The Texas A&M Football team will kick off their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference in approximately 85 days.
Now that summer has begun and all of the players are on campus working out under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Larry Jackson, it is time to take a detailed look at the Aggies 2012 schedule.
The Aggies face one of their tougher slates in recent memory with contests against nine teams who played in bowl games in 2011. The schedule includes SEC West titans LSU and Alabama, who played in the national title game.
The move to the SEC and the challenging schedule should make for one of the tougher and more exciting football seasons in recent memory for A&M fans.
This is a game by game breakdown of what fans should expect during the 2012 season.
The Aggies open the season against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Shreveport, LA.
Tech went 8-5 in 2011 with a loss to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
The Bulldogs are led by head coach Sonny Dykes, who Aggie fans are familiar with from his days as an assistant at Texas Tech.
Dykes still runs the spread offense he learned under Mike Leach in Lubbock. Tech's version of the spread is run by triggerman Colby Cameron.
The senior quarterback from California completed 55 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns, and had only three interceptions in 2011.
Cameron's favorite target is senior wide receiver Quinton Patton. Patton caught 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011. He will be the biggest threat to the Aggies defense.
The Bulldogs lost their top two rushers from 2011. They return eight starters from an offense that averaged 395 yards per game.
The Tech defense allowed 376 yards per game, including 249 passing on a 58 percent completion rate. They return five starters on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bulldogs will be a tremendous opening test for the Aggies. It will be interesting to see how Mark Snyder's defense performs against the Tech OL led by All-WAC center Stephen Warner.
Dykes Tech team lost to Kevin Sumlin's Houston Cougars 35-34 in 2011. Tech was able to limit Houston's plays by running the ball for over 200 yards.
Expect Tech to struggle to run against A&M's defense and to try to move the ball through the air in 2012.
It will be a nice early test for the A&M secondary. The Aggie offense should have little trouble moving the ball against the Tech' 4-2-5 defense.
Even though this is Sumlin and Jameill Shower's first game, the Ags should win this one comfortably.
Predicted Outcome: A&M wins 35-17
Florida went 7-6 with a bowl win over Ohio State in Will Muschamp's inaugural season in 2011. The Gators return 17 starters, including 10 starters from an excellent defense.
The Gators defense allowed 300 total yards per game in 2011. They gave up 3.4 yards per rush and an exceptional 167 yards per game passing.
They will be a year older in 2012 and should once against be one of the top 10 units in the country.
Junior defensive end Donald Powell tore his ACL during the spring game. No one knows whether he will be back by the A&M game.
The Gators offense was very poor in 2011, averaging only 329 yards per game. They lost their starting quarterback and top two running backs from that unit.
They should again struggle to move the ball in 2012. They should be a little better on the ground with four starters on the OL returning.
The A&M-UF game will be the first SEC game in A&M history. The Kyle Field crowd will be at a fevered pitch.
If the A&M offense can protect the ball, then the Aggies should be able to scrape out a win.
Expected Outcome: Aggies win 21-17
SMU was 8-5 in 2011 with a loss in their bowl game. The Mustangs played A&M in the Aggie's 2011 home opener and lost 46-14.
The Mustangs' run and shoot offense averaged 389 yards per game in 2011. Their defense allowed 340 yards per game.
The Mustangs' offense returns eight starters, while the defense returns five. The Aggies return three starters on offense and seven on defense.
Garrett Gilbert is expected to take over at quarterback for SMU.
Gilbert transferred to SMU after falling out of favor in Austin. He will arrive in Dallas in the summer after he graduates from Texas, and should be eligible immediately.
SMU's biggest offensive threat is senior running back Zach Line. At 6'1", 230 pounds he is the most underrated big back in the nation.
Line rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown against A&M in 2011. He should turn in his third straight 1,000 yard season in 2012. He will be running behind an offensive line that returns only one starter.
SMU lost all three starters from their defensive line.
