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2021 SEC Football Season Preview: Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M enjoyed a very strong 2020. What do they have in store for an encore?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 02 Capital One Orange Bowl - Texas A&M v North Carolina Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2020 at a Glance

Record: 8-1
SRS: 16.24
SOS: 6.44

2021 Schedule

(All times are Eastern)

9/4: Kent State (8 p.m., ESPNU)
9/11: at Colorado Buffaloes (3:30 p.m., FOX)
9/18: New Mexico (Noon, SEC Network)
9/25: Arkansas Razorbacks (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX)
10/2: Mississippi State Bulldogs
10/9: Alabama Crimson Tide
10/16: at Missouri Tigers
10/23: South Carolina Gamecocks
11/6: Auburn Tigers
11/13: at Ole Miss Rebels
11/20: Prairie View A&M
11/27: at LSU Tigers

Overview

For many years, the Texas A&M Aggies had all sorts of hype around them. Oftentimes, they could not meet those sky-high expectations. But in 2020, the Aggies took a real, significant step forward. They bowled through their schedule, only netting one loss to eventual National Champion Alabama. They then finished the year off with a win in the Orange Bowl over Sam Howell and the North Carolina Tar Heels. All in all, no one could really complain about the Aggies season, unless you thought they stood a chance in the CFB Playoff of course.

Now as 2021 approaches, the Aggies come in with hype again. They start the year ranked sixth in the nation, the highest-ranked SEC West team behind #1 Alabama. Off that, they were picked to finish second in the West behind Alabama in the SEC Media Poll. The Aggies have four players — Isaiah Spiller, Jalen Wydermeyer, Kenyon Green, and DeMarvin Leal — on the Preseason All-SEC First Team. On the whole, six players — those four, as well as Jayden Peevy and Ainias Smith — were chosen across the board on the Preseason All-SEC teams.

How does this team respond to this kind of hype? Well, we’ll have to see it play out. With Kellen Mond no longer under center, the Aggies will be going with freshman Haynes King in the opener against Kent State. King is backed up by Zach Calzada, a sophomore, so there won’t be too much experience at QB to begin the year. But with a very experienced defense and plenty of skill-position talent, highlighted by Wydermeyer and Spiller, this Aggies team will be one of the more intriguing teams in the country.

Biggest Questions

1. Will quarterback be an issue?

We talked about it before, but it will certainly be interesting to see how QB shakes out for this team. Mond gave them plenty of experience under center, but obviously he’s long gone now. King is no slouch, as he’s a former four-star recruit and was ranked fifth amongst all dual-threat quarterbacks in his class a year ago after he redshirted last year. That class featured Alabama’s Bryce Young, Texas’ Hudson Card and Ja’Quinden Jackson, and South Carolina’s Luke Doty. Calzada, meanwhile, was a three-star quarterback in high school. One should most likely expect them to lean on Spiller and the run game while King works out the kinks. He’ll more than likely be fine, but it will prove interesting to see how they navigate the early waters here in the season.

2. How will the hype be handled?

It’s been one thing for the Aggies to try and answer the bell. They did that in 2020, so now the expectations may be raised even further. While it’s impossible to truly tell how things will shake out, there’s always something to be said about meeting expectations. The benefit A&M has this year is that a lot of their toughest games are at Kyle Field. They host Alabama, no doubt their toughest opponent, and also host Auburn later on in the year. But there’s a tough finish ahead of them against a chaotic Ole Miss squad and a game in Death Valley to end the season against LSU. We’ll likely know a lot about A&M and how they can handle these expectations by that ‘Bama game, and then it’s really off to the races after that.

3. Just how good will this defense be?

The defense is probably the headline attraction for A&M, at least in the non-Isaiah Spiller Division. This group played very well last year, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry, under 230 passing yards per game, and an average of 5.4 yards per play. They ranked within the Top 30 in scoring defense (28th, 21.7 PPG/a) and return a lot of their stars from last year. The biggest gun of the bunch of course is DeMarvin Leal, who figures to be a force to be reckoned with this coming season. He, Jayden Peevy, Tyree Johnson and Michael Clemons make for an experienced and downright nasty defensive line. Them surrounded by a solid group of linebackers, and a secondary that should have its fair share of success, make for a group that could be really damn good. Just how good is the question that needs to be answered.

Projection

I’m pretty bullish on this group. While they could go through some ups and downs at QB at first, I think they’re more than talented enough to get by. They should be 5-0 going into that Alabama game, and they’ll have the advantage of it being at home. Assuming they lose, I could see a situation where they win out until the Ole Miss game. I think the Rebels pick them off, and then their finale against LSU is a coin flip. So, all told, 10-2 or 9-3 should be the expectation for this squad. The best-case scenario, of course, would be 11-1 with their only loss coming to Alabama. And well, if they pick off the Tide...