Thoughts From Opening Weekend

2018 Jimbo First Game

Coming into the game against Northwestern St (NWS) I was hoping/predicting a 55-10 victory.  59-7 is a slightly better margin so I’ll take it.  There’s not a whole lot to takeaway from this game which is not a bad thing.  A&M did what they needed to do and dominated a much inferior opponent.  This is likely the most inferior opponent on the Aggie schedule.  NWS is nowhere near the level of A&M but it’s nice to get a convincing victory rather than see any struggles.

Offense:

QB:

I thought Kellen Mond looked fine.  He wasn’t dominant by any stretch but he did what he needed to do.  He was 17/25 for 184 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions.  That’s a 68% completion percentage.  Would have liked to have seen him at 80% against this opponent but not going to complain too much.  Overall his throws looked pretty good across the middle but his deep balls need some work.

It was clear A&M wanted to establish the run game early and often.  I think that was the right move and A&M did that well which I’ll touch on in a little bit.  When Jimbo named Mond the starter earlier in the week I had a feeling he wanted to do with Mond what he did with Deondre Francois at Florida State two years ago.  In 2016 Jimbo went with Francois to start the season and rode him to a 10-3 season.  This included a 22-point comeback in their opening game against Ole Miss and they almost beat Clemson that season as well.  Mond and Francois are similar quarterbacks in they’re athletic and decent passers.  Neither are exceptional passers or crazy mobile.

What Jimbo did with Francois is roll him out quite a bit rather than just stand in the pocket.  Jimbo did the same thing with Mond on Thursday night.  I didn’t count plays exactly but I believe Monday probably rolled out 30-40% of the time he was passing the ball.  I love designed roll outs if you have a quarterback that can execute it.  It keeps the defense honest and helps the offensive line as the defenses is watching the QB worried about containing rather than just pinning their ears back.  That’s a lot of what Lane Kiffin did with Jalen Hurts and made Hurts so effective despite a questionable arm.

With Mond I think Jimbo is going to do the same thing.  He’ll stand in the pocket most of the time but you’re going to see him roll out from time to time to give the defense something else to look at.  It’s playing to Mond’s strengths.  We’ll see if Mond continues to develop but what I saw on Thursday was a coach working to a player’s strengths and that player executing to the calls for the most part.

What I was most surprised by was the fact Starkel got no snaps in the first half.  I thought Mond would be given 2-4 series and then see Starkel.  We didn’t’ see Starkel until a couple of series into the second half.  It looks like Mond is the true number one quarterback and Jimbo is going to ride him until Mond gives him a reason not to.

Running Back:

Tray Williams had 20 rushes for 240 yards and 3 TDs.  I know it was NWS but that’s an impressive showing.  The offensive line did a good job of getting him to the second level and Tray did the rest.  No way he runs for 240 against an SEC team like that but that’s a good 80-120 yard effort against a normal SEC team.  If we can establish that each game in the SEC we’ll win the 8 games we need to win this year.

I’m a little concerned about depth behind Tray.  It’s a steep drop-off.  Etwi is decent but he’s nowhere near the caliber of talent Tray Williams is.  Corbin and Jackson looked good but by the time they got the ball NWS was worn down.  I like their talent long term but they’re still true freshman.

Behind the offensive line improving all season the health of Tray Williams will be the next most important thing for this team.

Wide Receiver:

I thought the unit looked good but not spectacular.  Clearly A&M wanted to establish the run but I was hoping for a long touchdown pass.  We went deep a few times but our receivers weren’t really getting separation deep which is a slight concern.  You don’t want to go deep all the time but having a legitimate deep threat keeps the safeties from always playing forward.  Not sure I see a true deep threat on this team right now.

Ausbon and Sternberger were the two best receivers on the field and that’s to be expected.  Buckley and Rogers had some decent catches but it’s clear Ausbon and Sternberger are going to be the key components to moving the ball downfield through the air.

