Texas A&M football: What a ride, and it's not over yet!
Well, the season is 3 quarters of the way through. It doesn’t seem possible. We agonize all summer waiting for football to kick off and then it flies by faster than Ainias Smith returning a punt.
As Texas A&M enters its bye week, it’s time to sit back and take a deep breath, reflect on the season and what might become of the final 4 games left on the 2021 schedule.
You could write a book on all the ups and downs of the first 8 games. Three ho-hum victories started the roller-coaster ride, triggered by the injury to starting quarterback Haynes King in the 2nd game of the year, a 10-7 win at Colorado (Mile High Stadium).
Credit Zach Calzada for stepping in for King after losing a close battle for the starting job, a competition that continued until opening game week. Credit Calzada for hanging in there, taking the hits on and off the field, and persevering while a makeshift offensive line struggled to mature, and a relatively young receiving corps fought its own injuries problems that also stunted its growth.
That maturing process took a hit as conference play began with consecutive losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State, regarded by many as the bottom rung of the SEC West. That certainly didn’t bode well for a program that spent the big bucks to bring in former national champion Jimbo Fisher.
But what he has been able to do since then has been nothing short of a miracle. To go from those mind-blowing losses to then turning right around the following week and beating the top-ranked and defending national champions, well that’s a script even Hollywood would never believe.
And yet it actually happened. A turnaround of epic proportions in the blink of an eye.
Mad props have to be given to freshmen offensive linemen, both from the Houston area, Reuben Fatheree (Richmond Foster) and Bryce Foster (Katy Taylor). They have stepped up to help solidify the offensive front with All-American Kenyon Green, Tennessee transfer Jahmir Johnson and sophomore Layden Robinson, another Houston-area guy from Manvel.
It’s certainly understandable why this group needed time to develop chemistry. In fact, it’s astounding that they could do it so quickly.
But they have and that’s allowed the rest of the offense to fall into place. Calzada is a more comfortable quarterback and running backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane are running wild behind them. Both have surpassed the 100-yard mark in each of the past 2 games.
Yes, it’s a different team that will come down the homestretch.
Four games remain with the next 2 being the most critical. It starts on Nov. 6 with Auburn at Kyle Field. The Tigers have been surprisingly successful under first-year head coach Bryan Harsin. They still control their fate in the SEC West. Sitting at 2-1 in conference play and 5-2 overall, Auburn plays Ole Miss on Saturday. A win there and they’ll come into Kyle Field sky high for the Nov. 6 matchup.
But I think Matt Corral and the Rebels will be just too much for Auburn and the Aggies will take advantage of that hangover the following week to claim a hard-fought victory in College Station.
Then it’s the Aggies’ turn to take a shot at Corral in Oxford. That’s a game that appears on paper to be Texas A&M’s toughest of the 4 remaining games.
After that, it’s Prairie View and then on to Tiger Stadium to take on rudderless LSU. Both games should result in victories if the Aggies continue to play at their current pace.
That works out to a 9-3 record. Not too shabby when you consider the Aggies were 3-2 and searching for answers in October.
What bowl game does a 9-3 SEC team draw? Well, if you assume Georgia completes its run to the College Football Playoff, and Alabama joins them or has to settle for a Sugar Bowl berth, what does that leave the rest of the teams in the conference?
I see Ole Miss earning a New Year’s 6 bowl invite, probably the Peach Bowl. Then it’s Kentucky and Texas A&M to share Florida. One goes to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl while the other lands in Tampa for the Outback Bowl. It’s a coin flip, but I’m putting Kentucky in the Citrus and the Aggies in the Outback to face Penn State.
So go ahead and make those New Year’s travel plans for Tampa, and don’t forget – SPF 30 and above.