SDS will be taking a look at the six main contenders in the SEC for 2013. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina headline the conference. First up, Texas A&M.
- Texas A&M Aggies
- South Carolina Gamecocks
- LSU Tigers
- Georgia Bulldogs
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Florida Gators
Texas A&M Aggies
After an electrifying start to their SEC career, the Aggies return as one of the country’s most interesting teams. Texas A&M is figured to finish somewhere in the top three of the West, and another 10-win season looks to be on the horizon. But like each of the big six contenders, the Aggies have questions and liabilities. And no question is bigger for any one team than Johnny Manziel.
Why they will
1. Johnny Manziel: While this season is still somewhat in question, with Manziel the Aggies are a championship contender. He’s good enough for three or four wins on his own, and he should improve as an overall quarterback and decision maker in 2013. No, I’m not predicting his 5,100 total yards will be duplicated, but he can improve from a raw quarterback upon last year…and he’s not getting any slower. All the necessary talent around Manziel is in place from the offensive line and the backfield to the receiving corps. It’s all there. Now, Manziel Mania just has to stay on the field and can’t be parked on the sidelines.
2. Schedule: It sets up perfectly. In fact, it’s the second easiest of the SEC, behind Alabama. One trap game is a trip to Oxford, where the Aggies narrowly escaped in 2012. But largely, we’re talking about Alabama and a trip to Death Valley. That’s it. The Aggies could theoretically lose to Bama and still gain a berth in the national title. Here’s how.
3. Exploit Bama’s weakness: The country’s best scrambling quarterback turned Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter last year against Bama. The Tide’s one weakness is the secondary. With two starters gone, corner remains their biggest liability. And the tall Aggie receivers can exploit the mismatch. We saw it last year, and we could see it again.
Why they won’t
1. Suspension/Manziel Mania: Without Manziel, the Aggies have a seven or eight win roster. He, alone, can overcome shortcomings and defensive issues and help propel the offense to outscore many other teams. But if he’s not on the field, the Aggies aren’t playing in Atlanta. It’s simple. I do not envy Kevin Sumlin and TAMU’s decision regarding Manziel. If the evidence simply doesn’t support the claim, they play him. But if there’s any evidence at all that could offer repercussions and sanctions, they won’t risk the behemoth they’re building in Texas. Aside from a suspension, we’ll see the effect of Manziel Mania this year if he plays. As college football’s celebrity, could Manziel’s off-the-field distractions affect his preparation and on-field play? I don’t think it will, but it certainly could.
2. Front seven issues: Anytime you lose impact pass rushers and four total starters in the front seven, there’s cause for concern. Mark Snyder’s defense exceeded expectations last year, but it could take a step back this year. Who’s going to fill the pass rushing shoes? Who will replace Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter? Tommy Sanders and Donnie Baggs are the two to watch. The secondary will be a strength, but the front seven has questions.