It’s no secret I’m a fan of Jimbo Fisher. Since the rumors surfaced Sumlin was out and Jimbo was the target I was excited. Jimbo Fisher is a legit college football head coach. He loves the grind of coaching, recruiting, and leading. The dude never slows down and is driven to win a National Championship. You need some breaks to win it all but first you need to have ability and effort. I have no idea what the tenure of Jimbo Fisher looks like at Texas A&M but I don’t think it will be from lack of ability and effort at the head coaching spot.
Even with that I don’t think we’ll see a dramatic improvement from a wins and losses standpoint from 2018 from 2017. I definitely don’t see a repeat of 2012. We simply don’t have the talent. We’re also going through a system change so it will take some time to get over the hump of what we’ve seen in the past. I’m confident with Jimbo we’ll get there though.
If you want to read my thoughts on why 2018 won’t be like 2012 you can read why here.
Those thoughts center around the offense. Defensively I think we have some talent at key positions but don’t have quality depth other than defensive tackle. You need quality depth to win big in the SEC and we’re not there yet. Jimbo is working on that but he’ll need a couple of seasons.
Let’s look at the 2018 Season game by game:
Northwestern State Demons (Win):
The Jimbo Fisher Era at Texas A&M kicks off on a Thursday night at Kyle Field on the SEC Network. This should be a win without a doubt. Jimbo’s first game at FSU was against Samford and they won 59-6. Hopefully this game is similar and sets the tone for Jimbo in Aggieland.
An interesting note for this game is Dabo Swinney and Bobby Bowden are the only two coaches to ever win a National Championship in the BCS and CFP era but lose his first game at a school. Bowden took over a horrible Florida State program in 1976. Dabo lost his first game as Clemson coach against Alabama and Nick Saban in a neutral site game. That was Saban’s second season and they went on to win the SEC West that season. I think Dabo gets a pass in that game and 1976 was a different era. Other than that, no National Championship coach has ever lost his first game as that school’s coach. History says if you expect to win a national championship you better win your first game if it’s a winnable situation. Hi Tom Herman!
One other note is both Mike Sherman and Kevin Sumlin lost their first game as Aggie Head Coach. Sherman lost that stinker to Arkansas State and Sumlin lost to Florida. Both games were at Kyle Field. Dennis Franchione was the last Aggie coach to win his first game beating Arkansas State 26-11 at Kyle Field.
I can’t imagine a scenario where Jimbo loses and we’re worried about the ramifications of what it means. We’ll start out 1-0 and keep chugging that delicious Jimbo Kool-Aid.
Clemson Tigers (Loss):
For Clemson I can’t imagine a scenario where A&M wins this game because of the Clemson defensive line against the Aggie offensive line. Clemson has the best defensive line in the country with all four starters likely to go in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. You should know my thoughts about the Aggie offensive line by now. If not, click the link above why 2018 won’t be like 2012.
I do think there’s a chance the Aggies can win simply because I don’t think Dabo Swinney is a great coach. I think he’s an outstanding coach but I put him the class of Mack Brown, Les Miles, and Bobby Bowden. They recruit amazingly well and when they have a great staff they win a lot of games. However, they don’t pay attention to the whole game adapting things when something is going wrong or struggling. They just encourage and clap a lot. Don’t get me wrong Dabo is a Top 10 coach in college football right now but he’s beatable by a great coach.
Clemson has lost to both Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the past two years so it’s possible the Aggies can sneak up on a much better Clemson team. Auburn has also had close games against Clemson early in the schedule the past two seasons. This isn’t an impossible win for the Aggies.
It’ll be a longshot as A&M just doesn’t have the offensive talent to compete with Clemson’s defense. If A&M has any chance of winning this game it needs to be a defensive battle. A&M won’t sustain many drives so they’ll either need to get some points off turnovers or have a couple of big offensive plays. A&M won’t be able to do much between the tackles or have time for plays to develop downfield. Any hope of moving the ball and scoring will require quick plays outside the tackles to Tray Williams or in short seams to the tight end which I assume will be Sternberger if the Maroon and White Game is any indication.