Margus Hunt was a backup in 2011, but has started before. The 6'8", 296-pound freak of nature returns as possibly the best special teams player in the country. He is a threat to block every field goal and extra point.
SMU returns all four starters at linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Ja"Gared Davis was a First-Team All Conference linebacker in 2011 and returns to lead the unit. He had 90 tackles in 2011, including 16 tackles for loss.
They return one starter from a secondary that allowed 222 yards per game on 64 percent completions.
June Jones has built a solid program in Dallas. SMU should be a bowl team as long as he is the head coach.
It remains to be seen how effective Gilbert will be in Jones' offense. If he can avoid the turnovers that plagued him in Austin, then he should be an improvement at the position for the Mustangs.
This is a trap game for the Aggies after the home game against Florida. There will likely be more A&M fans in the stands in Dallas than SMU, but the Mustangs are no pushovers.
Expected outcome: A&M wins 35-31
The South Carolina State game will be a "get right" game for the Aggies. It will be a chance for A&M to catch their breath during their brutal inaugural schedule in the SEC.
SC State is a running team, and the Aggies should excel at stopping the run. A&M should be able to score at will on offense.
The Aggies will name their score in this eon.
Expected outcome: Aggies win 53-10
No one knows what to expect from Arkansas, now that Bobby Petrino has been fired. He led the Razorbacks to 21 wins in the past two years, which was their best two year mark ever.
Without him calling the plays, it remains to be seen how effective the Arkansas offense will be.
Arkansas returns seven starters on offense an six on defense. Tyler Wilson returns at quarterback after completing 62 percent of his passes for over 3,600 yards in 2011. Wilson passed for 510 yards against A&M last season.
Knile Davis returns at running back after an ACL injury caused him to miss the 2011 season. He rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2010 and may be the best running back in the country.
They lost their top two receivers on offense to graduation, but their roster is stocked with talent. They return three starters on their offensive line. For the Hogs, it all comes down to how well they will perform on offense without Petrino and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee running the show.
On defense, the Hogs return two of their starters on the defensive line. They lost All-SEC DE Jake Bequette to graduation.
The defense should be better under new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes. The former Ohio State defensive coordinator took over the Razorbacks' defense before the bowl game and helped them shut down Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.
On paper, Arkansas is a better team than A&M. The game is not played on paper and no one knows how the Razorbacks will look on the field without Petrino.
Expected outcome: Arkansas wins 27-20
Ole Miss returns 16 starters from their 2011-2012 team. They return eight starters on offense and eight on defense.
Hugh Freeze has taken over as the head coach of the Rebels after a successful year as the head man at Arkansas State. Freeze is best known as the high school head coach of Michael Oher, but he has a very innovative offensive mind.
Given time, Freeze should have a similar impact in the SEC as Gus Malzahn did as the offensive coordinator at Auburn. He should be the right man to turn the program around in Oxford.
They will need his innovation on an offense that averaged an anemic 281 yards and 16 points per game in 2011. They were equally bad on defense allowing 419 yards and 32 points per game.
On offense, the Rebels will be led by running back Jeff Scott. He rushed for 529 yard and six touchdowns. He is a smaller back at only 5'7" and 175 pounds, but should find more room to maneuver in Freeze's spread scheme.
Bo Wallace takes over at quarterback after he earned national JUCO Player of the Year honors by passing for over 4,600 yards and 53 touchdowns in 2011.
Mike Marry returns at middle linebacker to lead the defense. He had 81 tackles and two sacks in 2011. Free safety Charles Sawyers led the secondary in 2011 with 70 tackles and nine passes broken up.
The big question with Ole Miss is how effective Wallace can be in Freeze's scheme. If he can pick up the offense quickly, then the Rebels will surprise some people.
Ole Miss should improve in 2012 because they have a head coach that the players believe in. Winning on the road is never easy in the SEC, and the Aggies play the Rebels in Oxford.