All the receivers did a great job blocking which really helped the running game.  Much different look than last year.  I don’t think this receiving corps is as talented as the past 6 years but they seemed to be more disciplined as a whole which is nice to see.

Offensive Line:

It’s no secret the offensive line has been my biggest concern coming into this season.  I feel a little better after this game mainly because we were so dominant in the run game.  No matter the opponent when a team puts up over 500 yards rushing a lot of credit must go to the offensive line.  There’s no doubt Tray Williams deserves a lot of the credit as he had some great long runs but it was his offensive line that was getting him to the second level so he could do his thing.  Time and time again Tray Williams had a gaping hole to get him to the second level.

My only areas of concern for the offensive line in this game is they had a couple breakdowns on blitzes in the first half.  NWS had their linebacker come through untouched twice.  It looked like a delayed blitz but the first time the linebacker got to Mond and the next time Mond was rushed to throw the ball.  It’s a minor issue considering how well they did overall but that can’t happen against teams like Clemson and Alabama obviously.

This was a good first showing even against an inferior opponent.  It’s clear Jimbo wants to establish the run and it’s clear this line knows the assignments to do that.  The only question is can they execute them against the rest of the teams on the schedule?  Even if this line executes their assignments half as well as they did on Thursday night that’s still going to be better than what they did last season.  Long ways to go with this unit but they dominated an inferior opponent and that’s a good start.

Defense:

Defensive Line:

NWS had 13 rushes for 21 yards.  That’s 1.6 yards per rush and their longest run was 6 yards.  That’s REALLY damn impressive.  I know the Aggie defensive line is much more talented than the NWS offensive line but it’s good to see a unit execute perfectly.  Not sure what else to say here as the DLine did exactly what they were supposed to do.  It’s the strength of this team with talent and depth.

Linebacker:

Similar to the defensive line there wasn’t anything the linebackers didn’t do in this game.  They played great football against an inferior opponent.  We’ve got the talent at starting linebacker but we don’t have depth like at defensive line.  If our starters stay healthy it looks like we’ll be fine.

Secondary:

First off, that was the right call on Donavan Wilson.  It wasn’t helmet to helmet contact but Wilson did lower his head and hit the runner with the crown of his helmet.  If you’re a defender and your eyes are looking at the ground at contact there’s a good chance you’re getting ejected.  It’s for the safety of the players as you must tackle with your head up.  Too many people having severe neck injuries is not good for the game of football.

As for the rest of the secondary I though they did fine but weren’t exactly dominant.  There was one 71-yard touchdown catch that skewed the final stats but even without that play I never thought the secondary was truly dominant in pass defense.  They played really good but NWS doesn’t have near the talent we’ll face the rest of the season.  If there’s a weakness on this defense right now it’s pass coverage.  I think our safeties are fine but our corners are going to have to get better in a hurry or teams are going to get yards and points through the air.

Overall I thought the defense played as well as they could other than the long touchdown pass in the second half.  This defense looks good enough to keep us in most games.  We’ll obviously find out more against Clemson.

Special Teams:

Nothing of real note here other than Mann had a couple nice punts and then LaCamera drilled a 52 yarder.  Nice to know we have a guy that can nail field goals from that distance.

 

Looking Forward to Clemson:

Before this game I put the Aggies chance of beating Clemson at 20%.  After the game I’ll put it at 25%.  Clemson is still way too talented across the board for the Aggies to have a real chance of winning, but it was nice to see the Aggies execute almost perfectly against an inferior opponent.

The line for this game is anywhere from 11.5 to 13.5 depending on where you look.  That’s a lot bigger than I expected.  I was expecting around 10.  If the Aggies hold the game to a single digit loss that’s going to be a good look for the Aggies.  Ideally this game kind of looks like the Washington/Auburn game this past weekend if you saw it.  Yes, I’m looking for a moral victory if we don’t win outright.  Baby steps with Jimbo.

