After breakthrough win, it's time to reset expectations for Texas A&M
What a difference a week makes.
Texas A&M entered this past week’s game against Florida still yet to show any real progress from last year. We had heard about the talent but hadn’t seen it consistently. After the Aggies gutted out a 41-38 victory Saturday on Seth Small’s game-winning field goal, things have changed.
Now what do we make of the Aggies, who jumped 10 spots to No. 11 in the country and, suddenly, are back in the Playoff picture?
They looked really good against a team many considered to be one of the best in the country. But it’s important not to overreact. The offense looked a lot better, but the caveat is that it came against a Gators squad that is the 2nd-worst defensive unit in the SEC.
Still, there is at least hope this team can be as good as once thought.
A&M’s schedule gets somewhat easier after this. Back-to-back games against Florida and Alabama were rough, but now the Aggies have Mississippi State, Arkansas and South Carolina in their next 3. They should be the favorite in each of those. Their toughest opponent left is No. 14 Tennessee or No. 13 Auburn, but there’s no reason to fear either game, even though both are on the road.
If it wins out, it’s possible for A&M to work its way back into the Playoff conversation. We know Georgia or Alabama will have a loss by next week and Georgia still has to play the Gators. Alabama still has to play Auburn. It depends largely on what happens with those teams, but the field is getting a lot more even.
But if we’ve learned anything watching the Aggies, it’s that nothing is guaranteed.
Quarterback Kellen Mond was outstanding against Florida but has to prove he can be consistent against the better defenses in the conference. He’ll get a chance next week against a Mississippi State team that has surprisingly allowed the 2nd-fewest yards per game in the conference.
Mond’s production took a huge hit right before the season when top receiver Jhamon Ausbon announced he was opting out of the season. That loss was felt in the first 2 games, as Mond struggled to find a go-to target and dropped balls haunted the receiving corps against Alabama. He seemed to find a solution this past week in Caleb Chapman.
Chapman finished with 9 receptions for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game-tying 51-yard bomb late in the 4th. Mond went to him time after time. Could he be a reliable No. 1 target? Ainias Smith had a quiet game Saturday, but his speed makes him a big-play threat in both the running and receiving game.
Then there was Isaiah Spiller.
The sophomore gave the offense a second dimension Saturday, rushing for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was his second 100-yard game this season. A&M needs him to provide that somewhat consistently if it hopes to reach its potential.
The defense looked better following the meltdown in Week 2, with Buddy Johnson forcing a fumble in what was likely the play of the game. But there is still room for improvement.
After hearing so much about it for so long, Saturday gave us a glimpse of what this team could be. The Aggies aren’t perfect and will still could provide many frustrating moments throughout the season. But they have a path to the Playoff.
After a win like that, the expectations will naturally go up. But the story is ultimately the Aggies’ to write.