Since the days of R.C. Slocum on the Aggies' sidelines (1989-2002) the Texas A&M faithful have long been waiting for a head coach capable of fielding a team that can both win consistently and challenge for conference titles. If Jimbo Fisher's first season in College Station did anything, it lit a fire with a fan base believing he's the right man for the job. The former Florida State head coach turned the team around on offense and defense, posting a 9-4 (5-3 SEC) record and coming eight points shy of a potential two-loss regular season.
Now that Fisher and company have shown what they can do, can they keep the momentum going? Fisher has help in the form of seven returning starters on offense. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko will be challenged in his second year with the Aggies with only four returning starters. Do the Aggies catch any breaks on the schedule to aid in their run for an SEC West title beyond two bye weeks?
12. Sept. 14 vs. Lamar
Facing FCS opponent Lamar in Week 3 is no mistake for A&M. The Cardinals are sandwiched between Clemson and Auburn allowing the squad a chance to regroup either physically and/or mentally after a tough road game against the defending national champions before opening SEC play against an angry Auburn squad.
Lamar went 7-5 and 6-3 in Southland last season, earning an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs. The Cardinals took a 77-0 pounding against Texas Tech in Week 2 in their only Power 5 matchup.
11. Aug. 29 vs. Texas State
College football fans across the country will not like seeing the Aggies take on Texas State, but the A&M fans may enjoy it. The Bobcats went 3-9 (1-7 Sun Belt) with Everett Withers at the helm but have turned the reins of the program over to former A&M assistant Jake Spavital. Spavital spent three seasons in College Station as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under former head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Adding a little fun into the mix, this is the first meeting between the two programs. Expect Spavital to pull out some tricks on offense looking to get some easy points on the board if possible.
10. Nov. 2 vs. UTSA
Frank Wilson returns for his fourth season with the Roadrunners trying to push past a 3-9 season that included a 2-6 showing in Conference USA action. UTSA opened the 2018 season with three consecutive games against Power 5 teams (Arizona State, Baylor, and Kansas State) losing each resoundingly. The 2019 squad might be more promising with four starters back along the offensive line and six total back on defense.
For A&M fans that want to be the best in everything in Texas, this is another chance for the Aggies to own a series against another Lone Star State team. The series is currently tied 1-1 with the last meeting coming in 2016.
9. Oct. 19 at Ole Miss
Rebels head coach Matt Luke is beloved in Oxford, but that sentiment may not last long especially after losing five consecutive games, including the Egg Bowl, to finish out his second season at 5-7, including just 1-7 in the SEC. With Ole Miss' postseason ban and recruiting restrictions out of the way, the fans want to see progress. A home win against A&M would add luster to the season for the Rebels.
Ole Miss was one of the nation's best passing teams, scattering the pigskin around for 346 yards per game, but had the SEC's worst defense, giving way to 483 yards each time out. With new coordinators on offense and on defense, and something to play for come late in the season, might we see a revitalized Rebels squad?
8. Sept. 28 vs. Arkansas (Arlington, Texas)
The Southwest Classic has turned into a fan favorite for the Aggies, who are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak against the Razorbacks. Despite Arkansas' woes in 2018, the Hogs kept the heat on A&M, scoring with 3:16 left before taking a 24-17 loss.
Arkansas should show signs of improvement in Year 2 under head coach Chad Morris, and their schedule should favor building confidence early on in the season. This could be another thriller.
7. Oct. 26 vs. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs' defense was stifling last season holding A&M to 61 yards on the ground and 232 passing in a 28-13 loss for the Aggies. MSU's defense will look much different this season with only three starters back. The offense will look different as well with a new starting quarterback. A&M should be able to put an end to a three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs at home.
All SEC schedules are challenging, and that should aid A&M in this one. Mississippi State will have played consecutive games against Kentucky, Auburn (road), Tennessee (road), and LSU before heading to Kyle Field.
6. Nov. 16 vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks were perhaps the most consistently inconsistent college football team in 2018. The win one, lose one mentality was in effect. South Carolina fared well against non-ranked opponents but could not find a way to beat a ranked team, including a 26-23 loss to then-No. 22 Texas A&M. Fans keep waiting for Will Muschamp to turn the proverbial corner with the Gamecocks, is this the year? The offense has the potential to be salty if their interior line gels.
Coming off their second bye of the season, the Aggies should be prepared for this one as look as they don't get caught looking ahead to Georgia and LSU. Because of that daunting finish A&M really needs to win this game.
5. Sept. 21 vs. Auburn
Aggies beware! The Tigers are a wounded team in 2019 with head coach Gus Malzahn losing favor with the fan base after an 8-5 showing. Auburn won last season's meeting at home, scoring 14 straight points in the fourth quarter to steal a 28-24 victory. A&M can return the favor at home with Arkansas and (after a bye) Alabama looming.
If Auburn takes down the Oregon Ducks in their season opener, this team will be juiced when it arrives in College Station.
4. Oct. 12 vs. Alabama
Alabama was once again Alabama in 2018 making an undefeated run to the national championship game before getting blown out by Clemson. To hear head coach Nick Saban talk this offseason, one would think the Crimson Tide had a losing season. The best in the business seems fired up about the 2019 season which should be a call for concern for other SEC teams. Yet, Alabama may have some weaknesses this season needing to essentially retool their entire offensive and defensive lines.
The schedule for Alabama is not challenging, but this showdown could be their first true test of the season if A&M is up for it. Coming off playing Arkansas and with a road trip the following week to Ole Miss, there should be no lag or looking ahead.
3. Sept. 7 at Clemson
The final four games on A&M's list might be against the best four teams in the nation, and this is one of the ferocious ones. Jimbo Fisher knows how to scheme against Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney after matching wits in the ACC, which aided in a near upset (28-26) of then-No. 2 Clemson in Week 2 of the 2018 season. Clemson is typically a slow starter to a season but will face obstacles out of the gate against a new-look Georgia Tech team and A&M.
There will be no excuses for the Aggies heading into this game. They open with Texas State and then face Lamar.
2. Nov. 23 at Georgia
Clemson and Alabama fans can scoff that they are not higher on the list, but the attrition of an SEC season takes its toll. A&M fans cannot be happy to roll off Kentucky out of the East for Georgia, but that is life in this conference. The Bulldogs were a top-10 team throughout 2018 schedule and enter the '19 campaign ranked No. 3 by Athlon Sports. Georgia, like Alabama and Clemson, recruit at a high level replacing one five- or four-star for another and have balance in returning starters on both sides of the ball with 13 expected to be on the field in 2019.
If Georgia is a carbon copy of their 2018 team, A&M has to stop the run to be effective.
1. Nov. 30 at LSU
Not only is this a revenge game for LSU after suffering a 74-72, seven-overtime loss at Kyle Field, but A&M may be battered and bruised after colliding with Georgia the prior week. The Tigers have seven back on offense and eight back on defense with fresh talent out of the 2019 recruiting class ready to bolster the run game. This LSU team promises to be a dark-horse contender in 2019.
If LSU is reasonably healthy in November, the Tigers will be ready for A&M. After traveling to Bryant-Denny Stadium for their biggest game of the season on Nov. 9, they head to Ole Miss and host Arkansas before the Aggies visit.
— 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.