Power Ranking Texas A&M's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Michael Taglienti@@miketag98Featured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

Power Ranking Texas A&M's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The Texas A&M football team will play one of the toughest schedules in the nation in 2014. The Aggies will play two bowl teams in non-conference play in addition to the gauntlet that makes up the typical SEC schedule. 

    The Aggies return six starters on offense and eight starters on defense. They will be a young team in 2014, but they will have more game-tested depth than they did in 2013. 

    Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his coaches have done a good job of turning the Aggies roster over with young talent that is physically more prepared to compete in the SEC. This should be the first year when Sumlin's recruits make a major impact on the field. 

    The Aggies will match up well with some of their opponents, but they will still find themselves lacking in personnel when it comes to facing off against the elite teams. This is a look at how the Aggies' 2014 schedule ranks from the easiest games to the toughest. 

    When looking at how tough an opponents is, the location of the game, the time of the season, the system the team runs and the returning starters the team has will be taken into account. 

Lamar

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    The Lamar Cardinals will come to play at Kyle Field on September 6 in what will be the Aggies' easiest game of the 2014 season. The Cardinal were 5-7 in 2013 and are basically playing a money game against A&M.

    The Texas A&M athletic department will pay Lamar a large sum to travel to Kyle Field and get beaten. The Aggies get a win, and Lamar gets some money to help the athletic department's bottom line. 

    This is a team that will not be able to hold up physically against the Aggies at the line of scrimmage. The Aggies play Lamar in their second game of the season. 

    It will be a chance to address any issues that revealed themselves in the season opener and for the coaches to get a look at the younger players. The Lamar game will be a blowout win for the Aggies. 

Rice

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    The last time the Rice Owls took the field they were beaten 44-7 by Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. The Owls lose their top rusher and top passer from their 10-4 bowl team with the graduation of Charles Ross and Taylor McHargue. 

    They also lose four starters from a defense that allowed a combined 96 points to the two SEC teams they faced in 2013. The Owls do return senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor, whom the Aggies could not cover in 2013. 

    Taylor caught seven passes for 68 yards and one touchdown at Kyle Field in 2013. It will be an interesting test for the Aggies secondary to see how they match up with him in 2014. 

    The Owls travel to Notre Dame the week before they play the Aggies on September 13. They will be breaking in a new quarterback and a new running back. 

    This should be a comfortable win for the Aggies at home as the A&M offense really begins to gel. 

SMU

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    The Aggies will travel to Dallas to take on SMU on September 20. The Mustangs are coming off a 5-7 season in which they missed a bowl game for the first time in five years. 

    SMU head coach June Jones has molded the Mustangs into a solid program. They have the talent on campus to run their scheme and be competitive with any football team they line up against. 

    The Mustangs are going to have to replace four starters on offense, including quarterback Garrett Gilbert. They return running backs Prescott Line and K.C. Nlemchi along with four starters on the offensive line, so they will have a physical running game. 

    The Mustangs do not have the manpower on defense to stay with the Aggies. This is a game that A&M will win by least three touchdowns. 

Louisiana-Monroe

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    The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks come to play at Kyle Field on November 1. This is a dangerous game for the Aggies because the Warhawks always have some talent on their team. 

    Louisiana-Monroe returns eight starters on offense and eight starters on defense from a team that finished 6-6. They are a well-coached team that runs a 3-3-5 defense that can give opponents trouble. 

    The fact that the Aggies play this team in November can have an effect on this game because the Aggies could be suffering from some injuries at important positions. Texas A&M will win this game, but it will be a lot closer than many expect. 

     

Arkansas

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    The Aggies will play Arkansas on September 27 in Arlington, Texas. The Razorbacks did not win an SEC game in 2013, and they return a young team with only seven senior starters total on offense and defense. 

    Arkansas is dangerous on offense because it has talented running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams lining up in the backfield. Collins rushed for 1,026 yards and Williams rushed for 900 yards in 2013. 

    In addition to the running backs, the Razorbacks have talented sophomore tight end Hunter Henry returning. As a true freshman Henry caught 28 passes for 409 yards and four touchdowns. 

    If the Razorbacks can get any kind of consistent quarterback play from junior Brandon Allen, then they will be a very good offense. 

    This is a game that the Aggies should win, but nothing in the SEC is ever easy. Expect the Aggies to win by less than two touchdowns in Arlington. 

     

Ole Miss

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    The Ole Miss Rebels travel to Kyle Field on October 11. The Rebels are coming off an 8-5 season and a bowl win over Georgia Tech. 

    Ole Miss has some of the better young talent in the conference, but it has been undone by suspect coaching decisions and too many turnovers from its quarterback. Coach Hugh Freeze has made questionable decisions two years in a row that may have cost them wins against A&M. 

    In 2012 with a lead late in the fourth quarter and the ball on their side of the 50, Freeze decided to have the offense go for it on 4th-and-short instead of punting. He called a run play up the middle, got stopped and the Aggies came back to win the game.

    In 2013, the Aggies struggled to contain the scrambling of Rebels backup quarterback Barry Brunetti. Freeze inserted starting quarterback Bo Wallace back into the game on the last drive and in a questionable move had him run with the ball.

    The Aggies were able to stop him again and get another win in Oxford. It brings up the question of whether Freeze can win tight games against quality opponents.

    Wallace returns at quarterback after passing for 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013. He has a propensity to throw the football at opposing teams' players. Even with young stars like wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, tight end Evan Engram and left tackle Laremy Tunsil, it is doubtful the Rebels will be anything other than a middle-of-the-pack team with Wallace under center.

