Projecting the Aggies’ 2020 Record

As we know, 2020 has proven to be a year where expectations change by the week.  Assuming the Aggie football team can stay healthy through the COVID mess I don’t see expectations changing much throughout the season.  We shouldn’t need to see a few weeks of football to determine what kind of team we have. 

I think this Aggie team is easy to determine.  This is a good football team.  It’s got big holes with the offensive line and lack of experience.  However, it’s by far the most talented team Jimbo has had in three seasons.  This should be the season where Jimbo finally puts a foot in the ground and people take notice of what he’s really building in Aggieland.  This isn’t a college football playoff team but it is a borderline Top 10 team.

I’m torn on what 2020 and the new SEC schedule will bring from a win/loss standpoint.  I think the floor for this team is 6-4 but 9-1 is possible.  It’s not the Aggie team that I don’t know about.  I feel comfortable knowing where this team stands from an ability standpoint.  It’s four of their opponents in Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU I’m not sure.  Those are four really good football programs but I don’t know what they’re going to look like in 2020.  They all have question marks coming into the season.  I don’t believe last season is indicative of this season for those teams.  I think all 4 can be worse in 2020 than they were in 2019.  I just don’t know enough about their talent. 

The talent is there for the Aggies to be better than those teams.  The ultimate judge will be who wins and loses so we’ll just have to see how it plays out on the field.   

I’m not worried about how Jimbo is going to handle this season from a coaching standpoint.  In his two seasons he’s shown to trust his defense and limit mistakes by his offense.  Don’t get greedy.  Stay really steady and focused hoping the breaks roll your way late in the game.  It’s worked as we’ve come back in games against Kentucky, LSU, and Oklahoma State. 

There were times I wish he’d roll the dice more against better teams but I get what he’s doing.  He’s put down a solid foundation and I think we’ll see Jimbo continue to build on it.  He’s got a plan and he’s going to stick to it.  He and Mike Elko have shown to be a really good team so no need to disrupt that balance in year 3.  Just keep doing what you’ve done.

Year 3 has been interesting for recent Texas A&M coaches.  Coach Fran completely imploded coming off a Cotton Bowl appearance.  He tried to implement some option/spread type offense with Reggie McNeil.  The Aggies went 5-7 that season.  Mike Sherman had his best year in his third season after struggling early to start 3-3.  He wound up taking the Aggies to the Cotton Bowl reeling off November wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas.  Kevin Sumlin had a yo-yo of a season his third year destroying South Carolina to open things up which lead to 5 straight wins followed by 3 straight humiliating losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss and cumulating in the 59-0 loss at Alabama.

I don’t expect Jimbo to repeat any of those seasons.  I think you’re going to see the Aggies compete in every game they play this season.  If that offensive line can make any level of improvement I think the Aggies stand a really good chance of placing second in the SEC West making a New Years bowl game.  Assuming those still happen this season.  If the Aggies place second in the SEC West that will be one hell of a season.

Enough talk.  Let’s look at the Aggies 2020 schedule and how I see these games playing out.

Vanderbilt:

Vanderbilt is not good.  The Aggies should beat them.  I expect a fairly close game in the first half with the Aggies pulling away in the second half.  For an all SEC schedule this is as good of an opponent as you can get to knock off the rust.

Ags win. 

Record 1-0.

Alabama:

2019 was considered a down year for Alabama.  For Alabama that means you lose by 5 points to one of the best teams ever in the history of college football.  You also lose by 3 points on the road to your rival in an abnormal game.  In that game against Auburn, Mac Jones replaced Tua Tagavolia a couple games prior and threw two pick sixes.  That’s 14 points gifted by the Bama offense.  Auburn also got the benefit of bad officiating.  They kicked a field goal at the end of the first half they shouldn’t have been allowed to kick.  That’s 17 points. 

That loss knocked Alabama out of the New Years bowl games and into the Citrus Bowl.  In the Citrus Bowl they throttled a pretty good Michigan team who was ranked 14th at the time.  11-2 with a Citrus Bowl win over Michigan is a bad season for Nick Saban.  Unreal the expectations for that guy.

I cite the above because people want to write off Nick Saban and Alabama after a season they don’t make the playoffs or win the SEC.  That’s a damn good season for anyone other than Bama and maybe Clemson or Ohio State.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that Alabama is on their way down because they went 11-2 in 2019.  They’re still Bama.

The Aggies and Tide pose an interesting matchup because they match up pretty evenly.  Bama lost some serious firepower in Tagavolia, Ruggs, and Jeudy at quarterback and receiver.  They certainly won’t have the firepower through the air but they return four of their starting offensive lineman.  Three of those guys are seniors and the fourth was a freshman All American.  It’s tough being Nick Saban.  Senior Najee Harris is in the backfield who is no different that the dozen NFL running backs Saban has had before him.  Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith return as starting receivers.  This offense may not be as spectacular but it’s still going to be damn good.  Saban is basically going from a Ferrari to a Porsche.  It’s still better than what most everyone else has.

The strength of the Aggie team is in the defensive line so we should be able to give what might be the best line in college football a good fight.  We should keep them from running up and down the field on us.

