There isn't much confidence in Texas A&M.
At the SEC Media Days, members voted for the Western Division's newest member to finish fifth at a somewhat mediocre 7-5. Would that record represent a failure by new head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies? Certainly not. Would it, however, be disappointing overall? Of course.
While A&M is most definitely not the top squad in the conference, it has been, for the most part, underestimated. Despite new systems on both offense and defense, this Aggies team is loaded with talent across the board. Expect some of that to show in matchups against top-notch SEC opponents Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama.
Accordingly, we take a look at seven reasons why A&M will exceed its 7-5 expectations in its inaugural year with the deadly Southeastern Conference.
As head coach Kevin Sumlin continues to take over his new program, many Aggies will start to see a sudden change in the offensive production. Traditionally, A&M has always been run first, ask questions later. Under Sherman, they transferred to a solid rushing attack with a better-than-decent passing game as a backup.
Sumlin, however, is aiming to use his No. 2 ranked offense, which is mostly powered by a top-ranked passing attack, to generate large amounts of points during games. Basically, the Aggies will look to utilize an air raid type offense with a strong rushing game to relieve it at times.
While the quarterback, projected to be Jameill Showers, is at the center of the air raid style offense, A&M understands that top-notch receivers are more than just a necessity. Fortunately for Sumlin, though, the Aggies boast one of the best wideout corps in the nation.
Under the guise of Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller, A&M earned just over 290 yards per game through the air, ranking them at No. 19 in the country. With Fuller graduated, the Aggies turn to young talent including Kenric McNeal and Mike Evans, not to mention true freshman standout Thomas Johnson.
Even though it will take Showers delivering solid passes for this offense to work, Sumlin has set playmakers at receiver who have the ability to beat the deadly SEC secondaries on a consistent basis.
The last time Texas A&M faced an SEC opponent at home was during its 1995 33-17 victory over LSU, marking the end of the Aggies' non-conference series with the Tigers.
To put that date in perspective, R.C. Slocum was A&M's head coach, the Big 12 was yet to be formed, Les Miles was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Kevin Sumlin was the wide receivers coach at the University of Minnesota.
Put simply, three of the four visiting SEC squads have no idea what Kyle Field is like this coming season. Florida, LSU and Arkansas will have their first dose of Aggieland following decades of not facing each other on the field.
The home-field advantage can be a deciding factor in determining one's success in any league, especially the SEC. The immensity of Kyle Field may be enough to shock some conference opponents in stunning upset losses.
Filling in for the overall No. 2 draft pick Von Miller last season, the rising junior has emerged as a threat to deal with off the edge next season. Considered one of the top pass-rushers in the country, Moore has moved down to his traditional role as a defensive end, putting on some weight and bulking up for the powerful SEC offensive lines.
For the most part, A&M's defensive line seems to have depth issues. Accordingly, many analysts and fans have written off the unit as the weak link on this Aggies squad, concerning themselves more with the centerpiece defensive tackles of Kirby Ennis and Jonathan Mathis than with the chaos-inducing abilities of Moore.
While opposing coaches certainly won't take the NFL prospect lightly, expect many SEC offensive lines to give up tackles for loss or sacks to Moore, particularly during the beginning of the game.
Considered one of the top running backs entering the NFL draft following next season, Michael's largest problem is obvious: injuries. Missing four matchups, including two bowl games, each of the past two seasons, the stud out of A&M's backfield is looking to make up for lost time in his final year at College Station.
Rushing for 899 yards on 149 attempts for eight touchdowns last season, Michael would have easily been one of the top halfbacks in the country had he been able to stay healthy. When compared to other SEC power backs, he easily ranks as one of the best already. His downhill, ground-and-pound rushing style is valued in the hard-nosed conference, especially against the quality defenses the Aggies will be facing.
Even with Sumlin's air raid offense taking over, expect the ever-talented Michael to have a huge impact on the outcome of games over the course of the year.
Even with new defensive coordinator Mark Snyder switching A&M to a multiple defense out of a 4-3 base, the Aggies' linebackers will continue to make plays in what is easily their best defensive unit. Led by projected NFL first-round draft pick senior Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart and Steven Jenkins all enter the year with a plan to leave College Station with a Wrecking Crew foundation.
Again, many SEC coaches won't exactly underestimate this group of young men in the slightest. However, this linebacker corps is possibly the best one since Dat Nguyen's top-notch unit in the 1990s. While every coach may plan against this unit, there is a huge difference between scheming around certain players and actually stopping them from having an impact. Porter's unit is the latter by no contest.
Expect the Aggies to have one of the top run-stopping group of linebackers in the nation. Overall, it might be safe to say that A&M owns one of the best linebacker corps not just in the conference, but also in the country.
Honestly, no one knows what to expect.
New head coach Kevin Sumlin has demonstrated over his moderately long career his ability to win football games and produce on offense. With the weapons the Aggies own on both sides of the ball, Sumlin has all the right tools to produce a high-caliber football team.
Furthermore, his recruiting abilities are almost legendary by now. Carrying a certain type of "swagger," Sumlin has assembled one of the top classes in the country. If he continues to snare top-notch prospects, expect his tenure at A&M to be extended.
Overall, Sumlin is a wild card. Many opponents will be expecting a high-powered and deadly offense, but there is no true consensus on how exactly that will be accomplished. The "unknown" factor about him creates a certain type of fear that might just be a factor in helping him pull of victories.
For the Aggies this upcoming season, there is no other unit quite like the offensive line. By far the most "meshed" group of men on the team, three of the five players are projected first- to second-round draft selections.
Bookend junior tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews have both started since their freshman years, leaving them with experience unknown by any other position on the field. Senior center Patrick Lewis brings leadership and control to the middle, providing consistent protection to a young quarterback and an experienced running back.
With the guard position likely starting Jarvis Harrison and Cedric Ogbuehi, the Aggies still own an solid backup in Shep Klinke. Furthermore, some young talent in Ben Compton and Joseph Cheek are prepared to enter the game and immediately make an impact at most any position.
While the receiving corps may be talented and the linebackers are good enough to take notice, nothing on A&M's depth chart compares to the powerful offensive line. If there is going to be success for the Aggies this season, it will all start with this unit.