I think there’s a strong chance we see both Aggie quarterbacks in this game. We’ll struggle to move the ball so I think Jimbo has different packages with each quarterback to see if one can move the ball better than the other. Not sure it’ll matter but I think we’ll see both early on. This will also give Aggie fans a chance to evaluate both quarterbacks in game and provide Jimbo the proper guidance on who to play. That’ll be important for Jimbo to know which quarterback Aggie fans think is best. Hopefully he’ll do a Twitter poll each week to determine who starts.
Coaching wise this will be Jimbo and Dabo’s ninth consecutive time to square off as head coaches. They’re plenty familiar with each other from their time in the ACC together. They’re split at 4-4 with Clemson winning the last 3 so Dabo definitely has momentum against Jimbo right now. I think that momentum continues as Jimbo experiences his first loss as an Aggie coach. Mike Elko is also familiar with Clemson having served as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator prior to last season.
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (Win):
This should be another easy win for Jimbo and the Aggies. The only real interesting note here is ULM beat Nick Saban at Alabama in his first year as Alabama head coach. If Jimbo does lose this game he can recover but I don’t think he loses this game.
Alabama Crimson Tide (Loss):
Speaking of Nick Saban, Jimbo takes his charges to Tuscaloosa for his fourth game. That’s why he’s getting $7.5 million a season. I don’t see any way the Aggies win this game. Our offense won’t have enough firepower and I think Alabama will be able to move the ball on our defense. Nick Saban doesn’t lose games like this. That’s why he’s won 5 National Championships in 9 seasons. That’s an amazing run. Just amazing.
The one wildcard here is the Alabama quarterback. It’s likely going to be Tua Tagovailoa which means this will be his first full game against a legit defense. He certainly caught Georgia by surprise in the second half of the championship game but that won’t be the case here. They start off against Louisville so that won’t be a big defensive test. The Aggies will provide the first defensive test of his career so maybe they can fool him into some mistakes and take advantage with turnovers.
If Hurts plays there’s a chance the Aggies can win if we can shut down the run and not worry about the pass with Hurts. It’s a tall order but Georgia showed how you beat Alabama with Hurts at quarterback. He can’t make throws downfield so you have to shut down the run and get him in the situation where he has to. Tall order but it’s how you beat Bama with Hurts at quarterback.
Alabama also has a new Offensive Coordinator in Mike Locksley but Saban has proven that’s never been an issue with him. Maybe the Aggies can sneak up on a new OC and QB. History says they can’t so I’m going with Alabama here. 2018 won’t be 2012.
Arkansas Razorbacks (Win):
The law of averages says at some point A&M should lose this game. Interestingly enough A&M never beat Arkansas in 3 tries as a member of the Big 12 and has never lost in 5 tries as a member of the SEC. For the most part this is a series that pitted Bobby Petrino against Mike Sherman and Bret Bielema against Kevin Sumlin. Both sides hit CTRL-ALT-DEL after the season so now we have a third chapter with two new sets of coaches on each side.
There’s no doubt A&M will lose a game in this series as a member of the SEC but I don’t think this is the season. Arkansas has gotten progressively worse talent wise under Bielema which was ultimately his undoing. I think Chad Morris will be a MUCH better coach than Bielema but he’s a few years away from building up the offensive talent. Y’all know how I feel about John Chavis but he’ll be working with less talent than he’s had in the last decade. I think Jimbo will be able to exploit Chief’s tendencies. Everybody else did at some point so hopefully Jimbo can too. Chief likes to be aggressive and it doesn’t work when you don’t have the talent.
This won’t be an easy win and I think there will be a fair amount of points put on the board since there’s two strong offensive minds at work. When the dust settles I expect A&M to be on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Also note this is another game with the opposing staffs having history with each other. Morris was formerly the OC at Clemson so he’s matched up against a Fisher coached team and Elko lead defense. It won’t matter though as the Aggies win pushing out the law of average a little further.
Kentucky Wildcats (Win):
I don’t know a ton about UK football other than a Stoops brother is their coach. That’s about all Kentucky fans know about their football program as well. Doing a little research they’ve been 7-5 the last two seasons and lost spare bowl games in the TaxSlayer and Music City. Basically, they’re a little worse than A&M under Kevin Sumlin.
