The Texas A&M Aggies have had a strange season thus far.
Their first game against Louisiana Tech was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. As a result, they opened their season—and got their first taste of SEC action—against then-No. 24 Florida, only to suffer a heartbreaking 20-17 loss after being shut out in the second half.
Week 3, however, was a good week for the Aggies. They rebounded from the Florida heartbreaker to the tune of a 48-3 win over SMU, and suddenly, the whole season outlook seems just a little bit brighter.
And by all indications, they should be able to keep the good times rolling against South Carolina State this weekend, which has lost its last two to Bethune-Cookman and then-No. 24 Arizona.
Here's all the information you need about where and when to watch.
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
When: Saturday, September 22 at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: GamePlan, FSN
Listen: News Talk 1620 in Texas
Live Stream: ESPN3
Betting Line: TBA
South Carolina State Injury Report
No injury information to report at this time.
Texas A&M Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- RB Christine Michael served a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules and should play on Saturday
- DB Steven Campbell served a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules and should play on Saturday
- RB Brandon Williams has been declared ineligible for the 2012 season
We're getting closer and closer to the debut of the first BCS poll, but unfortunately, it doesn't look like either of these teams is going to be a part of it.
A&M still has a chance. In its first season in the SEC, it will have plenty of opportunities to register some impressive wins, particularly during a four-game stretch from October 20 to November 10, when it faces LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama in succession.
The Aggies can't, however, afford to keep losing. A team can always find a way to erase the memories of an early-season loss like the one A&M suffered against Florida, as long as it keeps winning. But another one or two missteps, and their BCS hopes will be shot.
An unlikely loss against a team like South Carolina State would be particularly devastating to their postseason hopes.
What They're Saying
Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel may not be a Heisman candidate right now, but some believe he has the potential to be one a year or two from now, particularly after the way he played against SMU.
Not to jump the gun or anything.
In leading the Aggies to a 48-3 win on Saturday, he connected on 20-of-36 passes for 294 yards, four TDs and no picks. If he has a few more games like that during his first season as a starter—and the Aggies' first season in the SEC—he could really make a name for himself, according to The Dallas Morning News:
Manziel's 294 passing yards were a Texas A&M freshman record, and he's accounted for seven total touchdowns (four through the air, three on the ground) without turning the ball over once in two games. His success was even more apparent when compared to his counterpart, SMU's Garrett Gilbert, who arrived this summer as a celebrated transfer for the University of Texas.
It will be interesting to see whether he can sustain that pace against SC State.
Meanwhile, the big news out of South Carolina State this week was the Bulldogs' futility against Arizona. According to the Associated Press via FoxSports.com, SC State allowed the Wildcats to run 102 plays, resulting in 56 points—and the Bulldogs, on the other hand, got just eight first downs.
The AP writes:
The Bulldogs failed to crack double-digits in first downs and had virtually no running game, gaining 65 yards on 29 carries. Quarterback Richard Cue trouble against Arizona's speedy defenders, badly missing several receivers while going 12-for-25 for 89 yards with an interception.
Those numbers don't bode to be any better against A&M, but you never know—anything could happen.
South Carolina State Player to Watch
There wasn't a lot to celebrate, offensively or defensively, in the Bulldogs' most recent game against Arizona. But at least with linebacker Joe Thomas on the field, they have somewhat of a chance.
This season, Thomas already has registered a team-leading 25 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Particularly given the way Manziel has been playing lately, it would go a long way for the Bulldogs if Thomas finds a way to terrorize him on the field on Saturday. Keeping Manziel off-balance will be key for SC State if it has any hope of coming away with an upset win, and that will start with Thomas.
Texas A&M Player to Watch
Manziel certainly did his part to carry the offensive load against SMU: In addition to his gaudy passing numbers, he also rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
But aside from him, the offensive key to this team is freshman wideout Mike Evans, a 6'5", 218-pound walking matchup problem who registered 123 yards on six receptions last Saturday. It was a big coming-out party for Evans, who only managed 60 yards on seven receptions in the loss to Florida.
If Evans and Manziel can keep combining to put up huge offensive numbers, the Aggies could actually compete in the SEC this season—and for several seasons down the line. This is a team that is stocked with young talent, which bodes well for A&M's future in this conference.
We've seen two versions of this A&M team this season: One that can score with abandon and one that can't score in the second half. It's clear which one needs to show up on Saturday—and in every game from here on out, if the Aggies want to put up a fight in the SEC.
In the loss to Florida, the Aggies led 17-10 at the half. Things were looking good. And then they couldn't manage to score a single time in the second half, and meanwhile, their defense let the Gators do just enough to win: They allowed a field goal early in the third quarter, then allowed the crushing game-winning touchdown first thing in the fourth.
The A&M defense is going to have to find a way to hold strong in the second half—and the offense is going to have to find a way to sustain its first-half momentum—if this team has any intention of doing anything special in 2012. Against SMU, both units showed that they were up to the task, scoring 28 second-half points and holding the Mustangs to one third-quarter field goal; now, against the Bulldogs, the trend must continue.
Prediction: A&M Wins
This doesn't bode to be a difficult game for an Aggies team that, by all indications, looks pretty good. Remember, A&M had a strange start to the season because of the hurricane, and it opened its season with a tough SEC matchup in which it managed to do almost enough to win.
It bounced back strong with a huge win over SMU, in which the offense looked much improved and the defense looked even better. If the Aggies can keep improving against SC State and beyond, this could turn out to be a very good season for them.