College Football Countdown: No. 22 Texas A&M

The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 22: Texas A&M

Coach: Kevin Sumlin (0-0, entering first season; 35-17 overall)

2011 results: 7-6 (4-5 in Big 12, tied for sixth in Big 12)

Look back: Texas A&M was ranked in the Top 10 in national polls early in the 2011 season, but the Aggies struggled in big games and finished with a disappointing 7-6 record. The Aggies went 5-2 during the first half of the season, including a narrow 30-29 home loss to Oklahoma State. Texas A&M then went on a three-game losing streak, falling 38-31 in overtime against Missouri, 41-25 at Oklahoma and 53-50 in four overtime periods at Kansas State. The string of close losses likely contributed heavily to the decision to part ways with then-head coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies, who went 25-25 during his tenure, simply weren’t showing signs they were moving toward dominating games. Texas A&M closed out the year winning two of its final three games, including a 27-25 loss to Texas in what could be the final game of the rivalry series for a while and a 33-22 win over Northwestern in the Meineke Bowl.

Off the field, Texas A&M announce the big news it was leaving the Big 12 behind and jumping to the Southeastern Conference. The move will allow the Aggies to earn a lot more money from conference agreements and break away from Texas and Oklahoma, but the new competition Texas A&M faces in the SEC will be intense. The Aggies hired Houston coach Kevin Sumlin to take over as head coach and lead the program into the SEC.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 2/9

Defensive starters lost/returning: 5/6

Key losses: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray, CB Coryell Judie, WR Jeff Fuller, DL Tony Jerod-Eddie, LB Garrick Williams.

Top returnees: WR Ryan Swope, OL Luke Joeckel, OL Jake Matthews, LB Sean Porter, RB Christine Michael.

Strengths: Texas A&M boasts a true playmaker in receiver Ryan Swope, who should thrive in Sumlin’s wide open, pass heavy attack. The offense will get a lot of help from a potent offensive line anchored by NFL prospects Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. The Aggies are counting on dynamic running back Christine Michael returning from a torn ACL injury last season to give the team another strong offensive weapon.

While the Aggies return nine starters on offense, the team brings back just six starters on defense. The defensive lineup is leaner. Linebacker Sean Porter is expected to step into a leadership role and help the unit cope with bigger challenges in the SEC.

Weaknesses: The Aggies lost a talented quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who has moved on to the NFL. Fourth athletes are competing for the starting job. Sophomore Jameill Showers shined during the spring by showing off the strongest arm and most poise. Freshman Johnny Manziel, who is Showers’ primary competition, tends to thrive when things break down. The transition to a new starting quarterback could be painful for Texas A&M. The quarterback plays a critical role in Sumlin’s offense and will face elite SEC defenses.

Sumlin brought in Mark Snyder, a former Marshall head coach and USF assistant coach known for developing hard-nosed defensive players, to take over as defensive coordinator. Snyder faces the tough job of building up a defensive unit with a lot of gaps. While the Aggies’ offensive line is impressive, the defensive line is a much weaker group.

Outlook: Texas A&M is about to a make a huge jump into a new conference, but it has enough experienced returning players and the talent on its offensive line to post a winning record and earn a bowl invitation.

2012 Schedule
Aug. 30 At Louisiana Tech
Sept. 8 Florida
Sept. 15 At SMU
Sept. 22 South Carolina State
Sept. 29 Arkansas
Oct. 6 At Ole Miss
Oct. 20 LSU
Oct. 27 At Auburn
Nov. 3 At Mississippi State
Nov. 10 At Alabama
Nov. 17 Sam Houston State
Nov. 24 Missouri

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad