At this point, we have 11 SEC teams in all making the postseason, but there is still plenty of football left to be played. The projections will fluctuate throughout the season, but here's our best guess after Week 1.
College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl): Georgia
Orange Bowl: Alabama
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Capital One Bowl: Texas A&M
TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU
Outback Bowl: South Carolina
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi State
Belk Bowl: Florida
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Missouri
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Ole Miss
Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee
Oklahoma State and West Virginia were impressive in losses while Texas Tech was disappointing in a victory. Keep in mind, our Big 12 bowl projections will remain fluid throughout the season as teams start to distinguish themselves as bowl contenders or pretenders.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma State
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: West Virginia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas
Cactus Bowl: TCU
On to the mailbag:
Schloss in Falling Waters, West Virginia, writes: As a WVU alumnus, I am happy to see we have made good progress since last season. There is little doubt that we have definitely improved. But should 'Eer fans be worried about an Alabama hangover? Does WVU continue to build on its strong showing versus the Tide or does it take a step back in Week 2?
Brandon Chatmon: Mountaineer fans should be worried because we see teams that are overwhelming favorites struggle each week during nonconference play. But I think the Mountaineers are hungry and will look at the Alabama result as proof of their potential to be better than last season and strive to make a statement that they plan to rise up the Big 12 standings this season. As impressive as their showing was, it was still a loss. So I think WVU will come out hungry for the satisfaction of a victory.
John in Hillsboro, Ohio writes: So ... in this new playoff era, how can a Big 12 team, even undefeated, hope to get to the playoffs with no conference championship and traditionally weak nonconference scheduling?
Chatmon: I don’t see a scenario where an undefeated Big 12 champion is on the outside looking in when playoff berths are handed out.
Michael in Lubbock, Texas writes: It’s one thing to come out flat against an FCS team, but what's most troubling about Texas Tech's "embarrassing" performance was the same problems that you know they worked on all offseason keep biting them -- turnovers, penalties, bad special teams play and the defense getting blown off the line and unable to get off the field. How do they fix it?
Chatmon: The problems with penalties and turnovers is what bothered me the most as well, Michael. The Red Raiders didn’t play with urgency or take the field to dominate Central Arkansas. They clearly just wanted to show up and get their win. Kliff Kingsbury has been stressing penalties and turnovers, yet they’re still an issue which makes me think it won’t change until the players take more pride and ownership over being masters of the details. Everything is fixable, but Kingsbury's squad needs to understand the value of every game, every play and every opportunity.
Andy in Austin, Texas writes: Given his history of concussions, does Texas quarterback David Ash finally retire? And who does Strong give the reins to, Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard?
Chatmon: I hope so. We’ve reached the point where it’s not about David Ash the football player anymore. As far as where UT goes from here, here is what I would do if I was Charlie Strong. I would start preparing to hand the offense over to Heard. I'd tell Swoopes he gets the start this weekend but I think Heard is the future and that we’re going to get Heard ready to take over, starting with multiple series against BYU, then see how Swoopes responds. Best-case scenario is Swoopes steps his game up and either Heard earns the job and beats him out or Swoopes refuses to let this opportunity to start get away from him. That would be a win-win for the Longhorns.
John Wheeler writes: When comparing the defensive efforts of Texas and Baylor, which seems to point to more long-term success and which was more a result of opponent?
Chatmon: I think both defensive performances point to long-term success. Both defenses have terrific athletes and were dominant over the weekend so I expect both to be among the Big 12’s best. The thing I liked most about the performances was the relentless nature of the Longhorns and Bears defenses. That’s what you’re supposed to do against inferior opponents.
Matt Truelove writes: Even though J.W. Walsh almost led the Cowboys to victory vs. FSU, do you think he'll end the year as the starter for the Cowboys?
Chatmon: That’s an interesting question. I think ultimately the Cowboys quarterback will be decided by the defense they are facing as a season progresses. Walsh will be the guy until defenses load up to stop the run-heavy approach that highlights the junior’s strengths. When that happens Daxx Garman or Mason Rudolph will be counted on to make defenses respect the passing game. If all bets are off and it was only up to Mike Gundy and company, I think Walsh would get the bulk of the snaps because of his unquestioned leadership ability. But I fully expect the Pokes to adapt when defenses force their hand as the season goes on. So, to answer your question, I don’t think OSU will have an clear No. 1 signal-caller this fall, with Walsh sitting atop the queue and Garman/Rudolph ready to go when needed.
But the way they lost their openers has completely changed the outlook for the rest of their seasons.
For the better, too.
The Cowboys took defending national champion Florida State to the wire. The Mountaineers went toe-to-toe with second-ranked Alabama.
Not anymore in Stillwater.
And not anymore in Morgantown.
“They should be able to establish a certain level of confidence from the way we played,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his team. “The second half we were very competitive. Once they got up and going and realized they could play with the speed that Florida State brought to the table, they were much better. And so I think there’s a certain amount of confidence they should have developed from that game.”
The Mountaineers should take plenty of confidence out of their opener with Alabama, too.
West Virginia went into Atlanta almost a four-touchdown underdog. But on the first drive, the Mountaineers took it right to the Crimson Tide. Rushel Shell grinded out tough yards between the tackles, while quarterback Clint Trickett fired completions all over the field. The opening drive stalled inside the Alabama 5-yard line, leading to a field goal. But the Crimson Tide quickly learned they’d have a fight on their hands.
“We’re not interested in any moral victories,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday. “But we felt like we could play with those guys. And went into the game with a good frame of mind that was going to happen. And it did.”
Coming off an injury-riddled year in which he was still learning Holgorsen’s offense, Trickett looked like a completely different quarterback. With perfect poise and even more perfect hair, he completed 29 of 45 passes for 365 yards -- the second-highest passing total a Nick Saban defense had ever allowed at Alabama.
“Clint is a completely different quarterback than he was last year,” West Virginia receiver Jordan Thompson told reporters after the game. “People are basing our team off of what we were last year. We were inexperienced last year. Everybody now has a year under their belts. We’re healthier, stronger, faster, a little bigger, but most of all we’re more experienced, and Clint’s the No. 1 difference.”
Mario Alford and Kevin White were difference-makers, too. Against one of the top-rated defensive backfields in the country, White showed he could flourish as West Virginia’s first go-to wideout since Stedman Bailey. White hauled in nine receptions for 143 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass. Alford, meanwhile, kick-started a return unit that ranked last in the Big 12 last fall, returning a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Mountaineers should get better, too. They struggled to contain Alabama’s powerful rushing attack up front. But at the back end Karl Joseph finished with 18 tackles and Daryl Worley pick off a pass, underscoring the playmaking West Virginia will have in its secondary this season.
Ultimately, the Mountaineers dropped too many passes and coughed up too many touchdown chances to pull off the upset. But along the way, they learned they can play with anyone in the country, which should do wonders for a program that has struggled the past season-and-a-half.
“Our guys are in a good place right now,” Holgorsen said. “That’s the standard that we need to play with. And if we can play with that kind of mentality the whole year, we’ll have a good team.”
With the fewest returning starters among any team from a Power 5 conference, Oklahoma State’s young squad seemed to be on the verge of getting blown out after falling behind 17-0 in the second quarter.
Instead, the Cowboys hung tough. Quarterback J.W. Walsh settled down after a rocky start. Tyreek Hill began running away from anyone wearing a white Seminoles jersey. And Oklahoma State’s defensive line began imposing its will against Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a Florida State offensive line starting five seniors.
"We saw our team grow a little bit and mature," Gundy said. "I wasn't really sure how a number of players would react, and I think we learned that they'll fight and compete. We were in a really tough situation at one point, being down 17 points to a really good football team, but they kept their focus. I was proud of them for that."
Every time Florida State made a play, the Cowboys answered. And only after the Seminoles -- who won every regular-season game last season by least two touchdowns -- recovered an onside kick in the final minutes could they rest easy.
The Cowboys figure to be favored in at least their next five games, with the key tilt coming Sept. 25 at home against Texas Tech. And as Saturday showed, Oklahoma State has the pieces to transform its season outlook from rebuilder to Big 12 contender.
"We've got a lot of things to work on, and we had our mistakes, but there's obviously a lot of talent,” said slot receiver David Glidden, who hauled in a 55-yard touchdown bomb against the Seminoles. “There are a lot of guys who can play the game of football pretty well.”
The Cowboys and Mountaineers didn’t win Saturday. But based on how they played, plenty of victories could be on the way.
