It’s time for a final look at the Texas A&M-UCLA matchup, with three keys to victory for the Aggies in the season-opener at the Rose Bowl.
1. Find a way to hit UCLA QB Josh Rosen early and often
In the 2016 matchup at Kyle Field, the Aggies had five sacks in the opener against the Bruins. But that was with DEs Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, and there is no proven pass rusher – much less a singular talent like Garrett – coming off the edge this season. Thus, A&M will have to rely on a team effort to get to the quarterback. The Aggies do have some NFL talent at tackle. If the likes of Zaycoven Henderson, Kingsley Keke and Daylon Mack can cause issues in the middle of the defense, that could loosen up the offensive line – and allow Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson to make plays in the back end.
2. Establish the running game with Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams
In all likelihood, the Aggies will be starting a quarterback who never has played a down of college football in Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond. Presumably, that means Noel Mazzone and Kevin Sumlin will have to lean on the running back duo of Ford and Williams. As everyone knows, a quarterback’s best friend is a good running game. Williams is a home run hitter capable of taking one to the house from anywhere on the field, and Ford hopes to improve A&M’s putrid performance from last season in short-yardage situations.
3. Find a way to get No. 3 the football
Many in the crowd Sunday will tell you Rosen is the best NFL prospect on the field, but the best player may be Aggies WR Christian Kirk. With the uncertainty at quarterback, veteran offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will have to be creative in getting the ball into No. 3’s hands. Expect Mazzone to utilize everything in the book, from quick screens to having Kirk line up in the backfield and possibly even using Kirk as a wildcat quarterback. Kirk also is one of the best punt returners in the nation; he took back three for scores last season and has five TDs on 27 career returns. He had one return for 17 yards against the Bruins last season.
(You can follow Dalton Hughes on Twitter @_DaltonHughes)
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