For the previous two seasons -- and honestly, for the majority of several seasons before that -- the rest of the SEC was chasing Alabama.
Everyone will open the 2016 season as the Crimson Tide's pursuers, again, although only a few teams are legitimate threats to catch up to Nick Saban's juggernaut. Over the next several days, we'll take a look at the Tide's fellow SEC contenders and their cases for overtaking Alabama in the upcoming season.
Today we conclude the series with the Texas A&M Aggies, a team full of potential the past couple years but with nothing to show for it.
How they can beat Alabama: Does Johnny Manziel have any eligibility left? Kidding. But Manziel’s success against Alabama showed that the Tide are beatable if you have the right quarterback. Chad Kelly led Ole Miss past Alabama this past year, and DeShaun Watson nearly did the same for Clemson in the national championship game. Texas A&M can’t get Manziel back, but they do have a QB in Trevor Knight who shredded the Tide in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Knight, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in that game, a 45-31 win for the Sooners. And Knight will have plenty of weapons at his disposal next fall, including All-SEC freshman Christian Kirk. Plus the defense, which returns seven starters, should be improved in Year 2 under John Chavis. The talent is there. The only question is whether Texas A&M can finally break through and win the West.
What’s standing in their way: Consistency. For two years in a row, Texas A&M has come out of the gates fast and started 5-0 only to see the season wither away in the second half. For two years in a row, the Aggies have lost every game to Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. Why can’t they finish the season and win signature games in October and November? Maybe it’s coaching. Or maybe the fast starts dupe us all into thinking they’re a legitimate threat to win the SEC when really they’re not good. Whatever it is, Texas A&M will never make it to Atlanta if it can’t beat Alabama or any of the other top teams in the conference. And it certainly won’t be easy this coming season as the Aggies are having to replace running back Tra Carson and three starters on the offensive line. Also, who knows what to expect from Knight?
X-factor: Knight is an obvious X-factor, seeing as how he will likely be Texas A&M’s starting quarterback next fall, but how about another ex-Sooner, Keith Ford? The former ESPN 300 star sat out last season after transferring, but he’s the early favorite to replace Carson as the team’s starting running back. In 2014, He rushed for 392 yards on 71 carries and scored six total touchdowns with the Sooners. He’s flown under the radar a bit since then, but that could all change if he becomes the lead back for the Aggies.