Edward Aschoff, Jeff Barlis, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
On a scale of 1-10, how big of an impact is David Ash's injury to Texas' season?
Trotter: 9. Who knows when -- or even if -- Ash will be able to return to the lineup for the Longhorns this season? The timing of Ash's injury combined with the timing of a brutal upcoming schedule could send Texas' season south in a hurry. Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard might be fine quarterbacks in time. But Heard has been on campus just a few weeks. And in the spring, Swoopes looked nowhere near ready to quarterback Texas to wins over BYU, UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma, which, by the way, are four teams Texas plays in its next five games. Maybe Swoopes has improved dramatically since the spring. Maybe Ash will return shortly. But the biggest question to Texas having success in Strong's first season -- Ash staying healthy -- has already been answered. And not in the way Texas fans had hoped.
Olson: 11, possibly 12. Charlie Strong went into this season with the same belief Mack Brown held last summer: If Ash is good, we're going to be pretty good. Losing him on his first hit of the season is the absolute nightmare scenario, because there's no guarantee he'll ever come back and there's no guarantee the backup can get the job done. A senior like Case McCoy is not walking through that door. Texas once again must scramble to retool its offense and, once again, the previous staff's failures in recruiting quarterback depth are being exposed.
Other than Oklahoma State and West Virginia, what surprised you most last weekend?
Chatmon: Texas Tech’s struggles to pull away from Central Arkansas was a surprise. I expected Kliff Kingsbury’s squad to cruise to a double digit victory, but they couldn’t seem to take control of the game. The most disappointing aspect of the game was turnovers and penalties continuing to make life more difficult than it needed to be for Tech. The Red Raiders have the ability to become major players in the Big 12 race this season but that won’t happen if they’re constantly shooting themselves in the foot.
Trotter: Thee biggest surprise to me was Iowa State's dismal performance against North Dakota State. I really thought the Cyclones had the chance to form a competent offensive attack with a proven play-caller in Mark Mangino, an experienced offensive line and talent at the skill positions. Through the first quarter, that looked like the case. But after injuries to Quenton Bundrage and Tom Farniok the offense completely fell apart, while the Iowa State defensive front got dominated in the trenches. One game in, Iowa State's bowl hopes already look like a long shot.
Olson: I did think Iowa State could get upset by North Dakota State, but I didn't expect a blowout. Throughout the offseason we were led to believe the Cyclones had renovated their offense and were on track to become a bowl-quality team again. That might still be the case, but losing Farniok and Bundrage was crushing, and ISU's run defense was embarrassing in the 20-point loss. They could be in for a rough run to start this season.
Other than Swoopes, what storyline are you most interested in this weekend?
Chatmon: I’m interested to see if there’s any letdown from Oklahoma State and West Virginia as home favorites after strong showings in losses to open the season. The Cowboys face Missouri State and the Mountaineers face Towson in games they should dominate. If OSU and WVU are the type of teams they looked like to open the season, they will roll on Saturday. If they aren’t, they’ll let their overmatched opponents make the games closer than they should be.
Trotter: I'll be watching to see how the Texas defense performs in a revenge game against BYU. The Longhorns were embarrassed in Provo last year. Now, even more pressure will be on them with Texas' quarterback shuffle. The Longhorns have the talent defensively to dominate, and carry the team through this quarterback transition. But will they? We're about to find out.
Olson: The rematch of Taysom Hill vs. Texas' defense. Last season, he torched the Longhorns for 259 rushing yards and three TDs and nobody saw it coming. The nation's No. 3 rushing quarterback in 2013 looked sharper and improved as a passer in his debut vs. UConn last week. Texas' defense was spectacular against North Texas, and its players want revenge. Charlie Strong's staff should have a much better plan for containing Hill and the zone read, but this going to be a four-quarter chess match.
Texas A&M wasn't top of mind for many entering the season, but the Aggies made a statement Thursday night. A road game at South Carolina and a new quarterback could have been disastrous. Instead, Texas A&M's 52-28 drubbing of the Gamecocks launched the Aggies into the national title discussion -- and gave coach Kevin Sumlin something to cheer about.
The week wasn't one featuring multiple athletes taking official visits, but from a recruiting spin, it did have its moments. Here is a quick recap of what happened.
