National championship expectations for Texas A&M have arrived in College Station in the form of former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher via a 10-year, $75 million contract. Fisher has 14 starters back from a team that went 7-6 (4-4 in the SEC) in 2017 and is looking to establish itself in the competitive SEC West. A grueling schedule and switch in schemes on offense and defense may be too much even for a shot at a divisional title in 2018.
On paper, the Aggies' offense should be solid hedging towards very talented. The big question is can the offensive line adapt to Fisher's pro-style scheme and emerge as a unit that can control the trenches for four quarters? At the skill positions, Jhamon Ausbon has the look of the next great Aggies wide receiver. Ausbon is ready to make his quarterback – whether that's Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond -- look good. Fisher also has an All-SEC-caliber back in Trayveon Williams to lead the ground attack.
On defense, the Aggies have great pieces to build around in linebacker Tyrel Dodson and end Landis Durham. Dodson made 105 tackles last season while Durham came up big with 10.5 sacks. The secondary has talent but must improve beyond the 251 passing yards per game allowed in SEC play. Kingsley Keke is a beast in the trenches but the rest of the line outside of Durham enters the year unproven.
With true SEC talent on the roster, Fisher must mold his team quickly with an opening month that includes games against Clemson, Alabama and Arkansas. The Aggies also must navigate a three-game road gauntlet of South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn to kick off the second half of their slate. Forget the national title, a good debut for Fisher would be eight victories, while finding a way to put together a winning November.
So what should Aggies fans expect in Year 1 of the Fisher era? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Texas A&M in 2018.
Texas A&M Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Jimbo Fisher isn’t going to deliver a SEC title in his debut season in College Station, but look for improvement out of Texas A&M this fall. The cupboard certainly isn’t empty in terms of raw talent for Fisher. Quarterbacks Nick Starkel and Kellen Mond are promising, while there’s a talented group of young receivers on the outside, along with running back Trayveon Williams to lead the way on offense. The biggest concern for Fisher’s offense remains the transition in overall scheme, along with the play of the line. Fisher’s hire of Mike Elko as the program’s defensive coordinator was one of the top offseason hires of 2018. Elko also has plenty of talent to work with, including linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka and end Landis Durham. Games against Alabama and Clemson make for a brutal September, but the Aggies will improve throughout the course of 2018, beating LSU in the regular season finale to finish ahead of the Tigers in the SEC West.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Texas A&M is one of only two teams in the nation (Louisville is the other) that plays both Clemson and Alabama (in the regular season) -- and the Aggies get them in the first month. A&M embarks on a huge three-game road trip that begins in mid-October with a visit to South Carolina and also includes dates at Mississippi State and Auburn. That figures to be the defining stretch for this team and will determine if Jimbo Fisher's first season at A&M is good... or great.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
No pressure Jimbo, this only has to be the stepping stone season to a national title run. I'm not quite sold on the Aggies' talent level being up there with the elite contenders in the SEC West but this has all the makings a squad that is in just about every game for three quarters and is pesky against everybody but top-two foes Alabama and Clemson. Overall, it can be a solid debut in College Station for Fisher and his staff by just winning the games they should and keeping things interesting against the top 25 teams.