For the Aggies to win we’ll have to establish the run like we did against NWS.  Obviously we won’t have the gaudy stats but if Trayveon runs for at least 80 yards and a score against that Clemson defensive line that’s going to be a really strong effort.  I do think that’s possible based on what I saw on Thursday night.  If the Aggies achieve that while Ausbon and Sternberger account for around 150 yards and 2 scores the Aggies have a real chance of winning.  I know ~230 yards and 3 TDs for 3 people doesn’t seem like much but that’s a tall order against Clemson.  They’re #2 in the country for a reason.

Obviously if the offense does that the defense will have to be strong to hold Clemson to around 20 points.  That is a tall order as Clemson scored 24 points or more in 12 of their 14 games last season.  There has been an exception and that’s against an SEC defense.  They failed to score more than 14 points against Auburn and Alabama.  Against Auburn the last two seasons Clemson has only scored 19 and 14 points.  If the Aggies can do the same as the Auburn defense the last two year the Aggies likely win this game.  I just don’t know if the Aggie secondary is up to the task.

One other interesting stat is that Georgia Tech has been the most effective team in the ACC holding Clemson to 26 and 24 points the last two seasons.  I’m sure a component of that is the fact Georgia Tech likes to run the ball and the clock.  That likely kept Clemson’s offense off the field more than normal but hopefully Jimbo is paying attention.  No need to get in a shootout with Clemson.  A low scoring contest is the Aggies only chance to win in my mind.  Keep our defense rested and see if we can wear down that Clemson defensive line.

 

Other Thoughts from Opening Weekend:

Alabama – Holy hell does Tua Tagovailoa give Bama a completely different look.  Saban has had the equivalent of a V6 Honda Accord sedan under center since he’s been at Bama and now he’s got a damn Ferrari.  That’s not a stretch.  Tua’s athletic ability in both passing and mobility is off the charts compared to what Bama has seen in the past.  Someone may figure out how to defend Tua but right now it looks like Saban has a toy he’s never had in the past.  15-0 doesn’t seem like a stretch.

Auburn/Washington – I saw two really good teams but not great.  Auburn’s defense looked really good as did Jarrett Stidham throwing the ball but I wasn’t impressed with Auburn’s run game at all.  I don’t see Auburn beating Georgia and Bama again this season unless they find some blocking and running.  Jake Browning had some really great moments for Washington but it was clear to me Washington just doesn’t have the elite talent of other programs in the country.  Chris Petersen must get a lot more talent to that program if it expects to be a perennial elite program.

Big 12 Conference – OU and Tech picked up right where they left off last season.  OU scores a lot of points and Tech lets a lot of points be scored.  I was surprised Kiffin didn’t put up many points on OU.  The OU defense has shown suspect against good offenses but OU manhandled FAU the entire game.  Not a good look for Kiffin at all if he was hoping to jump from FAU to a big program.  OU looks like it’s set to run roughshod over the B12 yet again this season.

Do Tech fans realize Lincoln Riley played quarterback for them like Kingsbury?  It’s funny Tech fans became all enamored with Coach Cool thinking he was the savior.  Meanwhile, another former Tech football player got the reins at OU and is looking poised to own the Big 12 for at least the next 5 years.  Tech could double Riley’s salary and I don’t think he’d leave Norman for Lubbock.  You guessed wrong on your former players as head coach, Tech.  Lincoln belongs to Norman now.

As for Kingsbury at what point does this guy lose his job?  He’s damn good to look at if you’re a woman but he sucks as a head coach.  He’s in his 6th year at Tech and has made ZERO progress.  There is NOTHING redeemable about him as a head coach other than his looks.  Seriously.  This dude has turned his look into tens of millions of dollars.  Good on him and his agent but bad on Tech.  It’s crazy most people forget he’s the guy that let Baker Mayfield leave Tech.  Somehow OU got two former Tech walk on quarterbacks in Mayfield and Riley while everyone at Tech was wooed at the cool and charm of Kingsbury.  I’m sure he’s fun to chase women with but he must be maddening if you’re a Tech football fan that likes winning football games.  I know Kingsbury doesn’t have the talent of OU but his Tech teams look lost.  Reminds me of his former mentor Kevin Sumlin.