So on July 31, the day the Aggies reported for training camp and a day before the first practice, the Texas A&M coach set the tone for his players by using one of those headlines.
"Our first meeting we had as a team, ironically, was [July] 31st," Sumlin told reporters after Thursday's game. "The [coaches poll] came out at 11 or 12 or something like that. By 1 o'clock, USA Today had an article with a big headline that said '[Texas A&M is] the most overrated team in the country.' I just put that up there Day 1. That's how we started practice."
"There's probably some coaches, including myself, that took some comments personal in the offseason about how we prepare our team, what our program's all about and I think our team took that personal and they played that way [Thursday night]," Sumlin said.
Suddenly, outsider expectations of the Aggies have been recalibrated. Instead of wondering whether they'd be able to match last year's eight regular season wins, the Aggies look good enough to go toe-to-toe with any team on their schedule and exceed that number. They went on the road and convincingly defeated a ranked team that was carrying and 18-game home-winning streak into the contest.
"Our coaches had great plans and the execution level was good," Sumlin said of his team's opening-day performance. "It's hard to ever say that you think it's going to go like that but I think there was a confidence about this team coming into this year. Quite frankly, there's a little chip on their shoulder.
"Basically, nobody gave us a chance to even be close in this game. All I heard all last week was 'Two touchdowns.' If we could keep it close that'd be great. I think what we did tonight kind of showed that we're not a one-trick pony."
No, there are numerous tricks in the Aggies' bag, especially offensively. Quarterback Kenny Hill connected with a dozen different players via pass and broke Manziel's single-game school records for passing yards (511) and completions (44). Their up-tempo offense ran at near peak efficiency and South Carolina seemingly had few answers.
Moving forward, the Aggies' schedule sets up favorably. They host FCS foe Lamar on Saturday, followed by nonconference clashes against Rice and SMU before re-entering SEC play vs. Arkansas in Arlington's AT&T Stadium. The chance for a 4-0 or 5-0 start is real, which would set up a compelling road clash with Mississippi State on Oct. 4.
More importantly than the near future, Thursday's win indicates the Aggies' long-term future in the SEC is bright. The SEC West is difficult, but between their favorable recruiting (Sumlin signed consecutive top-10 classes and is on track for a third in a row this February), improving football facilities (the school is pouring nearly $500 million into them dating back to summer 2012) and rising profile nationally, the foundation for long-term success appears to be growing stronger, something Sumlin has been planning for since taking this job in December 2011.
"We've got a great university, a great location, we've got great support," Sumlin said. "Because of that, we've got a great chance to be successful. Now, the downside is we're in the SEC West. So there's a bunch of there teams there with great support and great location. We get that. But I also think that we have the ability to achieve success at a high level and sustain it and there's not a lot of places that can do that."
Sept. 7, 2013: Ash exits a 40-21 loss to BYU late in the fourth quarter after suffering a concussion. He does not play against Ole Miss the following week.
Sept. 20: Texas announces Ash has been cleared by UT medical staff to start against Kansas State. He'd participated in his first practice since the concussion two days earlier after being symptom-free for at least 48 hours.
Sept. 21: Ash passes for 166 yards and guides Texas to a 17-7 halftime lead over K-State, then is held out for the second half. Team trainers evaluate him for concussion symptoms.
Nov. 25: Texas officially announces Ash is out for the season and will seek a medical redshirt. "Though he's made a lot of progress, we have not been able to clear him to return to competition," Texas trainer Kenny Boyd says in a statement. "Due to the duration of symptoms, we are now at a point that we all believe the best approach for him is to not return this season."
Jan. 18, 2014: Ash is cleared for offseason workouts and is expected to be a full participant in spring practice.
March 18: First day of spring practice. Ash returns to the practice field for the first time since September.
April 11: Ash is shut down for the final week of spring practice after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot which requires surgery. Texas also announces Ash officially received a medical redshirt for missing 2013, giving him two remaining seasons of eligibility.
July 21: Texas announces Ash is fully cleared to participate in fall practice. A day later, Strong says at Big 12 media days Ash is his starting quarterback.
