Texas A&M Aggies
Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin
2014 record: 8-5 overall, 3-5 SEC West
2014 Postseason results: Beat West Virginia 45-37 in the Liberty Bowl
2015 returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 65/1
Odds to win 2015 SEC Championship Game: 23/1
Odds to Win 2015 SEC West Division: 14/1
Regular season wins: under 8 -125 / over 8 -105
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Last season, the Texas A&M Aggies started off the season 5-0 including upsets of South Carolina and Arkansas. However, then came an ugly 3 game losing streak to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Alabama, all by 15 points or more. The low point was a 59-0 thrashing by Alabama. The Aggies would win two straight over Lousiana-Monroe and Auburn, before narrow losses to Missouri and LSU closed out the season. The 7-5 Aggies ended the season with a wild 45-37 shootout win over West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
Now, Texas A&M looks for more consistency in 2015 after such a roller coaster season in 2014. Twelve starters are back for coach Kevin Sumlin.
Offense was not a problem for the Aggies. Texas A&M averaged 455 yards per game including 306 passing and 150 rushing yards. The Aggies were #12 in passing nationally. Texas A&M averaged 36 points a game. This was mainly due to 20 turnovers by the Aggies in 2014. Six starters are back for coordinator Jake Spavital.
Last season, Kenny Hill started off the season as the heir apparent to one Johnny Manziel at quarterback. However, by November Hill would be suspended for 2 games for violating team rules. Kyle Allen would start for the rest of the season. Hill has transferred to TCU and will sit out a season. Hill threw for 2,649 yards with 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and also rushed for 156 yards on 52 carries. Allen completed 61.5% of his passes for 1,322 yards with 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and also had a rushing touchdown. He showed flashes of brilliance against Missouri, Auburn and West Virginia throwing a combined 11 touchdowns in those games. Two sport star Kyler Murray had a chance to enter the MLB draft but chose to stay at A&M to play both football and baseball. The highly recruited freshman will compete with Allen for the quarterback job. Sumlin hasn’t ruled out playing both quarterbacks this season.
Running back Tra Carson is back after rushing for 581 yards on 124 carries with 5 touchdowns, and also making 9 catches. Trey Williams is now with the Washington Redskins after rushing for 560 yards and 7 touchdowns, and also catching a touchdown pass. Brandon Williams is also back after rushing for 379 yards on 87 carries with 3 touchdowns, plus making 9 catches. Sophomore James White had 22 carries for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sumlin brought in former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen to coach the O-Line and coordinate the running game that ranked #85 nationally last year.
Junior receiver Josh Reynolds had 52 catches for 842 yards and 13 touchdowns and will be the go-to receiver again in 2015. Malcome Kennedy is now with the New Orleans Saints after making 53 catches for 611 yards and 6 touchdowns. Sophomore Speedy Noil had 46 catches for 583 yards and 5 touchdowns as a freshman last year. Ricky Seals-Jones had 49 catches for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns. Edward Pope had 30 catches for 454 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Three starters are back on the offensive line but the left side of the line must be replaced. The Aggies struggled in both pass protection and run blocking. Center Mike Matthews, right guard Joseph Cheek and right tackle Germain Ifedi are all back. Christensen has said the line will be more physical and aggressive in 2015.
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The defense was terrible last year allowing 451 yards per game including 235 passing and 218 rushing yards. The Aggies were #104 in total defense and #111 in rush defense out of 128 FBS teams. Texas A&M did only give up 28 points a game but that was mainly due to giving up only 35 points total in four non-conference games against soft competition.
The bottom line is Sumlin fired defensive coordinator Mark Snyder after two straight seasons of the defense being ranked #100 or lower nationally. The Aggies pulled off a coup by luring LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis to take the same job with the Aggies. Chavis is considered one of the top defensive minds in the country and his impact will be felt immediately. He gets six starters back from last year.
Three starters are back on the defensive line, including end Myles Garrett. Last year, he set the SEC freshman record with 11.5 sacks. He could be even better under the tutelage of Chavis. Julien Obioha and Daeshon Hall will split time at the other end. Tackle Alonzo Williams is a good run stopper but the rest of the tackles struggled at stopping the run.
The linebackers struggled last season and must replace all three starters. Still, Otaro Alaka showed potential late in the season and was the defensive MVP of the bowl game (which seems strange in a 45-37 game, but whatever). JUCO transfer Claude George could start in the middle.
Cornerback Da’Vante Harris is a four year starter but has been inconsistent. Sophomore safety Armani Watts had 3 picks as a freshman. JUCO transfer Justin Evans was very impressive in the spring and might displace Devonta Burns from his starting spot at the other safety.
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Senior kicker Taylor Bertolet has struggled with accuracy missing 10 extra points in his career and is only 4/12 beyond 30 yards. He was actually replaced as the kicker by Josh Lambo, but the Aggies have no other options than to go back to Bertolet. Punter Drew Kaser was a Ray Guy award finalist last year given to the nation’s top punter. Speedy Noil will return punts and kicks again.
Texas A&M does not leave the state of Texas for the first six games of the season. The Aggies have neutral site games in Houston against Arizona State and in Arlington against Arkansas, plus home games against Ball State, Nevada, Mississippi State and Alabama. The second half of the season includes a road trip to Mississippi, home games against South Carolina, Auburn and Western Carolina, plus road games at Vanderbilt and LSU to close out the season.
The defense will be improved under Chavis but it will take a couple of years at least for them to become elite. The offense will still be explosive regardless of who plays quarterback. The schedule is tough but 9 of the 12 games are in the Lone Star State. Still, I think the Aggies have a similar record to last year either 7-5 or 6-6 just because the SEC West is so loaded with good to very good teams.
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