If you hear bellowing in the stall of an SEC washroom, go lightly on the Aggies inside. After eight seasons of wanting to join the elite in the SEC, 2020 was set up to be a championship run to Atlanta with eyes on a College Football Playoff berth. But with everything in flux, Texas A&M fans can only hope the team stays strong allowing for an unconventional path to banners, rings, and trophies.
After two seasons of grueling games against Clemson and Georgia, A&M rolled off the perennial top-10 teams for a "softer" schedule. The non-conference games were lined up against Abilene Christian, North Texas, Colorado, and Fresno State. In Georgia's place, Vanderbilt. The spread of the games had the Aggies playing five of their first six games in the Lone Star State, which backloaded their schedule with an end-of-season two-game run against Alabama on the road and LSU at home. With the new changes to the 2020 schedule featuring a 10-game in-conference slate, A&M's chances of making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game became far more difficult.
A season ago, the Aggies underperformed in many ways and rolled to an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record. They played tough in games against Clemson, Auburn, and Georgia but were walked out of the building against Alabama and LSU. The Fisher-engineered offense was average at best, only scoring over 30 points scored three times against SEC foes (Arkansas, Mississippi State, South Carolina). But that was then, and this is now. The Aggies' offense is highlighted by eight returning starters and a promising run game to support quarterback Kellen Mond's efforts in the pocket. Considering the caliber of competition played, coordinator Mike Elko's defense deserves more credit than received. Elko also has eight starters back to his unit making this a formidable bunch against a salty SEC bunch.
Picking the poison from the 2019 season or the 2020 schedule is a coin toss. Yes, gone is Georgia, but in its place with the expanded schedule is No. 6 Florida. Vanderbilt is a reprieve, but adding top-25 bubble team Tennessee on the road amps up the difficulty quotation. The planned Sunday drive to the SEC finish line in the original schedule has drastically changed now, seeing No. 2 Alabama in Bryant-Denny in Week 2 followed by a visit from the Gators. Winning on the road in-conference is never easy, and the Gamecocks and Volunteers have weapons to challenge. Through it all, the Aggies still have a challenging end of season affair by hosting No. 8 LSU and seeing No. 13 Auburn on The Plains.
Texas A&M Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After facing one of the nation’s toughest schedules last season, Texas A&M appeared to have a reprieve coming into 2020. However, the revamped SEC slate didn’t do coach Jimbo Fisher’s team any favors. The Aggies picked up games against Florida and Tennessee (road) to go along with the usual brutal West Division slate. Despite the schedule difficulty, coach Jimbo Fisher has the program trending in the right direction. But to make a jump in 2020, quarterback Kellen Mond has to play better in big games, and the offensive line has to provide more consistent production up front. The defense allowed only 22.5 points a game last season, but every level of the unit has to be better to push Alabama and LSU in the West. Road trips to Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee won’t be easy. However, LSU comes to College Station on Nov. 28 in a game that could decide which team is second in the West to the Crimson Tide.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
With a lot of returning experience, something the other main contenders in the SEC West can't claim, Texas A&M seems poised for big things in 2020. The pieces are in place for the Aggies to challenge for a division title… and then you look at the schedule. Jimbo Fisher's team was already preparing for road games against Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State before the coronavirus caused the SEC to switch to a conference-only slate and added Florida and Tennessee to A&M's slate. The Gators have to come to College Station before, but Kyle Field won't be near the same environment under these circumstances. On top of that, the Aggies have to take on Alabama and Florida in back-to-back games early and then close with consecutive matchups against LSU and Auburn. Unless this is Texas A&M's year, I don't see how the Aggies get through this slate unscathed, and one loss could be all that's needed to knock them out of contention in the rugged SEC West.
Ryan Wright (@RyanWrightRNG)
If Jimbo Fisher has a "rah-rah" bone in his body, he can play the disrespect card early and often in pregame speeches. Until A&M makes that jump, they will be considered a pretender given no respect. The Crimson Tide will be fresh for the Aggies opening with Missouri, and the Gators should be a full-on chomp after squaring off against Ole Miss and South Carolina. Two-loss teams in the West do not typically make it to Atlanta, but this season is different in more ways than one. Still, it's hard to see Alabama losing two, and the Tide would hold the tie-breaker. A&M has to split Bama and Florida for a shot at the SEC Championship Game. If they can at least split, and stay healthy, this could be a team of destiny... but that is a big if.