THREE THINGS WE KNOW
Sept. 14 is the first time they'll be challenged. The Aggies might not have followed Alabama and LSU's lead by using their byes before the games against the other SEC West contenders, but it's not like they have anything but tune-ups before the Tide. Rice, which last year made its first bowl since 2008 (and barely) visits first, followed by the annual FCS game, this one against Sam Houston State. We won't have any idea how good A&M is until it plays the Tide.
Johnny Manziel needs some new targets. The good news for Texas A&M in the wide receiver and tight end department is that leading receiver Mike Evans -- he of the 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns -- is back. The bad news is that none of the other four top targets for Manziel in 2012 are. That includes Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, whose name is probably more memorable than his nonetheless solid play. Malcome Kennedy is the only player beside Evans to have caught more than 20 passes last season.
They'll visit Missouri. This is actually sort of a big deal. The Aggies will travel to the other Columbia this season for the first time since 2007, despite having played the Tigers three times since then. The backstory: Missouri was always supposed to visit College Station in 2010, the last year of the Big 12 as a 12-team league. But to make the 10-team, nine-game schedule work in 2011, the Big 12 had to send Missouri back to A&M again, intending to fix the issue in 2012. Of course, Texas A&M and Mizzou moved to the SEC for 2012, and the only way to make that schedule wok was -- you guessed it -- to have Missouri play Texas A&M on the road.
THREE THINGS WE DON'T KNOW
What happens if Manziel is out. This isn't necessarily about the NCAA issues -- though it could be -- but is more of a general question. What if Manziel gets injured or suspended for something else or lost at an airport somewhere. It doesn't matter why he misses a game or more; perhaps no team in the country is as dependent on one player as A&M is on Manziel. And he's the only quarterback on the roster who attempted more than 11 passes last year. Losing him for any reason could be the death blow to A&M's title hopes.
How the team will react. Fair or not, Texas A&M faces an enormous spotlight this season, and not just because of the focus on Manziel. The Aggies will be treated less like a curiosity this season and more like a target after having knocked off the most decorated program in the conference. Combine that with one of the least experienced rosters in the SEC, and the potential for a distracted team that doesn't focus on a quality opponent ot coughs up a game against a weak foe is very real.
Whether they'll get a second-year bounce. There's not much room for Kevin Sumlin to get the frequent second-year bounce in the win-loss record this season; after all, A&M went 11-2 in 2012. But those one of the two losses was against onr of the most important teams on the slate, and the Aggies will have to sweep Alabama and LSU to win the SEC West. And given the likely improvement of opponents like Ole Miss, TAMU might need to improve simply to preserve the status quo.