ability to compete. Our offense leans on their defense hopefully getting up by a couple of scores and then all of a sudden Coach D knows they’re going to try and go through the air and has a cushion to blitz with. They’ll get some yards but Coach D will really tighten up in the red zones limiting Tech to lots of field goal chances. Score – Aggies 31, Tech 16.
BAYLOR – The final Battle of the Brazos? Could be. Make sure to keep your ticket stub and get a picture of you and your wife/girlfriend/mistress/buddy’s girlfriend/paid escort with the scoreboard in the background as a memento. You’ll always want to remember where you where for the last installment. I know I should be afraid of Baylor but for some reason I’m not this year. We’re in Kyle and I think Sherm and Coach D really figured them out in the second half. I think RGIII is a tremendous athlete but I think his late season performance showed what kind of QB he really is. If you can get to him, it REALLY affects him. Getting to him is easier said than done but I think we will. Like Sherman will try and do all year I think he’ll lean on Baylor’s defense early and keep the game in control. Griffin is going to get his but we’ll try to limit him as much as possible by keeping him on the bench. I also can’t get the image of Baylor spitting the bit against Illinois in the Texas Bowl out of my mind. Baylor got down early and they showed no resolve in wanting to get back in the game. I love Phil Bennett as a DC and it’ll help Baylor in other games but I just really believe in our line and running backs. Especially at home. We establish a decent lead and hit Griffin a few times and we’ll cruise to victory. I don’t think the scoreboard will reflect a true dominating effort but we’ll always feel in control of this one. Score – Aggies 34, Baylor 24.
IOWA STATE – Uh, uh, uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, uh, uhhhhhhhhhh. Not sure what to write other than to say it’s on the road and let’s not hope we have a letdown in this game. It’s a definite trap game but what most people don’t realize or forget is that trap games tend to happen to passing teams and turnover prone teams. Sometimes you just can’t get in rhythm through the air or the turnovers just go completely against you. Now, ISU is a pretty decent team so I don’t think we blow them out and wouldn’t be shocked to see us go into halftime only up 14-10. However, like most good running teams you just continue to lean on them and running gets easier in the second half. If we lose I wouldn’t be shocked but I certainly would be really surprised. Score – Aggies 35, Cyclones 16.
MIZZOU – I’ve always considered Gary Pinkel to be the more handsome, successful version of Dennis Franchione. People talk really great about him because along the way he wins a big game here and there but can never string it together. For some reason he’s also had REALLY talented quarterbacks. I don’t think it’s anything he’s doing but with the likes of Brad Smith, Chase Daniels, and Blaine Gabbert it sure makes coaching a heck of a lot easier. Pinkel looked like he was going to have a great season beating OU after destroying us at Kyle but then lost to Nebraska and Tech in back to back weeks and then capping the season off with a loss to Iowa in the Insight Bowl. He gets to come back to Kyle and I don’t think Sherman will forget the embarrassment from the season before. Once again, Sherman will stick to his script of run the ball, run the ball, and run the ball with success. I know it sounds REALLY boring that we’re just going to run the ball down people’s throats but one thing Sherman has consistently said in his losses is that he regrets abandoning the run too soon. Now, maybe my maroon tinted glasses are too maroon but I can’t help but thinking this line is going to be better and our running backs are studly so why do anything else. Now, this assumes a healthy season which it’s hard to factor in with these predictions. Like I said, Tannys is not a playmaker and is a game manager through and through which is just fine. We’ll no doubt throw the ball to keep it mixed up but I fully expect to see run/pass ratios in the 60/40 range and even 70/30 range. There’s no reason not to expect Sherman to commit to the ground game and be patient with it allowing it to do what it do which is keep the game fairly close in the first half and pull away in the second half. I don’t think we’ll roll over Mizzou but you’ll see more of the same where we hold the ball at least 35 minutes and keep the Mizzou offense off the field. Score – Aggies 31, Tigers 19.
OKLAHOMA – Bob Stoops has lost TWICE in Norman during his tenure. TWICE. Once to Les Miles and once to Gary Patterson. Rick Perry has served more terms in the Governor’s Mansion than Bob Stoops has lost games in Norman. Now, Mack Brown has never had to march into Norman so it’s skewed ever so slightly because even if Mack had pulled off one win a piece with a Vince or Colt team we’d be looking at FOUR. Would that have really changed much? Don’t think so. Mack wasn’t winning in Norman with Chris Simms. Quite simply put, OU is REALLY tough to win at home against. I just don’t know if this A&M team is ready to take that step. I’d like to think they can but damn the numbers say we can’t. I do expect a close game and more of the same from Sherm where he’s going to try and lean on the OU defense on the ground and find some success. I can’t help but think Ryan Broyles is going to have a REALLY solid game both through the air and on punt returns. He’s probably the best overall player in the conference and something says he’s going to shine in this game. We won’t be embarrassed by our performance but sometimes the best player on the field makes the difference and I just can’t help but see Broyles making a statement. I think Landry Jones is a little overrated in the QB department but he’ll get the ball to Broyles enough and he’ll do the rest. I could even see us going up 17-14 at halftime but at some point special teams will rear its ugly head and Broyles will capitalize. Yes, I’m the beat down Aggie. Score – Aggies 24, Sooners 28. It’ll be close but it’s gonna hurt.
