The expectations for the Texas A&M football team are modest as the Aggies enter their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference. Everyone is undefeated during the offseason, and it is time to look at how the Aggies could shock the nation and win the SEC West in 2012.
Obviously the moon and stars would have to align correctly for the Aggies to pull this off. The SEC West features three of the top five teams in the nation in Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. Texas A&M could be a legitimate top-10 team and still wind up as the fourth best team in the West.
The Aggies are not expected to be a top-10 or even top-25 team in 2012. They have some major questions facing their team as they enter the 2012 season. Let's ignore those questions and take a look at what would have to happen for A&M to win the SEC West.
If the Aggies are to compete in the SEC at a high level in 2012, then it is imperative that the team has limited injuries during the season.
The Ags are dangerously thin on the interior defensive line. If either Jonathan Mathis or Kirby Ennis are lost to injury, it would be catastrophic for the defense. Realistically this will likely not happen because the SEC is such a physical league, as no program goes through the season unscathed.
If the Aggies' starting defensive tackles remain healthy, then it is plausible that they could defend the run well in 2012. As long as the starting defensive tackles and play-making wide receiver Ryan Swope stay healthy, the Ags can be a threat in every game.
In order for A&M to pull off this improbable run, every other team in the SEC West needs to have at least three losses. You would have to have LSU, Alabama and Arkansas all beat up on each other.
Mississippi State would likely have to beat LSU and Alabama in order for those schools to reach three losses.
Alabama would have to beat LSU in Baton Rouge.
The Aggies would have to finish with a league record of 6-2.
Texas A&M faces Arkansas and LSU at home, but faces Alabama on the road. In order to pull off this unthinkable run, the Aggies need to win two out of those three games.
Bobby Petrino is one of the best play-callers in the nation. Arkansas could struggle without him calling the plays. A&M had Arkansas beat in 2011, but let the Razorbacks off the hook. The Aggies would have to beat Arkansas at Kyle Field.
LSU is the best team in the country on paper. The Tigers almost owned the national title in 2011 without a quarterback. In 2012 with Zach Mettenberger under center, they should have much improved passing game.
The only weakness LSU really has is that it has Les Miles' clock management at the end of games. If Mettenberger has an off game and Miles forgets about the game clock with two minutes left in the game, the Aggies could pull of a monumental upset.
Going into Tuscaloosa and getting a victory is pretty unrealistic at this point. The Crimson Tide offense would have to commit multiple turnovers and the defense would need to miss a lot of tackles. That is simply less likely than Les Miles forgetting how to coach again during the last two minutes of a game.
In order for A&M to go 6-2 in the SEC, it is going to have to win the turnover battles in every game. That means that Jameill Showers would have to limit turnovers during his first season as a starter.
Showers would have to put together a season in which he passed for around 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns with less than 10 interceptions.
The 3,500 yards passing is realistic in Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury's spread offense The issue is that in order for Showers to pass for 3,500 yards, he would likely have to attempt 500 passes. Throwing less than 10 interceptions in 500 attempts would take a lot of luck.
A&M would have to beat Florida and Missouri when the Aggies visit Kyle in 2012. This is actually the most realistic of all the scenarios listed.
Florida has a very stout defense, but the Gators will be missing Ronald Powell when they visit Kyle Field on Sept. 8. The Florida offense was suspect in 2011 and they will likely still be learning the offense during the second week of the season.
A&M and Missouri went to overtime in 2011. That was an Aggies squad that found ways to lose games in the fourth quarter. The 2012 squad should be different. Missouri will visit Kyle Field after fighting through an entire SEC schedule. It is likely that they will be a banged-up group.
In order for A&M to have this miraculous season, the Aggies would have to discover another breakout receiver who stepped up to take over games besides Ryan Swope.
Mike Evans or Uzoma Nwachukwu are the most likely candidates to step into this role. He is a matchup problem for most defenses because he is a 6'5" former high school basketball player.
He is still raw as a football player because he did not play until his senior season in high school. Evans won the starting spot at outside receiver during the spring because he was more consistent than Nate Askew.
Nwachukwu just has to catch the ball consistently. He has show the ability to get open even against SEC defenses. His issue has always been staying focused from play to play and being dependable as a receiver.
Defenses will focus on Swope as the offense's main receiving threat. The offense will need someone else to step up in order to consistently move the ball. If the Aggies have two legitimate receiving threats on the field the same time, it will help spread the defense and allow the Aggies' running game to eat up the clock.
The A&M offense remaining on the field will lead to more rest for the Aggie defense and lower occurrence for injury.
To win six SEC games the Aggies will need some luck. They will need the ball to bounce the right way all season long.
In 2011 Kansas State won 10 games basically by playing perfect football. The Wildcats limited turnovers and waited for their opposition to make mistakes. When the opposing team made a mistake, they converted it into points.
A&M would have to have a similar type of year.