How Texas A&M Would Fare Against the SEC West This Season
Given Texas A&M’s recent acceptance into the Southeastern Conference, beginning with the 2012 season, and Saturday’s game against future SEC foe Arkansas, it is time to analyze how the Aggies will fit in with arguably the best conference in college football.
Last weekend, Texas A&M continued an unfortunate habit they began the week before at Oklahoma State–squandering a sizable lead and losing the game in dramatic fashion. Against Arkansas, A&M took an 18-point lead into the locker room, only to watch the Razorbacks score 25 points in the second half including the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game. If this type of collapse continues to be the Aggie’s forte, it seems safe to say that the transition to the SEC will not be an easy one. Starting with the Western Division—where A&M will be playing next season—here is how A&M currently stacks up with teams in the SEC.
Currently the number two team in the country, Alabama is a force to be reckoned with. Trent Richardson has put up ridiculous numbers so far this season, averaging 6.5 yards per rush. He has almost done the unthinkable—make Mark Ingram a distant memory for Tide fans.
AJ McCarron has been holding his own, completing over 60 percent of his passes. As long as he can keep his interceptions down and make plays when he needs to, Richardson is always waiting eagerly behind him for a handoff.
The last crippling strength of this Alabama team is their defense. Alabama is allowing a mere 8.4 points per game, first in the nation. A&M’s offense is good, not great, and as evidenced by their recent second half struggles, they are certainly capable of going scoreless for long stretches. At this point in the season, the Aggies are absolutely no match for Alabama. Forget about losing a big lead, A&M would be lucky to avoid embarrassment.
Last weekend’s game pretty much said all there was to say about this one. Arkansas’s defense ranks 48th in the country, allowing 23 points per game, and was able to hold Texas A&M to a field goal in the second half. Despite putting pressure on the quarterback for most of the game, the Aggies gave up 510 passing yards to Tyler Wilson, forced no turnovers, and, most importantly, gave up 25 points in the second half. Remember, the weekend before, Arkansas lost to Alabama 38-14. The SEC is very, very good.
The Tigers are a harder team to decipher this season. They clearly miss Cam Newton and, maybe even more so, Nick Fairley. By all accounts, they should have lost to both Utah State and Mississippi State and, while neither program is atrocious, they are certainly not in the upper echelon of college football teams.
However, Auburn turned it around a bit and played a tough game against Clemson, who is proving that they are certainly an elite team. This past weekend they beat a South Carolina team who, while struggling to fully utilize all their talented playmakers, reeled off four straight wins to start the season.
Auburn is not yet at the level of Arkansas and clearly not prepared to challenge Alabama, but they would be a tough test for the Aggies. Michael Dyer is picking up where he left off last season, breaking off long runs from scrimmage even when the offensive line does not create holes. A&M does a pretty good job of stopping the run, though, so I think, barring another second half collapse, they could compete with the Tigers.
LSU is the best team in the country. They dealt with the suspension of their starting quarterback a week before their first game and have relied on fifth year senior Jarrett Lee who, while playing inconsistently throughout his career, has stepped up and lead LSU to an undefeated record. The Tigers have also shunned the cupcake teams most schools play at the beginning of the season, instead facing third ranked Oregon, Mississippi State and 16th ranked West Virginia.
Their offense is a physical, grinding machine that wears down an opposing defense over four quarters. Texas A&M’s defense is obviously not great and very capable of giving up big plays. In a long game against LSU, they would wear down quickly. LSU’s other strength is their defense, which allows a mere 9 points per game. Tyrann Mathieu is being talked about for the Heisman after making spectacular play after spectacular play. Texas A&M is nowhere near the same class as LSU and a game between the two would not be close.
Mississippi State is a sneakily good team this season. As stated previously, they should have beaten Auburn. Their loss to LSU was by 13 points and the Bulldogs stayed right with with the number one team in the country for three quarters. However, their recent games against Louisiana Tech and Georgia have been somewhat disappointing. Chris Relf has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns on the season (five touchdowns, six interceptions), which is something A&M could take advantage of. That being said, the Bulldogs play hard and have the added advantage of playing against the tough competition of the SEC all season. Their dual threat running game with Relf and running back Vick Ballard could wear down the Aggies’ defense. Mississippi State has shown it can be good, but is still a year or two away from playing consistently enough to be great. The Bulldogs also play to A&M’s strengths and tend to fade at the end of games. Much like a potential matchup with Auburn, A&M and Mississippi State are fairly evenly matched. If A&M can stop the run (one of its strengths) and withstand another strong SEC defense, they can play pretty evenly with the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss is simply not very good. They got beat by Vanderbilt 30-7. Vanderbilt is also not very good. A&M is in a good place to take advantage of the Rebels’ lagging offense. If this game comes early in their schedule next season, it might give them a confidence boost against better teams later on. Not every team in the SEC is in the top 25, but those that are are firmly at the top.
Texas A&M's Fate
Texas A&M's entrance into the SEC next season will not be welcomed with pats on the back and celebrations. Their offense will not be able to stand up to the rough defenses at Alabama and LSU. Ryan Tannehill has thrown six touchdowns this year, but also has five interceptions. That number will almost certainly increase next season. Their defense will continue its current trend of collapsing in the second half, especially against rough, run heavy offenses at Auburn and Florida. There is a reason the past five BCS champions have been SEC teams. The conference is very good and A&M will discover that the hard way.