Monday, May 23, 2011
Schedule analysis: Texas A&M
By David Ubben
The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.
Next up: Let's take a look at the Aggies of College Station.
Nonconference (with 2010 records):
Sept. 4: SMU (7-7)
Sept. 17: Idaho (6-7)
Oct. 1: Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (10-3)
Home Big 12 games:
Sept. 24: Oklahoma State (11-2)
Oct. 15: Baylor (7-6)
Oct. 29: Missouri (10-3)
Nov. 19: Kansas (3-9)
Nov. 24: Texas (5-7)
Away Big 12 games:
Oct. 8: Texas Tech (8-5)
Oct. 22: Iowa State (5-7)
Nov. 5: Oklahoma (12-2)
Nov. 12: Kansas State (7-6)
Gut-check game: Oklahoma State. It was a toss-up game last year, and it should be a toss-up once again. Last year's Thursday night game was an instant classic, and I'd expect a similar, high-scoring affair once again. The winner gets the inside track on a BCS berth. The Cowboys played one of their worst offensive halves during the first half of this game last season, but adjusted and won 38-35. The offense scored 24 points in the second half, and the defense added seven more by returning a Jerrod Johnson fumble 63 yards for a score -- one of Johnson's five turnovers on the night. I'd expect this one to go down to the wire once again. The 12th Man could prove valuable.
Trap game: Texas Tech. After narrowly losing to Arkansas in 2010, Texas A&M played by far its worst game of the year the following week. The Aggies were trampled at home by Missouri, 30-9, and fell to 3-3. This season, after an Arkansas game I'd pick them to lose as of right now (that whole no wins over SEC teams in six tries since 1995 is tough to ignore), the Aggies have to travel to always-dangerous Lubbock to face a hungry Texas Tech team with an offense that should still be solid and a defense that may be starting to figure itself out in early October. The Red Raiders nipped Missouri in Lubbock last year, and somebody always seems to leave Lubbock with a shocking loss.
Snoozer: Idaho. No Nathan Enderle? No shot. And even then, it was a long one. Turnovers made a date with Florida International in College Station last year turn scary, but this is a more mature Texas A&M team, at least one mature enough not to fool around with Vandals. Or at least I'd like to think so.
Non-con challenge: Arkansas. This is a great rivalry for both sides. The Hogs finally cracked the BCS for the first time in 2010, and the Aggies will try to get back for the first time since 1998. Both teams face an uphill climb in their conferences, but it's entirely possible that both could be in the BCS as at-large bids. Year three of a 10-year series deal -- that could stretch to 30 years -- should be another great game with a fantastic split-crowd and a bowl-game atmosphere in Cowboys Stadium.
Chance to impress: Oklahoma. I've alluded to it previously, but there's a trend in Norman. When the Sooners and their fans sense their nation's best 36-game home winning streak could be in jeopardy, they answer in a big way. Oklahoma has blown out the three biggest threats in each of the past three seasons -- Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Florida State -- and I'd expect the same thing to happen to the Aggies when they travel to Norman. (For what it's worth, the Aggies lost 65-10 the last time they made the trip, in 2009.) All good things must come to an end, but I believe a good Big 12 team that is perhaps underestimated early in the season will slay the giant. My guess is the loss won't come in a marquee game like this.
Analysis: All things considered, it's a pretty balanced home-away schedule for the Aggies, who get a favorable 5-4 home-away balance in this round of conference schedules. The Aggies also have one of the Big 12's toughest nonconference schedules, kicking it off with a marquee Sunday game on the opening weekend against an improving SMU team. We'll talk best/worst case scenarios as the season creeps closer, but the Aggies' schedule is loaded with swing games that will ultimately decide if they end their season in Arizona as Big 12 champs prepping for the Fiesta Bowl, or a middle of the pack team headed for the Insight Bowl.