Texas A&M football: 5 areas Aggies are behind SEC West's best teams
Well, now that we’re done scratching our heads, let’s take a look at this 2-2 season logically. In what areas does Texas A&M lag behind the more powerful teams in the SEC West? I’m talking Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
Let’s be honest, the Aggies are still a couple of recruiting classes from possibly competing with the Jimmys and Joes of those programs year in and year out. Yes the victory over LSU to end the 2018 regular season gave us false hope that the gap had been narrowed. But it took an almost perfect effort to pull off that amazing win, and after 4 games into the 2019 season, we now question whether that kind of success is sustainable.
What we do know is that a third of the way through the 2019 season, the Aggies lag behind the SEC West’s elite programs in a handful of areas. Here are 4 areas in which Texas A&M must, in the immediate future, close that gap.
1. Offensive line
The offensive line just isn’t getting it done. The Aggies’ run game is abysmal. Yes, the injury to starting running back Jashaun Corbin was unfortunate. But Isaiah Spiller and Jacob Kibodi, though still very raw, are nonetheless talented runners capable of making plays.
And yet the Aggies find themselves ranked 11th in the SEC in rushing offense. Texas A&M is averaging 144.5 rushing yards per game this season, a far cry from the 219 it averaged last season. Only Florida, Vanderbilt, and suddenly pass-happy LSU are rushing for fewer yards on average per game so far this season.
2. Defensive line
The Aggies aren’t winning the battle of the trenches, where historically games are won and lost in the SEC. The defensive line, while relatively young and talented, isn’t doing enough damage or causing enough disruption. Right now, it’s just your average defensive line — not bad, but nothing great.
The biggest indictment? The Aggies only have 6 sacks — despite opponents throwing 32 passes per game against them.
It certainly doesn’t stack up to the big boys of the SEC West. While Auburn, Alabama and LSU defensive fronts are all limiting the opposition to under 100 rushing yards per game on average, the Aggies are allowing 111 per game — but that includes the 7 yards gained by Texas State in the opener. Last Saturday, Auburn was 7 yards shy of rushing for 200 yards.
That simply isn’t going to get it done. Not in this division. Not in this conference.
Like the defensive line, the linebackers also are learning how to work in unison. The group is talented but relatively inexperienced. The good news is that eventually, like the defensive front, this group will likely turn into a strength with more playing time.
But right now they’re going through some growing pains and for now that sets them behind the likes of Alabama, Auburn or LSU — but not by much. Even going through the learning stages of its development the Aggies linebackers as a group are comparable to those SEC West stalwarts.
4. Lack of production in red zone
While the Aggies have reached the red zone more times than Alabama or Auburn, completing those drives with touchdowns is the problem. Only LSU has ventured into the red zone (27) more times than the Aggies (22) this season.
Texas A&M leads the SEC in field goals made from within the red zone. That’s not a statistic that comes with any sort of bragging rights. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
The Aggies have converted 12 of 22 red zone trips into touchdowns. That percentage (54.44) ranks 9th in the conference, far behind SEC-best LSU (100) and Alabama (93.75) and still lagging behind Auburn (63.16).
With the meat of the SEC schedule coming up, the Aggies must convert more opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals will make for a long final two-thirds of the 2019 season.
5. QB play
We’re not talking about passing yardage, where Aggies QB Kellen Mond is a distant third behind the machine-like signal-callers at LSU and Alabama. We’re talking about leadership and the ability to make plays. That’s where we thought Mond would excel in 2019.
Instead, the Aggies QB has, at best, not progressed, and it could be argued that he has regressed in his leadership abilities. Nobody expected Mond to play to the level of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa — even though Mond did say he was the best QB in the conference. And nobody could have expected the gargantuan leaps that LSU’s Joe Burrow has made. But head-to-head, Mond was not better than Auburn true freshman Bo Nix when it came down to making plays and leading his team to victory.
So if the Aggies are to rebound and turn this season around, it will have to start with improved play from their quarterback.