Dallas Colleges: 2014 team previews

Texas A&M Aggies season preview

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
10:30
AM CT

» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Texas A&M Aggies:

2013 record: 9-4

Final grade for 2013 season: The Aggies finished fourth in the SEC West, and considering the lofty preseason expectations placed upon them with a returning Heisman Trophy winner and three eventual first-round NFL draft picks, it wasn't quite the season they hoped for. The nine wins are nice, and so was the Chick-fil-A Bowl victory, but they were 1-4 against Top 25 teams. We'll give them a B-minus.

Key losses: QB Johnny Manziel, RB Ben Malena, WR Mike Evans, WR Travis Labhart, OT Jake Matthews, DT Isaiah Golden, DE Gavin Stansbury, LB Darian Claiborne, LB Steven Jenkins.

Key returnees: QB Kenny Hill, RB Tra Carson, RB Trey Williams, WR Malcome Kennedy, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, OT Cedric Ogbuehi, C Mike Matthews, DE Julien Obioha, LB Jordan Mastrogiovanni, CB Deshazor Everett, CB De'Vante Harris.

Projected 2014 starters: QB Kenny Hill, RB Tra Carson, LT Cedric Ogbuehi, LG Garrett Gramling, C Mike Matthews, RG Joseph Cheek, RT Germain Ifedi, WR Speedy Noil, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, WR Malcome Kennedy, WR Joshua Reynolds, DE Daeshon Hall, DT Alonzo Williams, DT Hardreck Walker, DE Julien Obioha, OLB Donnie Baggs, MLB Jordan Mastrogiovanni, OLB A.J. Hilliard, CB Deshazor Everett, S Howard Matthews, S Armani Watts, CB De'Vante Harris.

Instant-impact newcomers: WR Speedy Noil, DE Myles Garrett, WR Joshua Reynolds, DT Zaycoven Henderson, S Armani Watts

[+] EnlargeDeshazor Everett
AP Photo/Bob LeveyDeshazor Everett and the Aggies' defense will have their work cut out for them this season.
Breakout player: His collegiate debut as a true freshman gave us a glimpse of his ability but an injury robbed Ricky Seals-Jones of the rest of his season. Now he's healthy, big (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), fast for his size and only continues to get better as a receiver. He'll be able to line up inside or outside, but expect him to spend most of his time as an inside receiver, looking for mismatches against linebackers and safeties. He is developing good chemistry with new starting quarterback Kenny Hill, so expect the 2013 ESPN 300 recruit to have a huge season.

Most important game: There are plenty of big ones, but our pick is South Carolina. Yes, it's the season opener and there are 11 games that follow, but for a young A&M team that has inexperienced players in many key positions, most notably quarterback, going to Columbia and generating some confidence -- win or lose -- will be important. The Gamecocks are a top-10 team and SEC road games are tough, but think of the way the Aggies got on a roll after their competitive SEC debut in 2012, a 20-17 loss to Florida. Like that season, the Aggies have a lot to prove and many tough SEC road games in their future, and a win or at least playing well on Aug. 28 can go a long way toward getting this group heading in the right direction.

Biggest question mark: Without question, it's the defense. It was atrocious last season and the Aggies lost four players this offseason who they expected to return, three of which would likely have been starters. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is encouraged by the increased athleticism and depth his group has, thanks in large part to the influx of talent from the 2014 recruiting class, but there are still many unproven talents who will log significant time in the front seven. Can they take a step forward this season?

Upset special: Keep an eye on the LSU game. Seems to be an unusual choice, since the Aggies didn't beat the Tigers the two years Manziel was on campus, but the last time LSU visited Kyle Field, Texas A&M took a 12-0 lead with its up-tempo offense before the Tigers came from behind to win 24-19 in Manziel's freshman season. Night games at Kyle Field usually provide for an electric atmosphere, so expect nothing less on Thanksgiving night. By Game 12, the Aggies' offense should be operating at peak efficiency and the young defense should be coming into its own. Don't be shocked if the Aggies finally upend the Tigers here.

Key stat: Texas A&M returns offensive linemen that combine for 78 career starts, though the most tenured starter of them all -- guard Jarvis Harrison (31 starts) -- might not start, an indication of the depth the Aggies developed across their offensive front.

