It's useful to remember that Texas A&M was 9-4 last year. Not because 9-4 isn't a solid mark in any league, isn't a good record in the SEC and isn't a pretty good resume in the SEC West -- because it is all of those. But it's still 9-4; despite the hype that the Aggies were going to be playing for the division title and might even be dark-horse contenders for the national championship, they never really came all that close.
And that was with Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans and Jake Matthews. All three of them are gone this year. So it's not just a question of how much Texas A&M will be hurt by losing one of the most dynamic players in the game, but how much of a hit the Aggies will take from also losing the team's most reliable target and most valuable pass protector. Those are three relatively large blows that A&M will have to absorb.
On the other hand, it's hard to see Texas A&M having anything like the almost historically bad defense that it had last year. Had the Aggies defense even approached mediocrity, all of that talk of SEC West contention and national consideration might have held up. The bad news in 2013 was that a lot of A&M defenders made a lot of mistakes; the good news in 2014 is that those players hopefully won't make the same mistakes again.
The other element to blend into this is the schedule. The draw from the East is the new hated foe via the Alamo, South Carolina, and a team with which TAMU has at least a passing familiarity in Missouri. (The game is back in College Station, its traditional setting, proving that the interdivision rivalries are not the only concession the SEC has made to history.) Two of the games against the "Big Three" in the West are on the road, making whatever marginal chance A&M had of pulling an upset in at least those two games vanishingly small. And while people are all over the map on the Mississippi teams, count me among those who see both of them as improved.
And all of that brews into a subpar season from A&M, at least when it comes to expectations after Kevin Sumlin's crew went 20-6 in his first two years. There are more seasons like that in the future; 2014 is just not one of them.
|TEXAS A&M AGGIES
|Place: 6th in the SEC West
Record: 6-6, 2-6 SEC
Could be: 5-7 to 9-3
Best chance for an upset: at SOUTH CAROLINA
Bowl: TEXAS BOWL
|8.28.14 | at SOUTH CAROLINA | LOSS|
|9.6.14 | LAMAR | WIN|
|9.13.14 | RICE | WIN|
|9.20.14 | at SMU | WIN|
|9.27.14 | vs ARKANSAS (Arlington) | WIN|
|10.4.14 | at MISSISSIPPI ST. | LOSS
|10.11.14 | OLE MISS | LOSS
|10.18.14 | at ALABAMA | LOSS|
|11.1.14 | LOUISIANA-MONROE | WIN|
|11.8.14 | at AUBURN | LOSS|
|11.22.14 | MISSOURI | WIN
|11.27.14 | LSU | LOSS|