The rivalries, the fight songs and all the glory of NCAA football is back, and Texas A&M will take on Louisiana Tech in one of several games on the opening day of the 2012 season.
The Aggies finished last season as a middling team in a competitive Big 12, then went on to win Meineke Car Care Bowl against Northwestern. The Bulldogs did the complete opposite; they were a powerhouse in the much less heralded WAC and failed to beat TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Now, each team will look to post impressive finishes in conference play and go on to win a bowl game. This will be even more difficult for Texas A&M, who will be playing their first season in the SEC. Kicking off the season with a victory can only help accomplish that goal.
Here is all the info for this game.
Who will win this game?
Where: Shreveport, La.
When: Originally expected for Thurday, August 30, 7:30 p.m. ET. Delayed until October 13 due for Hurricane safety, according to LA Tech Football's official Twitter account.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Listen: Texas A&M Sports Radio Network, KXKZ 107.5 (Louisiana Tech)
Betting Line: Texas A&M -7, according to Bovada
Texas A&M Injury Report (via USA Today)
The Aggies have no significant injuries heading into this game.
Louisiana Tech Injury Report (via USA Today)
The Bulldogs have no significant injuries heading into this game.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
Neither team made the AP Top 25 or the USA Today Poll for the preseason. However, the teams received votes in both rankings and are on the national radar.
A strong performance by either side would move them closer to cracking the Top 25, although it is unlikely that either team breaks into this elite group after their opening-day matchup.
What They’re Saying
Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes noted that few people know what to expect from Texas A&M this year due to the major changes this summer—highlighted by new head coach Kevin Sumlin and a move to the SEC. Unfortunately for Dykes, it was his duty to find out what the Aggies will bring this season, and as he explains via Roy Lang III of the Shreveport Times, this was not an easy task.
The weird thing about this game is you have to watch four different films to know what is going on. You have to watch South Florida’s defense. That is where Mark Snyder, the defensive coordinator, comes from. Then, you have to watch Stanford, because that is where their special teams coordinator came from. You have to watch Houston’s offense. That is obviously where Kevin was last year and (offensive coordinator) Kliff Kingsbury. And then, you have to watch Texas A&M just to get a feel for their personnel.
ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr. broke down Louisiana Tech’s biggest advantage, which—in contrast to the Aggies—is a lack of changes this offseason.
The Bulldogs return eight starters on offense (including four offensive linemen) and six on defense. Three of their losses came to double-digit win teams last season, all by seven points or fewer.
Texas A&M Player to Watch: Ryan Swope, WR
Swope became accustomed to catching passes from first-round pick Ryan Tannehill last season, and he racked up 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns on 89 receptions in the process. But this season will bring a new setup of challenges.
The senior wideout will now become one of the main targets for the inexperienced Johnny Manziel. The wide receivers are going to have to make plays to help the redshirt freshman quarterback settle in, and Swope must lead that effort.
Louisiana Tech Player to Watch: Quinton Patton, WR
Expect a few spectacular catches in this game, as there is a considerable amount of talent on the flanks. Patton caught 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, earning him a spot on the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Swope and fellow Aggies receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu are also on the list, and the pass-catchers who can have the best day stand an excellent chance to win the game for their team. Patton will have to be at his best, as he has to outperform Texas A&M’s dual threat.
Key Matchup: Johnny Manziel vs. Opening-Day Jitters
There is a monumental amount of pressure on Manziel’s shoulders. He will be a freshman starting quarterback in one of the biggest seasons in Aggies history.
Manziel will need to get comfortable early in this game, as the schedule will only get more difficult going forward. If he cannot show confidence and make plays, Texas A&M will find it difficult to win this game and there will be a storm of questions surrounding the rest of their campaign.
Key Storyline: Texas A&M and the SEC
Every play of this game will be analyzed in the context of whether or not it shows that the Aggies can compete in the SEC. The team finished 4-5 in the Big 12 last season and now will play in the toughest conference in college football.
The coaching staff overhaul means they have a chance to make a giant leap forward this season. However, with so many unknowns, there is also the possibility for failure. The game against Louisiana Tech should answer a few questions about the Aggies’ season.
Prediction: Texas A&M 24, Louisiana Tech 20
In the end, the Aggies have a significant advantage due to the talent on their roster. There will be rough patches due to all the changes, and Louisiana Tech will have a home crowd to cheer it on. The game will be close, but Texas A&M will win.