The Texas A&M Football team enters their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference with moderate expectations.The Aggies have the talent on hand and the coaching staff in place to surprise a few teams.
The general consensus is that the Ags will win somewhere between five to eight games during the regular season. Most people feel that if the Aggies manage to make a bowl game and do not embarrass themselves on the field, that will qualify as a successful season.
The A&M football team will surprise in their first season because of two main reasons: Kevin Sumlin's offense, and Mark Snyder's defense creating turnovers.
Sumlin is bringing something different to the SEC with his spread offense. He is not going to go out there and try to out-Alabama Alabama. He is going to spread the field and try to tire out the opposing defense by running plays at a breakneck pace.
The SEC has seen spread offenses before. Hal Mumme brought the spread to the SEC at Kentucky and had some success with it before he was chased off due to NCAA violations. Rich Brooks also ran the spread at UK and won two bowl games with Andre Woodson at quarterback.
When Joker Philips took over after Brooks' retirement, he scrapped the spread and Kentucky has not been competitive in the SEC since then.
Every team in the SEC uses some aspects of the spread in their offense. Georgia is the closest team in the league offensively to A&M. None of the teams run the hurry-up offense that Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury will run in Aggieland.
Mississippi State and Dan Mullen have some experience against Sumlin's offense. In 2009, Sumlin led Houston to a 31-24 victory over MSU in Starkville. In 2010, MSU returned the favor with a 47-24 win over the Cougars in Houston.
The Cougars' fourth-string quarterback, David Piland, made his first career start that game and passed for 301 yards against the Bulldogs.
Defensive coordinators in the SEC will be tasked with preparing for the Aggies spread offense in only three to four days of practice. The fact that it is such a departure from the typical offense in the SEC will be a great advantage to A&M.
While almost everyone is aware of the kinds of problems that Sumlin's offense can present, most are ignoring the implications that a new defense creating more turnovers can have on the season.
Oklahoma State showed the nation last season that a spread offense coupled with an opportunistic defense can lead to a great season. In his last two seasons at South Florida, Mark Snyder's defenses caused 46 turnovers.
The Ags only caused 15 turnovers in 2011. The Aggie secondary dropped too many interceptions to count. If Snyder and new defensive backs coach Marcel Yates can convince his defenders to hold onto more turnovers, then the results on the field should improve tremendously for the Ags.
More turnovers means more opportunities for the offense to score points. Even if the offense fails to score, a spread offense that can move the ball will keep the opposing offense off the field. That is extremely important with the Aggies' lack of depth on the interior defensive line.
If the offense is able to score and force turnovers, then you have a case where most SEC teams will be forced to pass the ball in order to catch up—which is taking them out of their comfort zone.
The 2012 season will be a challenging one for the Texas A&M Football program. However, the Aggies are more than capable of surprising a few SEC teams and sending a message to the rest of the conference that they belong in the league of champions.