The Aggies should have too much skill position talent for the Rebels to handle. It should be their first SEC road win in school history.
Expected outcome: Ags win 31-21
LSU has the best team in the nation on paper. If Les Miles can get better quarterback play in 2012 than he did in 2011, then LSU could run the table.
LSU has 13 total starters returning, with seven on offense and six on defense. The Tigers were a young team in 2011 and had arguably one of the best seasons of all time. Now, they are a year older and should be more formidable.
The Tigers have the deepest running back corps in the country with Michael Ford, Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue and Spencer Ware returning.
Zach Mettenberger takes over at quarterback and jumps into one of the best situations in America. All he has to do is play better than Jordan Jefferson and he will be beloved in Louisiana.
If Mettenberger is simply decent, then the Tigers will challenge for the national title.
Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu returns at corner for the Tigers to lead the secondary. LSU has the best pair of defensive ends in the nation with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo returning.
The Tigers defense thrives by forcing turnovers and then turning them into points. They should have plenty of opportunities against the Aggies spread offense.
The Aggies do not yet have the players to match up with LSU. This will be one of the few games in 2012 where the Aggies will be forced to abandon the run and try to move the ball by passing.
Expected outcome: LSU wins 38-10
Auburn went 8-5 in 2011 with a very young team. They return six starters on offense and nine starters on defense from the 2011 squad.
Auburn returns plenty of skill position talent with running back Onterio McCalebb and wide receiver Emory Blake coming back.
McCalebb had 707 yards rushing and five touchdowns in 2011. Blake led the Tigers with 36 receptions for 613 yards in 2011.
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen returns for his seemingly eighth season on the Plains. Lutzenkirchen is one of the nations most underrated players. He will make two to three clutch plays to win games for Auburn in 2012.
The question for the Tigers' offense is who will start at quarterback.
It appears Kiehl Frazier will take over after seeing some limited success in 2011. Frazier is a mobile QB who would have been very effective in Malzahn's offense.
Unfortunately, Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State.
Auburn has been poor on defense ever since Gene Chizik arrived from Ohio State. He went to the NFL and tapped Brian VanGorder from the Atlanta Falcons to take over as defensive coordinator.
The Tigers allowed 408 yards and 28.9 points per game in 2011. They should be improved in 2012, simply because they are a more experienced team.
They had better be since Malzahn will not be there to cover up the defense's inefficiencies with his offense.
Corey Lemonier was All-SEC at defensive end in 2011 and returns to lead the defense. He had 9.5 sacks last season.
Outside linebacker Darren Bates is undersized at 5'11" and 210 pounds, but is active. He led the Tigers with 104 tackles in 2011. It will be interesting to see how VanGorder uses the former safety.
Auburn will not be quite as strong on offense, since Malzahn has moved on. They should get stronger quarterback play from Frazier.
The defense really has nowhere to go but up. It looks like another seven or eight win team for Chizik.
If this game were at Kyle Field, it would likely be an Aggie win. The game is on the road and Auburn is very tough at home—especially if the game is at night.
Expected outcome: Auburn 28 A&M 20
Mississippi State went 7-6 in 2011 with a bowl win. They return five starters on offense and seven on defense from that squad.
The Bulldogs' offense averaged 357 total yards and 25.3 points per game in 2011. They return part-time starter Tyler Russell at quarterback. Russell competed 53 percent of his passes for 1,034 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions in 2011.
The Bulldogs lost 1,000-yard rusher Vick Ballard to the NFL, but return junior LaDarius Perkins. Last season, Perkins rushed for 452 yards and two touchdowns in a backup role.
MSU has been a rushing offense under Dan Mullen. They do not have many game-breakers at wide receiver. Arceto Clark is the Bulldogs' returning leading receiver with 30 receptions for 442 yards and four touchdowns.
