Is anyone ready for college football? There are live games this weekend.
That feels nice to say. Gradually, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll actually be talking about football instead of its more oppressive byproducts: recruiting quarrels, attendance posturing, and business matters. We all still have plenty of questions about this impending season. Don’t worry, we’re taking wild guesses that are just as plausible as anyone else’s in an effort to get ready. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of Aggie Football 2019.
1) Who is your most important player on offense this season?
KELLEN MOND. He’s going into his third full year as a starter and has shown drastic improvement in each season. The last time A&M had a third-year starter returning at QB was 2010 with Jerrod Johnson, when this team’s current freshmen were in elementary school. How Mond runs the team in year two of Jimbo’s tenure could set the tone for the next several seasons. He’s not an overly vocal leader, but he’s definitely the linchpin of the Aggie offense. There are a lot of players poised to be breakout stars, but Mond is the glue holding it all together.
2) Who is your most important player on defense this season?
BUDDY JOHNSON. Linebacker is the position that concerns people most, not just on the defense, but the entire team. Johnson came on strong at the end of 2018 with a key fumble recovery against LSU, and started his first game in the bowl against NC State. With only one returning linebacker who saw significant playing time last year, Mike Elko has four huge shoes to fill with the departure of Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson. We’ve seen Johnson make plays, so if he can handle the wear-and-tear of being a starting SEC linebacker, that could set the tone for an otherwise untested group.
3) What should be the biggest change between last year and this year?
THE ENTIRE OFFENSE. We lost the SEC’s leading rusher in Trayveon Williams, and one of the nation’s most prolific receiving tight ends in Jace Sternberger. The WR corps was largely unheralded last year (with the exception of the LSU game), and Jashaun Corbin saw limited touches at running back, but will now have to do the bulk of the backfield work. 2019 could see Fisher and Darrell Dickey take a trial-and-error approach on offense until they find the right combination of talents to rely on. It could look very different from 2018, or it could just look similar with a very different cast of contributors.
4) What is the most important game on this schedule, and why?
CLEMSON. No, it’s not a conference game. But any time you go on the road in week 2 to play the defending national champs, it’s going to be the biggest game on your schedule. Last year’s effort at home was intense and it infused the team with a sense of hope that helped carry them through the rest of the schedule. A good showing at Clemson at the beginning of the year would be a huge boost heading into a brutal conference slate that includes top-ten Alabama, Georgia, and LSU. A win at Clemson changes the outlook for the whole season.
5) What is your prediction for W/L record and postseason destination?
GOING 9-4 AGAIN WOULD BE A GOOD YEAR. Considering the difficulty of this schedule, it’s possible to finish with the exact same record as 2018 and still be a much-improved football team. The Aggies play FOUR OF THE TOP-SIX RANKED TEAMS. Throw in Auburn and the Mississippi schools and a scrappy cross-division rival in South Carolina, and this schedule’s a gauntlet. A New Year’s bowl like the Outback or Citrus would be a really nice reward heading into a promising 2020.
This team has a lot of really good pieces in place. Players have been put in a position to prove themselves, and it’s up to them to do the heavy lifting to kick off the year. How quickly the offense gels and the defense adjusts to so many new starters will go a long way towards defining Jimbo Fisher’s era at Texas A&M. This schedule is the big-time. It’s going to be a blast to see how it plays out. Give us your burning questions (and answers) in the comments. Beat the hell outta Texas State.