They said it: "That was a very tough decision. Both of them are playing at a very high level. I just kind of went back to my gut feeling and the maturity of him and being around this system for one year. There were a lot of other factors, but that was the one that kind of stood out the most to me, because he sat here and watched Johnny for a year and he's going to be put in some situation that he has probably – hopefully – seen before, and he can get us out of those bad looks." -- Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, on why the Aggies chose Kenny Hill to start at quarterback over Kyle Allen.

Preseason predictions:

ESPN Stats & Information: 8.3 wins

Bovada over/under: 7 wins

Our take: The schedule-makers did the Aggies no favors by giving them road games at South Carolina, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn. That's tough for a young squad. Fortunately for the Aggies, after the opener at Williams Brice Stadium, they have three manageable nonconference games and Arkansas, so the opportunity to string wins together is there early in the season. Even minus Manziel, Evans and Matthews, this offense should still be one of the best in the nation given Kevin Sumlin's and Jake Spavital's track record for coaching offensive football. Will the defense be better? It should be given the added talent and depth. How much better is the key question and will be the difference between a six- or seven-win season and an eight- or nine-win season. This is definitely a bowl team but probably not ready to finish in the top two of the SEC West yet; 2015 is the season this team could take a huge step forward. If the Aggies finish the 2014 regular season with eight wins, that should be considered a good year and something to build on for 2015.

Oklahoma Sooners season preview

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
10:30
AM CT
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Oklahoma Sooners:

Key returners: LB Eric Striker, DE Charles Tapper, QB Trevor Knight, WR Sterling Shepard

Key losses: C Gabe Ikard, FB Trey Millard, WR Jalen Saunders, CB Aaron Colvin

Most important 2014 games: Oct. 11 vs. Texas (in Dallas); Nov. 8 vs. Baylor; No. 15 at Texas Tech.

Projected win percentage: 80.4 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 10 wins

Instant impact newcomers: FB Dimitri Flowers, S Steven Parker. Flowers worked his way into the Sooners' plans during the spring as an early enrollee. He has the skills and maturity to play a similar role as departed standout Trey Millard as a fullback/tight end hybrid. Parker has impressed early in preseason camp and could work his way into the Sooners' secondary with his terrific cover skills and versatility at the safety spot.

High point from 2013: The Sooners’ Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Alabama carried them into the preseason top 10 in several polls. The win gave the nation a glimpse at the potential of a young Oklahoma team that returns the bulk of its major playmakers for this season.

[+] EnlargeEric Striker
Robin Alam/Icon SMIWith the likes of Eric Striker, Oklahoma is expected to have a fierce pass rush in 2014.
Low point from 2013: OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor was disappointing to say the least, but the Sooners got embarrassed by Texas in the Red River Rivalry in a game they were expected to cruise to victory. UT won the battle in the trenches and never looked back in the 36-20 win.

Defining stretch: OU begins November with a challenging three-game stretch that could decide its College Football Playoff and Big 12 championship aspirations. The Sooners visit Iowa State on Nov. 1, host Baylor on Nov. 8 then visit Texas Tech on Nov. 15. Paul Rhoads always has his Cyclones ready to play, particularly in Ames, Iowa. The Bears' visit to Oklahoma Memorial Stadium could decide the Big 12 title and Lubbock, Texas, has never been kind to the Sooners. If OU sweeps this stretch, they could be in the middle of the conversation for a College Football Playoff berth.

X factor: LB Geneo Grissom. The Sooners' defense is full of talented playmakers such as Eric Striker and Charles Tapper, but Grissom has the ability to really take things to another level if he plays like he did in the Allstate Sugar Bowl when he was extremely active and disruptive. The thought of having Striker, Tapper and Grissom attacking the quarterback and Jordan Phillips in the middle should make quarterbacks shiver.

They said it: “Win or lose, we've lost seniors and the team chemistry and everything will be different than it was a year ago, so I don't ever buy into last year means you're going to do something this year. I guess where the positive is the number of guys that are back, but you're still going to be different in some areas and it has to come together, so you earn your stripes every year.” — Bob Stoops on the momentum from the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory.

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