Hopes and expectations were not extremely high for Texas A&M coming into the 2018 CFB season. Yes, they had a great head coach in Jimbo Fisher taking over. He brought in a great defensive coordinator in Mike Elko. But was the talent there for the Aggies to become a contender in Fisher’s first season in College Station?
Throughout the Kevin Sumlin Era, the Aggies were a good, but never a great team. With the talent on the roster, there was certainly reason for hope heading into the season. But some questions kept many fans and analysts from buying into the Aggies as legitimate contenders.
Well—maybe just one question. Who was going to play quarterback?
Nick Starkel got off to a good start last season before being lost to an injury. Kellen Mond was the more athletic of the two and gave the offense an added run threat at QB, but his accuracy was seriously lacking. But after another competition, Mond was given the nod.
Three weeks into the season it is safe to say—so far, so good.
To be fair, it hasn’t exactly been tough going. He started the season against a soft opponent, Northwestern State. He did what he should against them (17-25 for 184 yards and two touchdowns). But it was the following week against Clemson where he gave fans a reason to set their expectations a little higher.
He was unable to win the game. But against a defense many believe to be full of future NFL stars he threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns. If he can carve up the Clemson defense like that, he can carve up anyone.
Much like their season opener, the Aggies ran more against UL Monroe last week. But Mond continued to show improvement as a passer (16-24 for 210 yards and a touchdown) but also added a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
After Saturday’s win over UL Monroe, Fisher was more than happy to talk about his quarterback:
“It’s just fun to watch him,” Fisher said. “The questions he asks, the thoughts he has and … he’s really fun right now, and he’s learning.
He understands the game. He’s learning the whys of the game. He’s doing a really nice job right now, playing really good football. Playing smart football, that’s what has me excited.”
The win, along with a few losses by top-25 teams, was enough to propel the Aggies into the top 25 (No. 22) in the Coaches and AP Polls heading into Week Four. So—time for fans to start getting excited, right?
They could be in for a hard wake-up call next week as they go on the road to kick off SEC-play—against Alabama.
Alabama is just as tough, if not tougher, than ever. So far, they have scored 51, 57, and 62 points against their opponents—and they were not exactly soft opponents (Louisville, Arkansas St., and Ole Miss). As usual, they have a solid defense and a strong run game. But this season they have something else.
They have a passing attack.
Not that they have been unable to pass in year’s past. But throwing the ball around has not been their strength. It’s always been pounding the ball down the throat of their opponents with the run game and shutting them down defensively.
The Crimson Tide are still running the ball (No. 27 in the nation with 236.7 yards/game) well. But they are passing it even better (No. 25 in the nation with 308.0 yards/game). Tua Tagovailoa has done the bulk of the work completing 36 of 50 pass attempts or 646 yards and eight touchdowns.
Taking down Alabama is not going to be easy; it looks close to impossible. According to Betway, the Crimson Tide are 25.5 point favorites to win (as of September 17). But people said the same about the Clemson game and the Aggies nearly pulled out the upset against them.
So, if they lose a game the world expects them to lose does that mean they are not ready to turn the corner? Absolutely not!
Win or lose, how they play the game will be the indicator fans and analysts will be looking for. A win, of course, would mean the Aggies have a shot at the Playoffs and the SEC title. A loss would make it almost impossible to make the playoffs and extremely hard to win the SEC.
But if they can play well, fans can walk away with the hope that next week will be even better. Since they weren’t expecting much coming into the season, they’ll probably be content with that.
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