Getting Kentucky at home for an SEC FOOTBALL game should be a win. If we can beat them in basketball in Aggieland then football shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t think it’ll be a cake walk but this should be a game we control from start to finish. At least I hope so.
Interesting nugget here is that Mark Stoops served as defensive coordinator under Jimbo for three seasons at Florida State. That was right before he took the Kentucky job. Hopefully Jimbo is like Saban where he crushes his former assistants.
South Carolina Gamecocks (Win):
This is a much tougher game than most people realize. Will Muschamp is building a decent program at South Carolina. They’re not a flashy team but they’re competitive. I think Muschamp learned a lot after getting fired from Florida. Sometimes you must take a step back to take a step forward.
South Carolina went 8-4 in the regular season last year finishing second in the SEC East. Two of those losses were to Georgia and Clemson. Nothing to be ashamed of there. The other two were to A&M and Kentucky. South Carolina finished the year beating Michigan in the Outback Bowl. I know Michigan was down last year but that’s still a solid win for Muschamp. Beating Harbaugh and Michigan in a bowl game is a damn nice win.
Jake Bentley returns for his third season as quarterback of the Gamecocks. He’s a solid quarterback so South Carolina will move the ball and score points. The question is how many. I see this as a relatively low scoring game as Muschamp and Fisher play cat and mouse more than anything.
In the end I think A&M walks out of Columbia with a win but I’m not certain. This is certainly one of those games that if A&M beats Arkansas and Kentucky with confidence they could slip up going on the road. I just don’t see that happening in Jimbo’s first year. The Aggies are playing to prove a lot. A&M is 4-0 against the Gamecocks and it will extend to 5-0 this season. The James Bonham trophy stays in Aggieland for its fifth straight season. Y’all know that’s a thing, right? There’s trophy for this “rivalry.”
Mississippi State Bulldogs (Win):
Mississippi State is a team that I think is about to fall off big time. I think people are going to realize why Dan Mullen is an elite SEC coach. Florida is about to take two steps forward while Mississippi State takes two steps back. There’s going to be a lot of programs wishing they’d hired that Cousin Eddie look alike. The dude can coach.
The Bulldogs won’t be a pushover with Nick Fitzgerald under center and a decent defense. However, I don’t think you’ll see the brain farts A&M used to have against MSU with Sumlin going up against Mullen. Mullen loved playing Sumlin every year because he could outcoach Sumlin and staff with ease. Without Johnny, Sumlin was 1-3 against Mississippi State. That’s pretty bad. Clearly one guy can coach and the other can’t. Now they’re both gone and things will change.
This is a win I feel pretty confident about considering the coaching changes. One program got remarkably better at head coach. The other program got remarkably worse.
Auburn Tigers (Loss):
Most people forget Auburn won the SEC West last season. They also beat the two teams playing in the National Championship game. I don’t care what you think about Gus Malzahn but that’s damn impressive. Their two regular season losses were at Clemson and LSU. Both games were within 8 points. That’s a damn good regular season. Gus’ offense will struggle every now and then but for the most part he always has a competitive Auburn team.
Jarret Stidham returns under center for Auburn. That’s a big deal for their offense. I think we all know he could be in maroon and white but if he’s in maroon and white then so is Sumlin. It’s kind of like losing to Texas in 2011. Sometimes addition does happen by subtraction.
Auburn has an underrated defensive team and their defensive line will give our offensive line fits. I see this game playing out like the Clemson game. It’ll likely be low scoring but in the end A&M won’t have enough talent to pull out the win. It’s possible the Aggie offensive line is much improved by this time in the season but I just don’t see it happening in 2018. This just feels like a loss with the talent Auburn has on their roster and especially under center. Just take solace Stidham is the reason we have Fisher so it’s a short term sacrifice for a long term gain.