Texas is in fact, not back.  Herman still has time to turn it around but the dude is 7-7 in 14 games in Austin.  He lost to a Maryland team in complete dis-array.  There’s no defending that Maryland team.  That Longhorn squad looked clueless and I think that starts at the top with Herman.  Herman is in a spiral I think his cockiness will only make it worse.  He seems to get distracted by things that don’t really help win football games.

West Virginia looks legit with Will Greier under center.  Something tells me it’s going to be OU and WVU running away from the conference all season.  The Big 12 really needs OU to run away with the conference again.  I’m not sure WVU has the brand recognition to get in the College Football Playoff with more than one loss.  Even with one loss WVU could be on the outside looking in depending on the other teams with one loss.  The CFP selection committee can say what they want but brand matters in their Final 4.  It is about the money from audience numbers in the end.

Ole Miss:

Coming into this season I thought Ole Miss would take a step back and make the SEC West a little easier.  I know they played Tech who is a real suspect team but Ole Miss has some legit talent at QB, RB, and WR.  They’re coached by a former offensive line coach so I have a feeling they’re going to have a much better offense and team than anyone expected.  They won’t be the easy win I was expecting coming into the season.  With Ole Miss set up like they are the SEC West is once again the toughest division in college football by a wide margin.  There’s not a division in college football that has the talent and coaching the SEC West has based on the first weekend.  That could change but the SEC West was 7-0 with convincing wins.

LSU:

Building on Ole Miss, LSU reminded everyone they’re not to be written off either.  Miami is not a Top 10 team but they’re still a pretty good football team and LSU dominated them.  LSU has done two things well for the last decade – play defense and run the ball.  Last night showed they’re still really good at those two things.  Why people were writing LSU off coming into the season I have no idea.  Last year they went 9-3 in the regular season losing early head scratchers to Miss St and Troy but then beat everyone else but Alabama.  LSU is still as talented as any football team in the country not named Alabama.  You put Jarret Stidham on that team and they’re a Top 5 team without a doubt.  The writing off of LSU coming into the season reminds me of 5-6 years ago when everyone wanted to write off Alabama after an early season loss each season.  Meanwhile Saban would just keep winning championships.  Meanwhile LSU is just going to play great defense and run the ball as well as anyone in the country.

The SEC West looks to be back on the rise when it looked like it might be trending down with the coaching changes since Les Miles left Death Valley.

Michigan/Notre Dame – Jim Harbaugh is not a terrible coach but he’s EXTREMELY overrated for what he’s done at Michigan.  For what he gets paid his lack of urgency at the end of that game was criminal.  He seemed utterly clueless or not interested in trying to get that game to overtime.  Michigan shouldn’t scare a decent opponent at all.  As for Notre Dame they’re a legit team.  I don’t think they’re on the level of Bama and Clemson when it comes to talent but I do think Notre Dame deserves mention with the next tier that includes Auburn, Washington, LSU, OU, OhSU, Penn St, and a couple others.  That’s a good Notre Dame team and MUCH better than what they had 2 seasons ago.  I thought Brian Kelly might be done but credit to him for getting that program turned around.

 

College football is back and we’ll find out on Saturday how close Jimbo is to Making Aggie Football Great Again.  I sure hope we’re all swilling Maroon Kool-Aid at tailgates after the game!

#MAFGA

If you’re reading this blog for the first time and want to get notice when new blogs are posted, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook by using the following two links.  We post weekly thoughts from the games and other random stuff throughout the year.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/m_a_f_g_a

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Make-Aggie-Football-Great-Again-1998293353741315/

If you want a Make Aggie Football Great Again hat we have some coming in a week or two.  They’re $20 including shipping.  You’ll look great in one at Kyle Field or just around town!  You can email chewyredding at yahoo dot com for more information.  Payment can be made by PayPal or Venmo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s