Texas A&M Football: How Aggies Plan to Be Bowl Eligible in Inaugural SEC Season

Michael TaglientiFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2012

Photo by CSmonitor.com
Photo by CSmonitor.com

Kevin Sumlin's goal for his first season as the Texas A&M football coach is to get the Aggies to a bowl game. The question is: How is Sumlin going to lead an Aggie team that disappointed in 2011 by turning in a 7-6 record to seven or more wins in the Southeastern Conference in 2012?

The SEC is the toughest conference in America; and if the Aggies expect to win in it, then they need to change the way they play. They need to turn the ball over less on offense and create more turnovers on defense.

The great teams in the SEC—like Alabama and LSU—have defenses that will turn your mistakes into points. The Aggies will need to limit their mistakes on both sides of the ball.

The teams on the Ags 2012 football schedule can be separated into three groups. There are the games that A&M should be expected to win, the toss-up games and the games that A&M should not be expected to win.

There are four games on the Aggies schedule that they should be expected to win. The Aggies will face Louisiana Tech, SMU, South Carolina State and Sam Houston State in non-conference play. Louisiana Tech and SMU will be closer ballgames than most think, but the Ags should be triumphant in all four for a 4-0 record.

The toss-up games are Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri and Auburn. Ole Miss was 2-10 in 2011 and should be an expected win. The problem is, the Aggies face the Rebels on the road in their first SEC road test.

Florida and Mississippi State had offensive issues in 2011. Florida visits Kyle Field for A&M's first ever SEC game on September 8. It will be interesting to watch Sumlin match wits with Will Muschamp and his top 10 Gators defense.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Chris Rainey #1 of the Florida Gators is seen on the field during the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 2, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Aggies will face MSU on the road in Starkville. The Bulldogs need better quarterback play if they want to be a player in the SEC in 2012.

Auburn lost Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. Malzahn has given SEC defensive coordinators fits with his spread offense. Auburn hired Brian VanGorder away from the NFL in order to improve their defense. The Tigers will be a very tough matchup for the Aggies on the plains.

The Aggies have played Missouri three years in a row at Kyle Field and are 0-3. They cannot be expected to beat Mizzou until they do it on the field.

The Aggies' best bet is to beat Florida and Missouri at home while taking down Ole Miss on the road. That would make them 3-2 in toss-up games.

Arkansas, LSU and Alabama all probably have too much talent for the Aggies to handle. LSU is the best team in the nation on paper. As long as they keep Les Miles' headset tuned to the local oldies radio station during the fourth quarter of games, LSU should be in the national title hunt well into November.

Alabama is the reigning national champion, and the Aggies have to travel to Tuscaloosa to play them after facing Auburn and MSU on the road. It should be a learning experience for the Aggies to play a team that physical. It will let the young players on the team know what kind of play is expected from them to compete at the highest level.

Arkansas could win the SEC, or they could go 7-5. It all depends on how they react to the loss of head coach Bobby Petrino. The loss of Petrino, coupled with the loss of offensive coordinator Garrick Williams, brings into question how effective the Razorback offense will be in 2012; even with Knile Davis returning.

If the Aggies win the four games they are expected to win, go 3-2 in the toss up games and then lose all the games they are expected to, they will finish the season 7-5 with a shot at an eighth win in a bowl game. An 8-5 record would be an improvement over 2011, and would be viewed as a very good opening season to the Sumlin era.