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Insider: Is Texas A&M a BCS title team?

Discussion in 'Football: NFL, College, High School' started by HRockets, May 23, 2013.

  1. HRockets

    HRockets Member

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  2. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

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    COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- As the dust settled on the maroon-and-white spring game, a two-hour nationally televised showcase for Texas A&M and its Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, the highly publicized quarterback sat before reporters inside the Bright Football Complex and spoke of "slaying the dragon."

    The words were hatched last season, Manziel said, in the days leading up to what turned out to be a seminal moment for Manziel and the Aggies, their showdown against No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He and his personal quarterback coach, George Whitfield, referred to beating the Crimson Tide as a dragon that Manziel and the Aggies needed to slay.

    This year, Manziel said there is a new dragon that needs slaying. The doubters. The haters. Those who thought Texas A&M's 11-2 campaign in its debut SEC season was nothing more than beginner's luck.

    "Now there's a big dragon out there for us with all the people that are doubting A&M and all the people that are doubting me, [saying] that last year was a fluke," Manziel said on April 13. "So that's a chip on my shoulder and that's a dragon we need to slay this year."

    The message? The Aggies are here to stay. There are a couple of words that haven't been uttered much around College Station that are now being seen as a real possibility: national championship.

    Even if that's not to be, contention for the SEC championship and another good season in the nation's premier football conference should be in order. ESPN Insider Brian Fremeau has the Aggies going 9-3 this season, a respectable mark, if not what the Aggies are ideally hoping for. A season with nine wins or more would make it the third time in four seasons that the Aggies have reached that mark, the sign of a program on the rise.

    Why they'll win a national championship

    1. They are returning the best player in college football ... and he might be even better this year.

    With apologies to Jadeveon Clowney, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the best player in college football. He has the trophy to prove it. And there's reason to believe he'll be even better this season. While much of the attention during the offseason has been on his Twitter and Instagram accounts and all the places he has been (Cabo San Lucas, Toronto, courtside at NBA games, to name a few), there hasn't been nearly as much talk about what Manziel is doing to better himself for his redshirt sophomore campaign. What has he been doing? A lot.

    Texas A&M coaches noted that Manziel improved this spring, and his spring-game performance was evidence. Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, who has spent almost his entire coaching career in the Air Raid-style of offense the Aggies run, said that Year 2 is when a quarterback "really takes off" because of the greater grasp he has on the scheme. And Manziel continues to work at his craft, recently spending four days in California with Whitfield working on multiple aspects of his game.

    He's already starting at a very high place. Manziel ranked No. 1 in the country last season in ESPN's new college QBR metric, which measures a quarterback's contributions through passing, running and avoiding sacks and turnovers, adjusted for opponent strength.

    2. Manziel has plenty of talent around him, too

    Let's not forget, the Aggies have a pretty loaded offense even without Manziel. This unit was one of the best in the country last season and will be again. They kept drives alive with the nation's best third-down conversion percentage (54.9). They went three-and-out just 22.8 percent of the time (seventh nationally).

    The offensive line, which was arguably the best in the country last year, will be strong again as Jake Matthews slides from right tackle to left tackle and Cedric Ogbuehi moves to right tackle. The Aggies' best receiver from last year, Mike Evans, is back. And four talented running backs -- Ben Malena, Trey Williams and transfers Brandon Williams and Tra Carson -- will give the Aggies numerous options in the run game.

    In many ways, the Aggies' running game was underrated last season (of course, some of the credit for their rushing success belongs to Manziel's scrambling, and the passing attack certainly opened things up a bit). They took great care of the ball (76.14 rush attempts per fumble, sixth nationally) and scored a touchdown on the ground every 11.6 rush attempts, which was second-best nationally. This could be one of the best run games in the nation again.

    3. They have elite-level coaching

    Head coach Kevin Sumlin is one of the best coaches in college football and has proved that with his track record of success in his short head-coaching career. He lifted Houston to great heights in his four years there, and his first season at Texas A&M was well above outsiders' expectations. Sumlin seems to have the right touch in multiple critical areas, whether it's hiring assistants, recruiting or handling players on the roster. Sumlin very much has the "it" factor, and the results reflect that.

    And new offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney, who is taking over for new Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, said the breakneck pace of the Aggies' offense could be even faster this year, if possible. Not only did A&M operate at a high tempo last season, but it made drives count, averaging 3.2 points per drive (No. 4 in the nation).

    Why they won't win a national championship

    1. The defense is thin up front

    Defensively, the Aggies must replace several key players. The player who led Texas A&M in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks (Damontre Moore) is gone, and so are two seniors who were productive on the field and leaders in the locker room, Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart.