I think Nick Saban goes back to his old offensive plans of letting talent take over late in the game.  He’s not going to let Mac Jones make any mistakes like he did against Auburn.  They’ll use the run game to set up shots downfield with the speedy Waddle and Smith.  They may not put up 40 points a game but they’ll put up 30 while wearing down the opponent’s defense.  The Aggies will need to make some key third down stops to get off the field if they stand any chance of winning.

Believe it or not the defense is where Bama is likely to have the most questions.  They still have plenty of talent but Saban doesn’t return as much on the defensive side of the ball as he has in the past.  He has four returning starters on defense including Dylan Moses who started in 2018 and sat in 2019 due to an injury.  It might be best we catch then in the second game.  This might be a defense that’s still learning to play with one another when the Aggies catch them.  Plenty of talent but not the experienced unit Saban is used to running out there from the start.

If we can establish the running game and keep pressure off Mond the Aggies stand a real chance to win this game.  That’s a big if though.

This is a winnable game for the Aggies.  I really believe it’s the most winnable game against Bama since 2012.  However, I’m not betting against Nick Saban until I see the clock hit 0:00 and the Aggies have one more point than the Tide.

I’m marking this up as a loss.  I hope I’m wrong though.

Record 1-1.

Florida:

Florida is a really interesting team.  I think they’re perceived to be better than they are.  They’re a damn good football team but they benefit by playing in the SEC East which isn’t nearly as strong as the West.  They went 11-2 last year but they really didn’t beat anyone other than Auburn which was at home.  They lost to LSU and Georgia which is understandable.  They played in the Orange Bowl beating Virginia 36-28.  That’s not that impressive.  Good solid win but it’s still Virginia.

11-2 looks good until you look under the hood a little.  I love Dan Mullen as a coach but I don’t think this Florida team is as talented as the record indicates.  This is only their third season removed from being 4-8 so Mullen has had to do some roster rebuilding.  This isn’t a typical Florida team deep in talent and experience like we saw in 2012.

I think this team is somewhere between the 2012 team we saw at Kyle and the 2017 team we saw at The Swamp.  I believe the Aggies might be more talented overall.

Florida returns Kyle Trask under center which I don’t think is a great thing.  He’s pretty pedestrian but he’s coached up by Mullen who’s got a pretty good track record with quarterbacks.  Guys like Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and Nick Fitzgerald.  Trask lacks the running ability those four guys have so it really limits what Mullen can do with him.  If he had better wheels I’d be more concerned.

Their best offensive player is a very talented tight end in Kyle Pitts.  Ironically he’s coached by Jimbo’s former tight end coach who coached Jace Sternberger.  The Gators are inexperienced at receiver and offensive line.   It’s not without talent but it’s short on experience as unit.  This will be a pretty solid but not spectacular offense.  I think the Aggie defense can really give them fits.

Getting Florida in their third game will be good for A&M.

Defensively it’s solid but not spectacular.  They’ve got some veterans and younger talent but nobody that stands out.  Not one of their guys on defense was named to the pre-season first team All SEC team.  They’ve got three guys on the second team.  These pre-season teams aren’t always indicative of how one will perform but they’re a good guide.  The first team defense is laced with guys from Bama, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia.  It feels like Florida’s defense is a step below those programs.  Fine by me.

This game feels like a “Jimbo Special.”  Those are games where Jimbo doesn’t do anything to make major mistakes for 3 quarters and finds a way to pull it out in the end.  I think this might be a pretty ugly game as Elko and the defense stalemate the Florida offense while Mond and the offense take little shots here and there hoping something will break open.

This feels like 2017 but at Kyle with more talented teams.  I think the Aggies win this thing 19-13.

Record 2-1.

Mississippi State:

Mike Leach is back in our division.  I love Mike Leach but I HATE him being in our division again.  I want to cheer for the guy but hate playing him.  He had our number at Tech.  Not only would he beat us on the field but then he’d get in his little jabs after he did it.  I don’t blame Mississippi State for hiring him.

However, I don’t think he’ll have the same amount of success against us as he did in Lubbock.

This isn’t a very good Mississippi State team.  They were 6-7 last season only because of the Ole Miss playing who pretended to be a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.  If it wasn’t for that event Mississippi State has exactly 2 SEC wins last season.  1 of those being over Arkansas so it’s really 1 SEC win.

We handled Mississippi State at Kyle last season and I expect us to do the same this season in Starkville.

This is an Aggie win.

Record 3-1.

Arkansas:

At some point Arkansas will beat us in the SEC.  I don’t think it’s this season.

This is an Aggie win.

Record 4-1.

South Carolina:

This feels like the ultimate trap game.  The Aggies could be going into Columbia, SC on a pretty decent win streak having only lost to Alabama.  South Carolina has lost a lot and we pounded them last season at Kyle.

Put this as an 11:00 am game and I can see the Aggies being completely surprised.  I don’t really see that happening but if there’s a trap game this season this one is it.

As long as the Aggies don’t turn the ball over they’ll be fine here.

This is an Aggie win.

Record 5-1.

