There are great reasons for Texas A&M fans to be excited about the 2020 college football season. In his third year in College Station, head coach Jimbo Fisher returns perhaps his most complete and seasoned roster with momentum to be had off an 8-5 campaign in 2019. Furthermore, the schedule over the past two seasons had been unkind to the Aggies with non-conference games against Clemson and an SEC East draw with Georgia. Those two powerhouses have been traded for more favorable matchups, which should only help Texas A&M pad the win column.
On paper, the 2019 season may have appeared ho-hum to the rest of college football, but the Aggies were better than advertised considering the competition faced. The five losses came against teams ranked eighth or higher, twice playing the then- No. 1 team in the country (Clemson and Alabama) as well as eventual national champion, LSU (ranked No. 2 at the time). On top of that, three of these games (Clemson, LSU, No. 4 Georgia) came on the road. The 2020 season will have its own challenges, namely the usual suspects in the SEC West, but the schedule as a whole shouldn't be as difficult to navigate.
If Texas A&M can get its running game going to complement the talents of third-year starting quarterback Kellen Mond in the pocket, the offense will be potent. Under defensive coordinator Mike Elko, the Aggies have been stout, especially considering the competition. Last season, A&M finished 29th in the nation at 340 yards per game allowed. The returning talent, consistency in schemes, and favorable schedule align for a potential breakthrough year for Fisher and company.
Bye: Week 9
Week 1 — Sept. 5 vs. Abilene Christian (College Station, Texas)
When fans of Power 5 Conference football teams try to knock the non-conference games SEC teams schedule, this is why. The FCS Wildcats turned in a 5-7 season in 2019 as a member of the Southland Conference. The Wildcats took “money games” against North Texas and Mississippi State last season, losing 51-31 and 45-7 respectively.
Week 2 — Sept 12 vs. North Texas (College Station, Texas)
In 2018, head coach Seth Littrell was getting a lot of ink for his skills on the sideline propped up with wins over SMU, Arkansas, and Florida Atlantic. But last season, the Mean Green from Conference USA stumbled to 4-8 so this should serve as another warm-up before moving on to P5 competition.
Week 3 — Sept. 19 vs. Colorado (College Station)
From 1995 to 2009, these teams were foes in the Big 8/Big 12. The Aggies owned the series (6-3) during that span and this is the first meeting since each program went their own way. The Buffaloes are seeking consistency at the top, experiencing five head coaching changes since 2010. Last year, Colorado went 5-7 under Mel Tucker, who left in February for the Michigan State job, so the Buffaloes hired Karl Dorrell as his replacement. Dorrell, who went 35-27 as UCLA's head coach from 2003-07, has some familiarity with the SEC as he served as Vanderbilt's offensive coordinator in 2014.
Week 4 — Sept. 26 vs. Arkansas (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas)
What was once a balanced series has turned into a counted-upon victory for the Aggies, who have reeled off seven straight against the Razorbacks. Arkansas is yet again going through a leadership transition with former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman replacing Chad Morris. The Razorbacks have not won a conference game in two years. A&M will not aid in their rebound here.
Week 5 — Oct. 3 at Mississippi State (Starkville, Miss.)
For college football fans who love offenses, this is a dream matchup seeing two of the game’s top offensive minds battle it out. Fisher runs a pro-style set while new Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach executes his version of the Air Raid but each push the pigskin down the field with tempo. If the Bulldogs get enough time to install Leach’s offense before the season begins, this could be a contest between undefeated teams bringing added national attention.
Week 6 — Oct. 10 vs. Fresno State (College Station, Texas)
After two big seasons in head coach Jeff Tedford’s offense, the Bulldogs fell from a 12-2 team to 4-8 in 2019. The record is not appealing for Fresno State, but they were a tough out. They lost their final four games by a total of 20 points. Worth noting, the Bulldogs took Minnesota into double-overtime in early September last season before accepting a 38-35 defeat. Fresno State will have a different look this season after Tedford resigned with former Indiana offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer taking over.
Week 7 — Oct. 17 at Auburn (Auburn, Ala.)
The Tigers will get some preseason love in the rankings, but this team has a lot of work that needs to be done on both sides of the ball if they wish to compete for an SEC West title. Due to graduation and early NFL Draft entrants, Auburn's defense has been dismantled, ditto for the offensive line. A&M catches a break for this meeting with the hosts coming off of a game road game against Georgia.
Week 8 — Oct. 24 at South Carolina (Columbia, S.C.)
Fortunately for the Aggies, they don't face their first true test of the season until eight games into the schedule with back-to-back road games. Texas A&M has won the past six meetings with South Carolina. While most of these games have been competitive, that was not the case last year as the Aggies rolled over the Gamecocks at home, beating them 30-6.
Week 10 — Nov. 7 vs. Ole Miss (College Station, Texas)
He may not admit it, but deep down one has to guess that Fisher is loving taking on new Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin was a media darling early in his career but fizzled out at USC before rebounding at Florida Atlantic with two Conference USA titles (2017, '19) in a three-year span. The Rebels’ schedule to this point will have Kiffin rethinking his decision with games against Baylor, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and Florida before making the trip to College Station.
Week 11 — Nov. 14 vs. Vanderbilt (College Station, Texas)
Vanderbilt represents the last of the counted-upon wins on the schedule for A&M. This is the third meeting between these two teams with the Aggies coming out victorious in 2013 and '15 by a combined 57 points. Since James Franklin posted consecutive nine-win seasons in 2012-13, the Commodores have struggled under Derek Mason. He enters 2020 with a 27-47 record (10-38 in SEC play), leading Vanderbilt to just two bowl appearances and no more than six wins in any season.
Week 12 — Nov. 21 at Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Fitting that the Crimson Tide mascot is Big Al the elephant because it seems head coach Nick Saban never forgets. Saban will be out for blood in 2020 looking to regain his perch atop the SEC, but doing so against what could be a very challenging schedule. The Tide will have already faced Georgia and LSU giving this meeting with the Aggies potential SEC West title implications. Since A&M beat Alabama in 2012 (29-24), Saban appears to relish the opportunity to lay it on the Aggies. The Tide has won the past two encounters by an average of nearly 21 points.
Week 13 — Nov. 28 vs. LSU (College Station, Texas)
If A&M is in it to win it with LSU in the mix for an SEC Championship Game berth as well, be ready to hear all about the Aggies' seven-overtime win (74-72) the last time LSU was in College Station. The defending national champs are going through a big roster overhaul and some coaching changes after their 15-0 run a year ago. LSU’s schedule lends itself to a possible run to another conference title if all the new pieces fall into place; but that is a big IF. The last two games of the season could prop Fisher up as a hero or just another high-paid SEC head coach.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.