    What defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and his staff did last season was impressive because there weren't many expectations placed on the Aggies' defense going into 2012 and there were questions about depth, particularly on the defensive line. But that success might be hard to duplicate with a young front seven that's thin on experience. The Aggies return just three front-seven players (Kirby Ennis, Steven Jenkins, Julien Obioha) who started multiple games last season, and all three missed most or all of the spring recovering from injuries. Someone has to pick up where Moore left off as a pass-rusher, and at the moment there's no clear-cut sign of who that will be. A&M wasn't great at getting to the QB last season, either, ranking 52nd in the country in sacks percentage.

    2. The secondary could be an issue

    Texas A&M's young secondary needs to show improvement. Last season, 64.2 percent of the yards the Aggies allowed were passing yards, which ranked 92nd nationally. In many instances, that could be attributed to the Aggies having large leads and opponents throwing the football, as they had the 14th-most passes thrown against them in the country. But there were a few times (against Louisiana Tech, Alabama) when teams showed they could throw the football against A&M. The Aggies picked off only 2.5 percent of opponents' passes last season (74th nationally), which is another number to keep an eye on this season.

    3. The kicking game is a concern

    Another potential factor in the Aggies' title fight will be placekicker Taylor Bertolet -- who missed seven point-after-touchdown kicks last season and was 13-of-22 on field goals. He has to show more consistency. Leaving points on the field in big ballgames is a recipe for a loss.

    Bottom line

    The SEC is considered college football's toughest conference for a reason, and just because you say you have national championship expectations or potential doesn't mean it will happen. There are several tough teams to get through, particularly in the Aggies' division, the SEC West.

    The two biggest games on the schedule this season are the same ones from 2012: Alabama and LSU. The Aggies get the Crimson Tide in their place, Kyle Field, on Sept. 14. Lurking later on the schedule is a Nov. 23 showdown in Death Valley against LSU. The Tigers were one of two teams that defeated the Aggies last season, and going to Baton Rouge, La., won't make things any easier on Texas A&M.

    The high end of Fremeau's projection window has the Aggies going 11-1 -- which is understandable, given the difficulty of those two games. When factoring in a potential SEC championship game matchup, the computers give A&M just a 5 percent chance of winning the conference.

    So while there's a ton of talent on this A&M team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball with Manziel, winning a national title in the Aggies' second season in the SEC might be asking a little too much. If A&M is able to make it to the BCS title game, it will be hard-earned.
     
  3. Ziggy

    Ziggy Tastemaker
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    Slaying dragons, lul.
     
  4. astros99

    astros99 Contributing Member

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    Don't see how A&M won't make it to a BCS game. Aside from LSU/Bama the schedule is pretty easy, and has 8 home games as well. Not sure about title game but BCS game shouldn't be too hard.
     
  5. Ziggy

    Ziggy Tastemaker
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    Everyone thought TAMU was going -1 and 11 last year. You don't know, brah.
     
  6. Air Langhi

    Air Langhi Contributing Member

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    And you were hating on sumlin and his "pee pee" offense.
     
  7. Ziggy

    Ziggy Tastemaker
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    Yup, and I'll admit it, still hate the pee-pee offense too. Run me some option for 2 yards then punt that sucker and play some defense. I'll watch that **** alllll day.
     
  8. Bear_Bryant

    Bear_Bryant Member

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    I'll be in College station for that game this year.

    Bama is luck to have a bye before that game.
     
  9. KePoW

    KePoW Contributing Member

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    Can anyone explain how they have 8 true homes games this year? Is that something they'll have every year now in the SEC?
     
  10. ItsMyFault

    ItsMyFault Contributing Member

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    I can see them making it to a BCS game. Now the BCS title game, pretty much unpredictable playing the SEC with all of that talent. Nothing's ever a given. They're definitely a contender.
     
  11. Refman

    Refman Contributing Member

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    No. A lot of people think it was scheduled that way in case the Aggies have to lose home games the following year due to stadium construction.
     
  12. rocks_fan

    rocks_fan Rookie

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    My friend, the Big Ten (+2) is the conference for YOU!
     
  13. jgreen91

    jgreen91 Member

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    Yes, they should win it all this year. Funny how they went from the doormat of the SEC to the favorite to win it all overnight.
     
  14. Refman

    Refman Contributing Member

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    I hope they do, but a lot of things can happen over the course of a season. There are sme very tough games on the schedule. The home game against Alabama and road games against Ole Miss and LSU come to mind. We would have to run the table to make it to the title game. I just don't know that this team can do that this year.
     
  15. jvu

    jvu Member

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    A&M will bring home the Natty title this year... /thread
     
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