Ole Miss Rebels (Win):
This seems like one of the easiest wins on the schedule. Definitely the easiest SEC win along with Kentucky. They’ve been hammered talent wise by the recruiting and Hugh Freeze escort scandal. Shea Patterson was one of two lone bright spots and he’s gone. AJ Brown at receiver is the other bright spot but I’m not sure who’s going to get him the ball. He’s one of the best receivers in the country but I don’t think he’ll be enough to beat A&M.
This is not a knock on the state of Mississippi as it’s fine state to visit with fine people but I think both of their major football programs are about to take major steps back. Say what you want about Hugh Freeze but they won football guys with him as head coach. Those days are over and aren’t likely coming back anytime soon. I’m totally okay with that as I’d like a weaker SEC West. Crazy to think a few years ago the SEC West had 7 teams with legit Top 25 talent.
UAB Blazers (Win):
This should be an easy win but UAB is a scrappy bunch. Despite only their second year of football after being shut down for a few seasons they went 8-4 last season. Sure, it’s the C-USA but they had wins over Southern Miss, Rice, UTSA, and UTEP. I don’t think it happens but this could be one of those strange games that catches you by surprise late in the season between SEC games.
I say this every year but three non Power 5 conference games at Kyle Field is criminal. We have 4 SEC games and 3 crappy teams this season. Almost 50% of games at Kyle Field suck from an opponent standpoint. We pay a lot of money for tickets and there should be only 2 non Power 5 conference games every season. I’d be fine with 1 every season. I get why it’s done but it still sucks for the fans. I like watching A&M win but not against crappy opponents.
LSU Tigers (Loss):
This is the biggest game of Jimbo’s first season. No matter what happens in the first 11 games (barring a total collapse) this game will have the most meaning. Winning this game will not only get the LSU monkey off A&M’s back for the first time in the SEC but it will put us into the off season with some November momentum. The 2010 and 2012 seasons seem like decades ago where we closed out with big wins in November. Win this game and we get momentum for recruiting and the off season. Lose this game and Jimbo looks like another Aggie coach that can’t close the season. Not completely but it’s ammo for our opponents to use in recruiting.
I have no clue what to expect of LSU. Ed Orgeron entertains me but I think he’s a below average head coach. LSU is loaded with talent so they overcome a lot of head coaching mistakes. He has some great coordinators which know how to utilize that talent. LSU went 9-3 last season with head scratching losses to Mississippi St and Troy. After those loses they only lost to Alabama before losing to Notre Dame in their bowl game. That’s a damn good season for most programs. For LSU it seemed like a complete collapse. They still finished ranked at 18. That’s no collapse.
This is a damn good LSU team despite some folks thinking the Tigers will fall off this season. They have a tough schedule opening with Miami along with drawing Georgia out of the East along with their annual game against Florida. Maybe their record won’t show they’re a good team coming into Kyle Field but they’re still a damn good football team. The homer in me wants to think Jimbo can win this game but I don’t think this is the season it happens. LSU still has too much talent for us to overcome them this season. If our offensive line shows serious improvement we can win this game but until I see that I can’t pick A&M winning this game right now.
I hope like hell we win this game. The difference between 8-4 with a loss to LSU and 9-3 with a win over LSU will be HUGE to the program. Recruits and everyone else will take notice things could finally be different at Texas A&M. 11 games to be played before this one so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens with both teams during the season.
I have the Ags going 8-4 in Jimbo’s first season with predictable losses against Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. It’s very possible we go 7-5 with an additional loss to South Carolina. I also think it’s possible we go 9-3 with a win over LSU or Auburn. I’m almost positive we win at least 7 games but not more than 9. 8-4 seems right based on the schedule, talent, and new coaching scheme. I predicted 8-4 last season getting the Florida and Mississippi State games wrong o I wasn’t far off. I don’t think I’ll be far off this season other.
Since Jimbo got here and based on what Sumlin left I’ve felt 2020 would be the season A&M competes for a SEC West championship. Despite a lot of Jimbo Kool-Aid drinking this off season I think this team is lacking talent for a “break-through” 2018 season. 8-4 still fits in with my expectations for Jimbo assuming he holds the recruiting class.
You can read my overall expectations for Jimbo at Texas A&M here:
Hold tight as Jimbo works to Make Aggie Football Great Again. It’ll happen in due time.
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