Tennessee:

Tennessee is like Florida benefitting from playing in the SEC East.  Their record is inflated compared to an equivalent SEC West team.  A lot of people think Tennessee is on the rise after last season.  They’ll be improved but we need to look more at the 2019 season.

They started out HORRIBLY last season losing to Georgia State and BYU at home in their first two games.  Sitting at 2-5 looking like a lost season they then reeled off 6 straight wins including a Gator Bowl win over Indiana.

The problem I have with this team is they didn’t beat a single ranked team all last season.  They barely beat Indiana by 1 point in Jacksonville.  They weren’t competitive at all against Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  Sure, not many teams are but it feels like Tennessee happens to be in Tier 2 all by themselves in the SEC East behind Georgia and Florida.

Jeremy Pruitt is certainly improving things at Tennessee but I don’t think he’s farther along than Jimbo is at A&M.

As long as the Ags are healthy, playing like they should be, and don’t turn the ball over the Aggies will win this game.

Record 6-1.

Ole Miss:

This sort of feels like a trap game as well but I’m not terribly worried about it.  It’s an SEC West opponent that’s played us tough so I think we’ll be ready.

I’m excited to have Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach at the Mississippi schools.  That is going to make for serious theater. 

Kiffin has some work to do in Oxford and he’ll cause some people fits at times but I don’t think it’s in 2020.

I think the Aggies will be just fine here.

Record 7-1.

LSU:

This is by far the most conflicting game I have on the schedule right now.  My head says despite all the losses LSU had from last year’s team this is still a REALLY tough game for the Aggies.  It will be decided at the line of scrimmage and I don’t trust our offensive line in this game.

My heart says we win this game.

Like Alabama this is a very winnable game.  LSU lost a TON from last season’s game.  They lost their entire offense for the most part.  They lost what I think is the brains of their offense from last season in Joe Brady.  This won’t be anywhere close to the same offense as last year. 

They lost Dave Aranda as their defensive coordinator.  They replaced him with Bo Pelini who I have no idea if he’s still any good as a defensive coordinator.  He should be but guys tend to lose their fastball.  Lord knows we see plenty of re-treaded DCs in Aggieland that didn’t turn out so well.  I hope the same for SMU.

Their defense took a hit but they return Derek Stingley and Jacoby Stevens in the secondary who are potential first round guys at the next level.  Coach O has recruited well so they might lack experience on defense but they’ll have PLENTY of talent.  There’s a load of LSU guys in the NFL.  They just grow them differently in Louisiana so they’ll have talent.

I’m going to chalk this one up as a loss right now.  What I really think is going to happen is we’re going to trip somewhere between Bama and LSU losing one of those game and then pull this one off.  Basically the same thing we did in 2018.  I just can’t tell where that other loss is right now so I’m giving it to LSU.

Aggies lose.

Record 7-2.

Auburn:

Gus Malzahn is to the SEC what Mike Leach used to be in the Big 12.  You never know what you’re going to get each week because they draw up something different each week.  When their plan works it’ll hit you from out of nowhere.  It doesn’t always work and they lose some stinkers.  He’s a fascinating coach.

He’s had Jimbo’s number the last two years.  The Aggies gave the game away in 2018 at Auburn.  Gus walked into Kyle last year and pulled down Jimbo’s pants.  The Auburn defensive line mutilated the Aggie offensive line and Gus ran enough mis-direction on offense where they caught a couple Aggie defenders sleeping for big touchdowns.  It was a masterful game plan by Gus.  He knew where the Aggies were weak and attacked.

I’m not sure what to expect from Auburn this season.  Bo Knix returns for his second season in Auburn.  An experienced quarterback is always dangerous with Gus.  They have two talented receivers that can burn you downfield.  Gus will move the ball but the question his how much will he score.

Defensively they won’t be as talented but they’ll still be damn good.  They lost three defenders in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.  The fact that Derek Brown is gone is a major win for the Aggies.  That dude single handedly destroyed our offensive line in last year’s game.  He regularly took out two Aggie linemen on his way to hit Mond before Mond had his feet set.  It was impressive.

Auburn always has a stout front 7 so the 2020 Auburn defense will still be damn good.  They know how to play SEC football.

This game is really a toss up to me at this point.  It’s the last game of the year and could mean a ton.  Depending on how LSU does this could be the game that decides who’s second in the SEC West or even first.  This could be a really big showdown.

I think this is the year Jimbo finally gets over on Gus so I’m going Aggies here.

Record 8-2.

Year 3 is the year Jimbo needs to take the next step.  I believe in Jimbo so I think he will.  He’s got a senior quarterback and a lot of young talent.  If the Aggies do pull off an 8-2 season with this schedule and offensive line that’s a major step in the right direction.  It will really put people on notice to what Jimbo is doing.

While I would love to see the Aggies win the SEC West this season I just don’t think this is the team to do it.  I think this is the team that will knock on the door of doing it.  Let’s get through the 2021 season before we even talk about next season.  Enough next season talk for Aggie fans.  Let’s see what the 2020 Aggies do first as they’re capable of plenty. 

Should be an interesting season for a host of reasons.

Make Aggie Football Great Again!

#MAFGA

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