    The Aggies simply have to go out there and play their game against Ole Miss. If they can limit turnovers then they will win the game at Kyle Field.     

Missouri

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    The Missouri Tigers went 12-2 in 2013 and won the Eastern Division of the SEC. The Tigers won with a team dominated by seniors. Missouri lost 10 senior starters to graduation and two junior starters to early entry into the NFL draft. 

    The Tigers lost defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy to the NFL; the two provided the pass rush that was the foundation for the Missouri defense in 2013. Sam was the named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for his performance.

    On offense the Tigers have to replace their leading passer, rusher and top three leading receivers. They will be solid at quarterback because sophomore Maty Mauk returns after filling in admirably for an injured James Franklin during the 2013 season. 

    At times the offense was more effective with Mauk under center than Franklin. If the Tigers can surround Mauk with talent at the skill positions, then the offense will be very effective.

    Missouri has to play the Aggies at Kyle Field. It will be a tough game because it is late in the season and the Tigers will have had a chance to find replacements for their departed talent.

    By the end of the year the Aggies offense should be rolling like a well-oiled machine. Missouri will not be able to keep up at Kyle Field.  

     

Mississippi State

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    The Aggies will travel to Starkville to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on October 4. The Bulldogs had a young team in 2013 that finished 7-6 with a bowl win. 

    They will start eight seniors on offense and four on defense. Mississippi State will be a veteran team that will be a threat to beat everyone on its schedule. The Bulldogs return junior Dak Prescott at quarterback. 

    In 2013, the Aggies struggled to slow down Prescott as he passed for 154 yards in a 51-41 shootout which A&M won. The Texas A&M defenders could not tackle the 230-pound quarterback. 

    In 2014, the Aggies should be physically bigger on defense, but it remains to be seen how much better they will be. The game is on the road in Starkville where the crowd can be a factor. 

    This is a game that the Aggies should win, but it will not be easy. If MSU enters the game with a good record and the SEC West still up for grabs, this could be a war. 

LSU

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    The Aggies will host LSU on Thanksgiving night in front of a national television audience. The Aggies have not beaten LSU in the two years since they joined the SEC.

    The depth chart at LSU has been decimated by 18 underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft during the past two years. Although this has left the Tigers' roster devoid of elite talent, the 2014 squad is exactly the kind of team that head coach Les Miles loves. 

    The Tigers will start six seniors on offense including three on the offensive line. Miles will rely on that veteran offensive line and try to grind opponents into submission. 

    LSU will not have the passing game it did in 2013 when Zach Mettenberger threw the ball all over the field to NFL draft picks Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Miles will have to rely on a strong running game and a tough defense to win games. 

    This is the last game of the regular season and should be a physical battle. It will be won by the team that is able to control the line of scrimmage. The Aggies will get a boost from playing at home, but this should be the kind of low-scoring game that Miles loves. 

South Carolina

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    The Texas A&M football team will open the 2014 season on the road at South Carolina on August 28 in a game which will be aired on the SEC Network. This will be the first start for whoever lines up at quarterback for the Aggies. 

    The Aggies will be taking a team to Columbia, South Carolina that could be starting true freshmen at quarterback, wide receiver and nose guard. Playing well in front of 80,000 screaming fans and a national television audience is a lot to ask from an 18-year-old. 

    South Carolina will try to use its powerful running game to control the clock and wear down the Aggies defense. The Gamecocks lost three starters on their defensive line, so the Aggies will try to take advantage with their own running game. 

    Expecting such a young team to travel on the road and win the season opener is probably asking a little too much. This will be a close game that the Aggies will lose on the road. 

Alabama

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    Alabama is coming off an 11-2 season that would be considered a successful year anywhere other than Tuscaloosa. It was not a national championship season, so it was a down year for head coach Nick Saban and the Tide. 

    Saban may return the best group of skill-position players he has ever had in Tuscaloosa. Running backs T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, wide receiver Amari Cooper and tight end O.J. Howard are all game-breakers. 

    If the Tide can find a quarterback who can distribute the ball, they will have an offense that can score on any defense in the country. Even if they have poor quarterback play, they will be able to line up against most teams and ride their two running backs to victory. 

    Alabama may be the most talented team in the SEC West, but Saban tends to have problems against spread quarterbacks who have mobility. If Kenny Hill starts at quarterback for the Aggies or Kyle Allen proves he can be a threat on the ground, the Aggies could give the Tide fits. 

    The Aggies have to travel to Tuscaloosa, and on paper this is a game the Aggies should lose. The game is played on the field, but this will be one of the toughest games of the season for A&M. 

Auburn

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    The Auburn Tigers won the SEC and played for the national title during Gus Malzahn's first season as the head coach on the plains. We will see what he has in store for an encore in 2014. 

    The Tigers return quarterback Nick Marshall, who should be an even more effective passer in 2014. They lost workhorse running back Tre Mason but have added junior college receiver D'haquille Williams. Williams and junior receiver Sammie Coates should form one of the best receiving duos in the SEC in 2014. 

    The Auburn defense was not great in 2013, but they came up with the big plays when they needed to. Their depth on the defensive line eventually wore opponents down, and they won games by forcing turnovers and negative plays in the fourth quarter. 

    Auburn's offense should be more balanced in 2014 because of improved play by Marshall. It will be very hard to stop on offense. 

    The Aggies have to travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face the Tigers. It will be a tremendous task for the Aggies to defeat a top-five team on the road like Auburn.