Cameron Lawrence returns at linebacker to lead the Bulldogs' defense. The senior led MSU with 123 tackles in 2011 and should be playing on Sundays in 2013.
MSU returns four starters in the front seven of their 4-3 scheme. They will start 6'3", 300-pound true freshman Quay Evans at defensive tackle.MSU only allowed 3.7 yards per carry in 2011.
They return three of four starters in a secondary that allowed 197 yards per game and 64 percent completions. The Aggies should be able to take advantage of that secondary in 2012.
MSU is a solid program who will be a great test for A&M on the road. The Aggies should be up to this test.
Expected outcome: A&M wins 31-21
Alabama is coming off a national championship season. The Tide returns 11 starters from their 13-1 2011 squad. Five starters return from a defense that ranks as one of the best in college football history.
A.J. McCarron returns at quarterback for Alabama after completing over 65 percent of his passes for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns. All-American running back Trent Richardson has departed for the NFL, but Eddie Lacy returns after rushing for 674 yards and seven touchdowns.
Incoming freshman T.J. Yeldon is a future star and should help the Tide immediately at running back. He participated in spring drills and will see plenty of action in 2012.
McCarron and the Tide running backs will operate behind likely the best offensive line in the country.
Barrett Jones was an All-American at left tackle in 2011, but has moved to center in 2012 because the Tide's depth at tackle is so good. Jones and offensive guard Chance Warmack will pave the way for a rushing attack that averaged 214 yards per game in 2011.
The Tide lost six starters on defense but will simply reload. Nick Saban is one of the best defensive coaches in the country. The Tide will be good on defense as long as he is the head coach.
Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley will lead the Tide defense.
Damion Square returns at DE after a solid 2011 season. Vnnie Sunseri was forced into action at safety as a freshman because of injuries and was very solid. he should be a future star for the Tide
Alabama lost a lot of their name players on the defensive side of the ball to the NFL. They have plenty of athletes waiting in the wings to make names for themselves.
Alabama and LSU are at another level than A&M right now, This will be a very tough game for the Aggies on the road.
Expected outcome: Alabama wins 31-14
Sam Houston State will be a little more of a challenge than South Carolina State for the Aggies. The Bearkats were 14-1 in 2011 and lost in the Division II national championship game.
The Aggies will face SHSU in the last game of their regular season. It should be a more competitive game than the South Carolina State game, but should still be an opportunity for the Aggies to boost their record.
The Aggies should win this game going away.
Expected outcome: A&M wins 55-24
Missouri went 8-5 in 2011 with a bowl win over North Carolina. Because of the move to the SEC, Mizzou will face A&M at Kyle Field for the third year in a row.
Mizzou returns 12 starters with six each coming back on both sides of the ball.
Mizzou moved to a more balanced attack in 2011 while they were breaking in quarterback James Franklin. They averaged 244 yards rushing and 233 yards passing in 2011, while averaging 32.8 points per game.
Franklin progressed as the year went on. He ended the season with 2,865 yards passing and 981 yards rushing.
The success of the Tigers option attack will likely be dependent on how running back Henry Josey recovers from an ACL injury suffered in 2011. Before his injury, Josey was averaging close to 10 yards per carry and was among the nation's leading rushers.
It will be interesting to see how effective the Mizzou running game is against SEC defenses. Josey and the Missouri running backs are undersized by SEC standards. It remains to be seen whether they can be successful against the more physical defenses in the SEC.
The Missouri defense allowed 380 yards per game in 2011 but was very strong against the run, giving up only 3.6 yards per carry.
Brad Madison returns at defensive end for the Tigers. He should be the leader of the defensive line.
E.J. Gaines is a playmaker at cornerback. He set the school record in 2011 with 18 passes defended. He should compete for All-SEC honors in 2012.
Missouri has won the last two games at Kyle Field. It will be interesting to see what kind of shape their team is in after going through a season in the SEC and ending the year at Kyle Field.
Expected outcome: A&M wins 41-24