Aug. 4: First day of fall practice. Ash speaks to media for the first time since BYU. "A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up, you need to quit.' Honestly, I never really thought about it," he says. "In my mind, I always knew I was going to play." He declines to discuss specifics about his concussion. When asked if he's ready to take his first hit, he declares: "Oh yeah, bring it on."
Aug. 25: During his Monday press conference, Strong refers to Ash as an "unbelievable quarterback who's had an unbelievable preseason camp." When asked again about taking his first hit in the season opener, Ash says, "I'm going to be OK. If I get hit, I'll be fine. I will be sliding a lot more this season, so you can count on that, and I'll be trying to protect myself and doing what's best for the team and taking care of my health during games so that I can last the whole season."
Saturday: Ash's first hit comes on the first play of Texas' second offensive drive. As he bends down to scoop up a fumbled snap, North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts hits Ash and his shoulder collides with the crown of Ash's helmet. Ash is slow to get up but does not report an injury to UT trainers. He also takes the following hits during the 38-7 win:
- A hard shot from UNT linebacker Anthony Wallace on the same drive, while throwing a pass away along the sideline.
- A big hit on a 9-yard sack by Roberts in the second quarter.
- A sack by UNT's Dutton Watson before halftime during which Watson's left arm hits Ash's neck.
- A forearm to the neck from Wallace while sliding at the end of a third-quarter scramble.
- During an end zone fumble that UNT recovers for a fourth-quarter touchdown, Ash is knocked into a pile and it appears defensive end Chad Polk's knee slams into Ash's facemask or neck. He plays one more offensive series.
Ash does not report any injuries or symptoms to team trainers during the game. A UT spokesperson says Ash spoke with trainers immediately after he came off the field from each drive.
After the game, Ash does not speak to reporters. OC Shawn Watson describes his performance as "sporadic" with some good moments. Strong is asked about the hits Ash took. "It's all within the flow of the game," he says. "I think the officials did a great job and the thing we have to do is just do a better job protecting. ... Sometimes we see it coming and you have to remember, you're going to get hit in this game."
Late Saturday night, after leaving the stadium, Ash informs the Texas staff he's experiencing headaches and dizziness and is brought in for further evaluation. He tells Strong he thinks the first hit, by Roberts, caused his symptoms.
Monday: Strong announces Ash is out for BYU and offers no timetable for his return. He's concerned about Ash's concussion history but insists the coaching staff was unaware of any in-game symptoms. "I'm not ever going to jeopardize injury," he says. "You can never, ever in this program jeopardize a young man's health to compete in a football game."
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t happy with the performance of the Red Raiders' offense despite a Big 12-best 636 total yards and 7.2 yards per play in the season-opening win.
“I thought they ran tough,” Kingsbury said of his running backs. “I thought Q. White stepped in and had some good catches, and Justin Stockton ran fearless, and DeAndre picked up where he left off this spring. I think he's full speed again and has a lot of confidence right now.”
As the Red Raiders start planning for success in the future, a running game could prove helpful for quarterback Davis Webb. Improving its running game is critical for Tech after finishing No. 111 among FBS teams and last in the Big 12 with 118.2 rushing yards per game in 2013.
While Washington’s performance brings a lot of hope to the Red Raiders’ running game, Kingsbury was impressed by Stockton, a true freshman playing in his first collegiate action.
“I thought he ran the ball well, he stuck his nose in there and did good on protections,” Kingsbury said.
Stockton had six carries for 38 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown along with two receptions for 17 yards. The four-star signee from Cibolo, Texas, created plenty of preseason buzz before fulfilling some of the hype on Saturday. He could see his role in the offense expand if he continues to make plays as a versatile threat in Tech’s offensive attack.
”He's a tough kid, heck of a player, heck of a talent,” Kingsbury said. “So, yeah, that will be a big piece of our offense moving forward.”
- This was a good weekend for the Big 12 if you ask its head coaches. Underdogs Oklahoma State and West Virginia both put up a valiant four-quarter fight against potential College Football Playoff teams Florida State and Alabama, respectively. Big 12 coaches polled Monday during the league's weekly teleconference sensed that sent a message about the depth of the conference. They weren't expecting blowouts in those high-profile showdowns. I don't think anybody is going to underestimate OSU or WVU going forward.
- Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman has a bold take following the news David Ash is out: Jerrod Heard should start. The true freshman didn't join the program until June, so he still has a lot to learn. But he came to Austin with one heck of a pedigree and he does bring a dual-threat ability to an offense that's going to neeed some new wrinkles. It doesn't seem like Charlie Strong strongly considered Heard to start vs. BYU, but he might need to in the next few weeks if Tyrone Swoopes struggles.
- Who's ready for the first Big 12 conference game of 2014? Kansas State and Iowa State meet on Saturday. Bill Snyder wishes his players had a little more experience going into their Big 12 opener. Paul Rhoads, on the other hand, sees this game as a great chance to motivate his players after their blowout loss to North Dakota State. Personally, I'm a fan of these anomaly games. Oklahoma-West Virginia was a weirdly close game a year ago when they met in Week 2. With so few good non-conference rivalry games early in the season, why not get Big 12 ball rolling early?
- Gary Patterson makes an interesting point, in light of the injuries at Texas and Baylor: Does having two quarterbacks help TCU's Big 12 title hopes? He settled on Trevone Boykin for the Horned Frogs' season opener but is reserving the right to also use Matt Joeckel next Saturday when TCU takes on Minnesota. He seems comfortable with that QB situation. He's less enthusiastic about how TCU's defense fared outside of its base package. But, hey, that's what bye weeks are for.
- Came across this over the weekend and it's a shame this has fallen under the radar: Kansas has created a comic book-themed website in devotion to linebacker Ben Heeney. Benton Smith of KUsports.com got players to chime in on "The Diabolical Defender" and what makes him so special. Kudos to the KU sports information staff for showing one of the Big 12's most underappreciated players the love he deserves.
Texas quarterback David Ash, who missed most of last season with concussion symptoms, was injured again and will miss this week's game against BYU.
Ash took several hard hits in a 38-7 win over North Texas. Longhorns coach Charlie Strong says Ash didn't show any symptoms during the game, but that the coaching staff got a call later that night.
To continue reading this story, click here.
One game into the 2014 season, there is sufficient reason for optimism in several areas the Aggies struggled a year ago.
The most noticeable difference was the Aggies’ ability to rush the passer. A sore spot last season (the Aggies had only seven sacks in their first seven games in 2013), Texas A&M showcased its increased depth and athleticism on the edge and harassed South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson to the tune of six quarterback hurries and three sacks.
One of those sacks and two of those hurries came courtesy of the Aggies’ prized 2014 recruit, true freshman Myles Garrett.
“Myles can run with the best of them,” junior defensive end Julien Obioha said.
At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Garrett showed why he was pursued by most major programs in the country. He displayed strength, athleticism and determination that made him a factor in his collegiate debut.
He wasn’t alone. Defensive ends Daeshon Hall and Jay Arnold and defensive tackle Hardreck Walker also recorded hurries, while linebackers Donnie Baggs and A.J. Hilliard got sacks of their own.
Texas A&M’s much-maligned run defense held up well, too, though it got some assistance. Standout running back Mike Davis played sparingly because of a rib injury, and the Aggies’ put up points at a pace that forced South Carolina to abandon the running game to some extent.
Still, when the Gamecocks did run the ball, they were largely ineffective, averaging only three yards per carry and finishing with 67 yards on 22 attempts.
“I think we just came out and showed that we can stop the run against an experienced offensive line, one of the best offensive lines in the country,” Obioha said. “They have a great group of backs. Mike Davis couldn't play that much [Thursday], but we came out and stopped the run against a very good offense."
The night wasn’t without its flaws. Thompson beat the Aggies’ secondary deep for two long first-half touchdown passes of 69 and 46 yards, and in both cases there were errors in Texas A&M's young secondary that contributed to the big plays.
“We had a safety jump a route and get the first touchdown open and didn't get any help for [cornerback] Deshazor [Everett] and then [we had] a bust [in coverage],” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Those two big plays really kind of changed the complexion of the first half and it was a different ballgame because of two plays.”
But one encouraging sign for the secondary was the play of true freshman safety Armani Watts, who recorded an interception and two pass breakups. Sumlin and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder stressed multiple times this offseason that the Aggies needed upgraded safety play, and Watts showed signs Thursday that he might be the one to help provide it.
It wasn’t a perfect night, but given the lack of outsider expectations and last season’s forgettable performances, 2014 has already given the Aggies reason to believe this year will be better.