It’s been over 24 hours, and I am officially over the loss. We had the sinking feeling all season that our defensive play would finally catch up to us, and it did. I’m over it now, and I realized that I am just going to enjoy guys like Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans during their last season, because they are such rare commodities.
Reaching a BCS bowl now seems very unlikely, so let’s look at where the Aggies will likely wind up.
The entire analysis has to start in one spot, and it is a dark and daunting task, but we have to project Texas A&M's Win/Loss total. All of my picks and predictions are fully dependent on Manziel staying healthy. Considering he finished the Auburn game, I assume he can trot out for Vanderbilt. He was a warrior, and he obviously wants the ball. I expect him back.
Here are our remaining games with my win/loss predictions, and my confidence in the picks:
To pick the games, I took a look at various statistics such as those provided by FootballOutsiders.com, CFBStats.com and FootballStudyHall.com, and made some educated guesses based on where our weaknesses have been to this point. Here is a summary look at the SEC conference rankings of each team remaining on our schedule in different categories (stats from CFBStats.com). The rankings only take into account performances vs. SEC Conference opponents:
The running game is by far our Achilles' heel. Luckily for us, Vandy has an sub-par rushing game, averaging 144.67 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents, and is only ahead of Kentucky in conference. Against ranked opponents, Vandy has been putting up 368.0 yards per game of total offense, and their defense has allowed 551.0 yards per game. I don't think this will be an easy win, because Vandy can definitely score, but in the end, we put enough stops together and walk out with a 10 point win, and bowl eligibility in hand.
I'm not going to do it. Unlike some of you with severe Battered Aggie Syndrome (BAS), I am not even going to think for half a second that we won't beat UTEP. Won't happen. It's a win.
This Mississippi State team barely squeaked out a win against Bowling Green, but they have an offense that has a better point per drive efficiency than Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Auburn (FootballStudyHall.com). Luckily, they aren't nearly as good as we are in that category. The biggest reason we win this game is that, while Mississippi State will be another good rushing team that we face, they haven't been able to put together many scoring drives, averaging only 23 ppg vs. conference opponents. I think this is a 14-point win.
LSU will be the best passing offense we face all year outside of Mississippi, so let's hope for some rain again. They are also the best remaining team we face in terms of Red Zone conversions and Drive Efficiency. I just can't see a scenario where we walk into Death Valley and walk out with a win. The defense would have to make incredible improvements, or the LSU offense would need to be victimized by a comedy of errors. This is loss 3 on the year.
I didn't see this team coming at the beginning of the year. I especially didn't see it continuing with Freshman QB Maty Mauk under center against a very good Florida defense, but I don't think it will keep up as they get further into their schedule. This game will absolutely be a shoot-out, but I think it's a very winnable one. I wouldn't be shocked if win number 9 or loss number 4 come out of this game.
Final Record Prediction: 9-3
Based on those records and a review of schedules and current states of the other SEC teams around us, my projected conference standings at the end of the season look like this:
Top 6 Projected SEC Standings:
1. Alabama 8-0
2. Missouri 7-1
3. LSU 5-3
4. Auburn 5-3
5. Texas A&M 5-3
6. Georgia 5-3
The SEC Bowl Game tie-in's are the following:
SEC #1 Bowl Championship Series. Automatic berth to a BCS bowl game, preferentially the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
SEC #2 The Capital One Bowl versus Big Ten #2.
SEC #3 The Cotton Bowl Classic versus Big 12 #2.
SEC #4 The Outback Bowl versus Big Ten #3.
SEC #5 The Chick-fil-A Bowl versus ACC #2.
SEC #6 The Gator Bowl versus Big Ten #4
SEC #7 The Music City Bowl versus ACC #6.
SEC #8 The Liberty Bowl versus Conference USA #1.
SEC #9 The BBVA Compass Bowl versus AAC #4.
SEC #10 The AdvoCare V100 Bowl versus ACC #7.
Texas A&M is one of the sexiest teams the SEC has, and our swagger alone will carry us up into one of the more prominent bowl games. Here are the bowls we wind up in based on scenarios outside of our control:
Cotton Bowl: LSU's finish will determine our fate for this bowl. If Missouri handles their business they should wind up beating out LSU for a spot in a BCS bowl. Because we already played in the Cotton Bowl last year, the selection committee will most likely put LSU there to take on whatever comes out of the Big 12.
The only exception to this is Texas. If Texas winds up being Cotton Bowl worthy, I would fully expect people to find a way to stick us together for the ratings, and try to storybook it as Mack Brown's last game vs. the kid he didn't want as a quarterback.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl: If we don't wind up in the Cotton, then I would expect to see us here vs. any other bowl. Why? The game of Tajh Boyd vs. Johnny Manziel is probably the next best sell available. The grizzled 5-year veteran playing against the young gun. Will this game determine if the ACC is truly relevant? Will their draft selections depend on the outcome of this game? Will that one thing that Tajh Boyd said that one time that I forgot, that was probably harmless in normal life, affect his relationship with Johnny on the field? Good guy vs. Bad guy matchup.
Capital One Bowl: If Clemson gets to a BCS bowl then there isn't a sexy matchup left for the us against the ACC. That puts us here in Orlando for the Capital One bowl. It doesn't really matter what team comes out of the Big Ten. Could be Michigan, could be Nebraska. Regardless, that team would bring more viewers in for a game against us than anything else. I don't know what the story line will be. Probably some ESPN graphics that age-project Johnny Manziel to both look and act like Bo Pelini at 40, or Devin Gardner something something. They always think of something.