Texas A&M and UCLA will kick off their seasons in a non-conference matchup at the Rose Bowl during Week 1 of the 2017 season.
The two teams met in the season-opener last season, which resulted in a 31-24 overtime victory for the Aggies.
The loss was one of eight for the Bruins, who were one of the nation’s biggest disappointments. A shoulder injury mean quarterback Josh Rosen missed half the season, and UCLA was 1-5 in games he missed.
“Texas A&M-UCLA is one of the most interesting non-conference matches in the 2017 calendar. A&M was favored in the past two season-openers, but the situation is different this time. The Bruins, with quarterback Josh Rosen back, are four-point favorites in the college football odds,” MyBookie line manager Dave Strauss said.
Here’s a look at the Texas A&M-UCLA matchup by the numbers.
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense
Key departures: QB Trevor Knight, WR Josh Reynolds, WR Ricky Seals-Jones, OT Avery Gennesy, OT Jermaine Eluemunor, DE Myles Garrett, DE Daeshon Hall, S Justin Evans.
Total offense: 467.0 yards per game (24th nationally)
Scoring offense: 34.8 points per game (34th nationally)
Passing offense: 255.2 ypg (46th nationally)
Rushing offense: 211.9 ypg (34th nationally)
Returning individual leaders
Passing: Jake Hubenak, 61-of-104, 884 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Trayveon Williams, 1,057 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Christian Kirk, 83 receptions, 928 yards, 9 TDs
Texas A&M needs a replacement for Trevor Knight in 2017. Hubenak, a senior, started games in each of the past two seasons and knows the offense. But redshirt freshman Nick Starkel and true freshman Kellen Mond are more talented. The starter isn’t likely to be named until game week. Even then, there’s no guarantee that the Game 1 starter won’t be replaced later in the season.
One positive: In Kirk and Williams, the quarterback will have two of the best skill-position players in the SEC as playmakers. Kirk is one of the best receivers in the nation, though a No. 2 guy must step up. Williams was outstanding as a true freshman last season, providing the Aggies with a breakaway threat that had been lacking for a decade.
Even though both starting tackles from last season are gone, the line has potential.
Total defense: 441.8 yards per game (90th nationally)
Scoring defense: 24.5 points per game (39th nationally)
Passing defense: 250.0 ypg (91st nationally)
Rushing defense: 191.8 ypg (80th nationally)
The run defense must improve, and there is hope because of a nice four-man rotation at tackle and more depth at linebacker.
The Aggies are looking for two new ends with the departures of Garrett, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, and Daeshon Hall. The pass rush is going to suffer, though coaches could compensate with more blitzes.
Armani Watts should be one of the best safeties nationally, and Donovan Wilson should be a steady corner. While the pass defense numbers last season were bad, the rush defense numbers are the ones that are alarming. The Aggies allowed six foes to rush for at least 200 yards and three to run for at least 280. Simply, when the opposition made it a priority to run, it had success except for, surprisingly, Arkansas.
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