After their final, disappointing season in the Big 12 under head coach of 4 years, Mike Sherman, it looked as though the transition to the much touted holy land of football, The Southeastern Conference, would be a difficult one for Texas A&M University.
The Aggies were bringing in a new head coach (from a Conference USA team, eesh!) and no longer had defensive terror of two years prior, Von Miller, no longer had hyper-talented running back Cyrus Gray and no longer had freak-wide-receiver-turned-superstar-quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Needless to say, 2012 was not supposed to be the year of Maroon and White.
It is hard to make predictions about the trajectory of a football team after only four games, but looking at the small sample that we have forces one to notice what could be signs of very big things to come.
26 percent. That’s how often the Aggie defense has allowed third down conversions so far this year, which is good for seventh in the nation. Scoring defense? It’s the eighth best in the nation at 11.25.
Granted, defensive stats may be skewed since of their first 4 games, three were against struggling offensive systems. South Carolina State, SMU and a now hard to watch Arkansas team were all completely smothered by the stifling A&M defense, and trounced by the Jonny Manziel quarterbacked offense, but the surprise here was against #10 SEC heavyweight, Florida.
The Aggies should have had this season opener against the gators in the bag but after leading 17-10 at halftime they were unable find the end zone and ended up running out of time down 20-17.
Despite the shortcomings of the second-half offense in this first game, the A&M defense did a stellar job of flushing Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel out the pocket and forcing poor throws throughout the game, showing promise for what the season could hold. Promise that has since been realized (against weaker teams, but still.)
After the tough loss to Florida it’s been nothing but well executed offensive schemes by coordinator/dreamboat (my girlfriend made me write that) Kliff Kingsbury and tough defense from Mark Snyder’s crew.
The point differential since the Florida game has been 176-27 in favor of the Aggies and if the offense continues to roll then it could be a long weekend for Saturday’s opponent Ole Miss.
Johnny Manziel, the redshirt freshman from the small Texas Hill Country town of Kerrville, has picked up the nickname Johnny Football around the A&M campus and it’s easy to see why.
Over four games he has 10 passing touchdowns for 1094 yards, no interceptions and is throwing a completion percentage of around 70 percent.
Those aren’t bad numbers, and alone would justify someone’s starting role on a nationally ranked Division I college football team.
What makes Manziel such a threat, however, is his six rushing TDs, 366 yards on the ground and average length per carry of 7 yards.
It’s as though Manziel plays with the dynamic style of Michael Vick and the poised stoicism of Peyton Manning. Except that he was born in 1992.
With a rushing crew lead by junior back Ben Malena, an SEC-quality offensive-line and none of his top six receivers averaging less than 12 yards per catch, Manziel is aided by the fact that he’s surrounded by talent. This Aggie offense is the real deal and could present some very big problems for any unassuming SEC powerhouses later on in the season.
Right now the game to watch for is next week against Louisiana Tech. Playing at Ole Miss (3-2) shouldn’t present the toughest of challenges, but the week after that, The Bull Dogs (who A&M should have played week-one but due to unforeseen hurricanes couldn’t) might be one of the toughest challenges The Ags see this year.
Unbeaten LA Tech has an extraordinary offense, in that all of the play calling, snap counting and blocking assignments come from their center, leaving their quarterback free to only worry about which receiver is going to run which route. No one has been able to stop this zany approach so far but if A&M can put the proper big-school hurt down on this upstart, then they should jump somewhere into the late teens or early twenties in the AP rankings.
If, this weekend, A&M beats Ole Miss and Tech takes out UNLV, then we’ll be seeing a showdown between arguably the best two unranked teams in the NCAA, and the only losers in that scenario would be football fans that manage to miss it.
Head Coach Kevin Sumlin should be proud of the way his team has closed out must-win games and moved past their first disappointing defeat, but if A&M wants the national attention it deserves, then they’re going to have to continue to manufacture their impressive offense against the tougher opponents they play in the coming weeks.
Ian Jacoby is a staff writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @IanJacoby.