The Texas A&M Aggies take the field in 2019 with momentum building off a successful first season for head coach Jimbo Fisher in College Station. Texas A&M went 9-4 last season, including a 5-3 mark in the SEC and won its last four games, highlighted by a seven-overtime thriller against then-No. 8 LSU (74-72) and a Gator Bowl whitewashing of NC State (52-13).
In addition to the winning streak, the offense led by quarterback Kellen Mond was coming together as a cohesive unit, averaging 51 points per game over that final stretch. With seven starters back on offense and four back on defense, can Texas A&M push past the SEC bluebloods for a West Division title and a run to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game?
Fisher has built his reputation as an offensive-minded coach, and he brought that trait with him to College Station. Even with the switch from a spread attack to a pro-style set, the Aggies improved dramatically on offense, finishing the season 15th nationally at 348 yards per game. Mond returns after throwing for a career-best 3,107 yards and 24 touchdowns and he'll have four of his top targets back in Quartney Davis, Camron Buckley, Jhamon Ausbon, and Kendrick Rogers. The offensive line will be a strength with four of five starters returning, which should not only help Mond have enough time to make plays downfield but also aid sophomore running back Jashaun Corbin, who is trying to replace Trayveon Williams' (SEC-leading 1,760 rushing yards, 18 TDs) production.
The conversion on offense last season was impressive but what defensive coordinator Mike Elko did with his charges was amazing. A&M jumped from a lower-tier defensive team, allowing 409 yards per game in 2017, to locking teams down to 348 yards, good for 32nd in the FBS. The defense will miss key starters in Landis Durham, Tyrel Dodson, and Kingsley Keke, but return defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, corner Debione Renfro, and safety Derrick Tucker. Elko has talent on the roster, but are the players ready for the SEC grind?
Last season, the Aggies' schedule was challenging, facing four ranked teams during the regular season, in addition to a grueling, three-game stretch of road games in October. In 2019, the balance of the schedule swings back into A&M's favor but still includes matchups with the top three teams in the AP's preseason poll (Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia) as well as No. 7 LSU and No. 16 Auburn.
The Aggies will leave the state of Texas just once over their first six games, but that trip is a doozy – to the other Death Valley to face the defending national champions. Both the Crimson Tide and Tigers from the SEC are coming to College Station this fall, but Texas A&M finishes the regular season with back-to-back road games in Athens and Baton Rouge to face the Bulldogs and Bayou Bengals.
So Will Texas A&M challenge for an SEC West title in 2019? Athlon asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors for their realistic win/loss projection for the Aggies in 2019.
Texas A&M Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Texas A&M took a step forward in coach Jimbo Fisher’s first year in College Station, but improvement in the win column could be tough to find in 2019. The Aggies face one of the nation's toughest schedules and get the top three teams — Alabama, Clemson and Georgia — in Athlon's projected rankings this season. Quarterback Kellen Mond should continue to develop into one of the SEC’s top signal-callers, and there's plenty of talent at the skill positions to utilize. The Aggies have room to improve on defense and plenty of talent waiting to step up. Even though Fisher's team may not exceed last year's nine wins, there's a lot to like about this team for 2019 and beyond. With a depth chart loaded with underclassmen, Texas A&M is a program on the rise.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
There isn't much mystery to these projections: Texas A&M is a very talented team that has the misfortune of playing teams ranked first (Alabama), second (Clemson), third (Georgia), and seventh (LSU) in the Athlon Sports' Top 25. And three of those games (Clemson, Georgia and LSU) are on the road. This is a team that could win 10 games or more against a more manageable schedule, but the Aggies will need to pull off a pretty significant upset to win more than eight in the regular season.
Ryan Wright (@RyanWrightRNG)
If A&M can avoid injuries on offense, one thing the Aggies will be able to do is put points on the board this season. With a veteran line back, an All-SEC-caliber quarterback in the pocket, capable backs, and a ridiculously talented receiving corps, it will be very tough for any defense to slow down this group in 2019. The question mark that changes this team from good to potentially great is all the unknowns on defense. The bulk of the expected starting defense is all underclassmen. Will the defense be able to step up on the road against Clemson, Georgia, and LSU, getting stops to allow the offense more scoring opportunities? Thanks to a grueling schedule, young teams in the SEC typically struggle to win tough games on the road. This could limit A&M's ceiling in 2019, but if all the key underclassmen return, A&M will be a dark-horse contender in the SEC in '20.