Texas A&M football: 5 ways the Aggies will measure success in 2020
Last season wasn’t a particularly notable one in Texas A&M football history. Though the Aggies did manage a 10th consecutive winning season and made their 11th consecutive bowl appearance, it still didn’t raise many eyebrows or gain much national attention.
Many in Aggieland have pointed to the 2020 season as the defining one for Jimbo Fisher. Their 75 million-dollar man will be in his 3rd season at Texas A&M and if he is the football wizard that a national championship might indicate, then more than a few believe that this is the year to prove it. The schedule, so brutal in 2019, is set up nicely for a run in 2020.
So what will be the measure of success in 2020, what will it take to affirm the decision to throw the checkbook at Fisher was the correct choice? Here are 5 ways the Aggies might define success in 2020.
1. At least 10 wins
The Aggies have been stuck on 8-9 wins for the past 7 seasons, with a 7-win season (2017) thrown in as well. A double-digit win season would be the next step for Fisher in building a championship program.
Texas A&M hasn’t won 10 games since Johnny Manziel, and before that you have to go all the way back to R.C. Slocum and the 11-win Aggies of 1998. And not since Slocum strung together double-digit win seasons 1991-94 that Aggieland has enjoyed sustained success.
Yes, it is time that Fisher began to put together double-digit win seasons. The schedule, coupled with the number of returning starters should fuel Fisher towards this goal in 2020.
2. Kellen Mond’s elite status
In order to accomplish the above goal, it is imperative that QB Kellen Mond become an elite player in the SEC. He has been on the verge the past 2 seasons. Among SEC quarterbacks, only Florida’s Kyle Trask returns with more passing yards from the 2019 season, and that was just by 44 yards.
If Fisher is the quarterback guru that his reputation suggests, then Mond should rise to that elite status in 2020. He has improved each year in completion percentage, going from 51.5 percent in 2017 to 57.3 in 2018 and 61.6 last season. But he’ll need to cut back on the number of interceptions, 9 in each of the past 2 seasons, in order to take the Aggies where they want to go.
Of course, he will need improvement from his offensive line in order to take his game to the next level. Last season, the Aggies’ o-line gave up 34 sacks. Among SEC teams, only LSU (35) allowed more.
3. Beating ranked opponents
For the program to move ahead under Fisher, it must be competitive against ranked opponents. The old adage continues to ring true, “in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
The Aggies didn’t do that last season. They lost all 5 games during the regular season against ranked opponents, capped by a 50-7 drubbing in the season finale to eventual national champion LSU.
The Aggies were not very competitive against the best in the country and that has to change this season. The continued development of Mond at quarterback should go hand in hand with that goal.
4. Winning on the road in the SEC
Here’s another characteristic of elite programs in the SEC: They win on the road. The Aggies haven’t done that under Fisher. In the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, the Aggies won just once each season on the road in the SEC. That’s not counting the neutral-site games with Arkansas at Jerry’s World.
In addition, the Aggies haven’t beaten Mississippi State in Starkville since Manziel in 2012. That, by the way, is the Aggies’ only victory on the Bulldogs’ campus in 4 tries. With Dan Mullen moving on to Florida and the Bulldogs’ program in a state of flux (3rd head coach in the past 4 seasons) there’s no excuse for road woes out there again this season.
In addition to visiting Mississippi State this year, the Aggies face Auburn and South Carolina in back-to-back road games in October before traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama in late November.
It’s undoubtedly a daunting task, but the Aggies have to find ways to win on the road if the program is to progress to the next level.
5. Continued progress in the program
Not only in the win/loss column, but Fisher must show progress in the program as a whole. He has begun the process for this season by bringing in the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports.com, after hauling in the No. 4 class the year before.
Building depth that compares to the elite programs in the nation is a key sign that the program is on the right track and Fisher is doing that. Coaching them up and preparing them for the rigors of an SEC schedule is the next step. We’ll be watching carefully next fall to see if that hurdle gets cleared.