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Kevin Sumlin begins life without Johnny Manziel with a tough schedule in 2014.
Year One after Johnny Manziel begins in College Station in a few months. How will Texas A&M, the fans and Kevin Sumlin survive without their beloved superstar under center this fall?
While this team is expected to take a small step back in 2014, the positive vibes and overall trajectory of this program is something Aggies fans should be excited about. Sumlin has stacked two solid recruiting classes atop one another and a third appears to be in the works. But those young four- and five-star athletes need time to develop and learn how tough life in the SEC can be.
The offensive line and skill weapons should be solid once again but the defense could again be one of the league’s worst and the quarterback position is certainly a question mark (at least, until Kyle Allen starts to develop).
This is a team that was just 4-4 in SEC play a year ago with the great Johnny Manziel under center, with Jake Matthews protecting the blindside and with Mike Evans stretching defenses. So with a brutal conference slate on the docket for 2014, it’s hard to see Texas A&M repeating or improving upon that .500 benchmark without those three first-round draft picks on offense.
2014 Texas A&M Schedule Analysis
2014 Texas A&M Schedule
The SEC Network wanted Texas A&M and South Carolina to start the season and that is really bad news for the Aggies. The season will start on the road in one of the toughest places to play in the league against a team that’s won 11 games in three straight years and returns its entire offensive line and star running back. Take the Gamecocks and lay the points.
No worries in the non-conference
Despite the nasty first weekend trip to Columbia, S.C., the non-conference slate for TAMU will provide four wins. Lamar, Rice and UL Monroe all have to visit College Station and the Aggies have to visit SMU in Dallas. Texas A&M should be a heavy favorite in all four and there is no reason for Sumlin and company to lose any of their non-conference games this fall.
October in the West
Four of the first five SEC games will be played away from Kyle Field. After a trip to South Carolina, TAMU won’t play another SEC game until taking on rival Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, in the final week of September. Then road games with key West Division opponents Mississippi State and Alabama take place in Weeks 6 and 8 respectively. The lone home game is a critical one, as Ole Miss comes to town in Week 7. After all of that, Texas A&M gets an open date (Week 9) and UL Monroe (Week 10) before a nasty and important final three weeks of the season.
The game with Ole Miss cannot be overvalued and a road trip to Auburn looks daunting, but the final two weeks will feature two massive upset opportunities as Missouri and LSU come to town in the final two weeks of the year. The development of the quarterback and defense should allow for at least one home upset (possibly two) and a win over either Mizzou and LSU could push Texas A&M over .500 on the season. An off weekend between the two home dates helps and the LSU game will take place on Thanksgiving as a new tradition gets started in College Station.
Related: 2014 Texas A&M Aggies Team Preview
The key for Texas A&M’s ’14 season is likely the trio of key home swing games with Ole Miss, Missouri and LSU. If the Aggies can win all four non-conference games, handle Arkansas in Dallas and pull an upset or two at home late in the year, the momentum for this program heading into 2015 could be sky high. The road schedule in the SEC is as tough as any team in the nation will face within their league (Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State) and just one win on the road could make this season look a lot different (8-4, let’s say).