KANSAS STATE – So after a heartbreaking loss to the Sooners we have to get on a plane and visit the location of one of the most embarrassing losses in recent Aggie memory. It sucks to have KSU thump you two years ago but when Bill Snyder makes his triumphant return to college football at the age of 105 you expect to win these games. Especially since A&M for some reason always had Snyder’s number. Two years ago we laid a serious steamer at Snyder’s self named stadium, field, fieldhouse, or whatever they named after the guy who might honestly be the most amazing coach in college football for what he did his first time through Manhattan. However, I just see this time being different because Sherm can go back to his preferred formula of leaning on the defense and limiting the other teams offense. Sherman will get back to basics after the OU loss and remind his team how they win football games in workman like fashion. Plus, I can’t help but think there are enough guys that still remember the game two years ago and won’t let an ambush happen. I think we win this game in convincing fashion. Score – Aggies 35, Wildcats 17.
KANSAS – Like Iowa State I’m not sure what to write here. I think just to keep his team interested Sherm goes to a more 50/50 mix and Coach D dials up some fresh blitzes. This one could be a blood bath similar to last year’s game in Lawrence. This should honestly be the easiest game on our schedule even though the boys will be tired. Sure, it could be a trap/let down game but I just don’t see Kansas being any better than last year and being in Kyle will be a big help. Hopefully many of the starters can rest in the 3rd quarter for the following week’s game. Sure, the looking ahead factor could also be there but I just don’t see it. This just appears to be the biggest gimme which is never a given but I just don’t see it turning out badly for us. SCORE – Aggies 37, Jayhawks 10.
TEXAS – Now, here’s a trap game. Big time trap game. You know the old cliché of when rivals meet throw out the records. I do expect Texas to be better than last year but the atmosphere at Kyle Field should be absolutely electric that night. Make no mistake that if the season unfolds like it should this will be the Aggies game to lose and I just don’t see it happening. Then again, in 1995 I didn’t expect Texas to beat A&M in our last matchup of the SWC at Kyle Field. That game stung me big time seeing that damn big white flag with the horn logo being waved at Kyle Field in victory. I think you’ll see more of the same in this game with Sherm leaning run. There’s just no reason not to. Texas is loaded with talent like always and I think by the time we face them they might have an offensive identity under their new OC. I think that actually works in our favor as Coach D and staff will have plenty of film to look at and identify tendencies. It’s also a short week on the road so Texas will be hard pressed to install many new wrinkles with so little time. Defensively I find it interesting they can lose Muschamp and bring a virtually unknown in Manny Diaz to improve their defense over last year. Sure, their team fully quit after the KSU game but Muschamp is a legit Top 5 DC and you’re just going to replace him and improve? I just don’t see it. I certainly don’t see this as being a blowout by any stretch but I think the Aggies should control this game unless special teams and turnovers rear their ugly heads which is always possible in these games. Still, I think A&M is the better team at this point and should win. Score Aggies 31, Texas 17.
There you have it, based on my glass globe the Aggies are going 10-2 and will place second in the B12 due to the OU loss. It won’t be all bad as OU will lose to FSU and with one loss won’t make the BCS Championship game as they get jumped by a team that played a conference championship game. This will make the B12 look like idiots for touting how not having the conference championship game is an easier path to the BCS game but you’ll have FSU with one loss winning the ACC, Arkansas winning the SEC with one loss, Wisconsin with one loss winning the B10, and Oregon with one loss winning the P12. All four of those teams will have one more win than OU and will trump them for this BCS Championship game while OU and Dan Beebe scream, “Look at us!” but to no avail. Stoops gets mad and OU goes West to the new P16. Sure, it’s a dream but if we’re not going to win the BCS Championship game (and we’re not there yet) I want to see the B12 embarrassed for their incredible short sightedness in building a stable/competitive conference.
It won’t be all bad as OU will be forced to go to the Fiesta Bowl to play TCU or Boise while the Aggies head to the Sugar Bowl and beat the Georgia Bulldogs. Arkansas will beat Wisconsin in the BCS Championship game and the SEC West will be reinforced as the toughest division in all the land which is where exactly the Aggies are heading. As Ric Flair used to say, “To be the man you have to beat the man!” Woooooooooooooooooooooo! A dude can dream can’t he?