Here Comes College Football!
Well, I've resisted the urge start preparing for the 2006 college football season, but with my order for season tickets submitted and August just around the corner, I think that the time has come. I will be out of town until the 7th of August, so content will be somewhat scarce for the next two weeks. The conference that I'm attending is at Michigan State, so I will attempt to track down a free internet connection to allow a post this weekend.
As for tonight's post, I think that its time to take a quick look at Texas A&M's schedule. I'll be taking a closer look at the Aggies when I return from Michigan, and will be previewing each week's opponent in the days leading up to the game.
At first glance, the 2006 A&M schedule looks shamefully easy. The Aggies start with four non-conference games in which they should be heavily favored and the first 5 Big 12 matches of the season look winnable as well. The last three games of the season are against Oklahoma, Nebraska and t.u. though, so things get tough in a hurry. A&M's doesn't have a Saturday off until the 18th of the November (the week before the t.u. game) so expect a fairly exhausted Aggie team on the 11th when they play Nebraska at home.
Sept. 2nd: The Citadel, 6:00PM, Kyle Field
The Aggies start with their easiest game of the season, and at home to boot. The Citadel is a Division I-AA program, and this should be a major blowout. Normally I would strongly disapprove of A&M playing a I-AA team, but this one is an exception to that rule. Texas A&M began as a military school and still has a very strong Corps of Cadets program. In fact, A&M produces more military officers than any other college or university in the country, save the service academies.
With that said, its pretty hard to defend a game against The Citadel with games against Army and Louisiana-Lafayette already on the schedule. This should be a blowout; any other result and I'm going to begin to regret my purchase of season tickets.
Sept. 9th: Louisiana-Lafayette, 6:00PM, Kyle Field
The Aggies follow up their compelling Citadel matchup with another toughie in La-L. The Ragin' Cajuns should be the class of the Sun Belt this season, which is kind of like being chosen the least backward Ohio State fan. Barring an appearance from a Sun Belt officiating crew, this should be win number two for A&M on the season.
Sept. 16th: Army, 8:15PM, The Alamodome
Given the previously mentioned Aggie Corps of Cadets, this is something of an interesting matchup off the field. In the week leading up to the game, watch out for Aggies sharing their favorite General Patton quote.
"Give me an army of West Point graduates, I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I'll win a war!" --Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
I don't know yet if I'll be making the trip to San Antonio for this game, but without a complete meltdown, the Aggies should be 3-0.
Sept 23rd: Louisiana Tech, 6:00PM, Kyle Field
When you are BCS conference school and your toughest non-conference game is a toss up between the class of the Sun Belt and a lower-half WAC team, I think that your AD needs to take a good long look in the mirror. If you are looking for me during this game, I'll be in the stands desperately trying to evaluate the A&M secondary, based solely on their performance against four pretty bad teams. Why the secondary you ask?
Sept 30th: Texas Tech, 6:00PM, Kyle Field
The key question heading into this game is whether or not Gary Darnell has managed to cobble together a secondary out of some decent safeties, some oft-beaten cornerbacks and a fancy 4-2-5 scheme. Tech should be good (the top three wide receivers return and four OL starters are back) but not unbeatable (all new offensive backfield). I don't expect the Aggie defensive backs to do much more than slow the TT passing attack, but how much? With a heroic defensive effort, A&M has the offense to win this game. For the time being though, this one is too close to call.
Oct. 7th: @Kansas, Time TBA, Memorial Stadium
Kansas should be better than horrible again this year and conference road games always make me nervous. Still, Kansas looks like a running team and that plays into A&M's defensive strength very nicely. This one could well turn into a grind-it-out affair, but I think that the Aggies will prevail.
Oct. 14th: Missouri, 1:00PM, Kyle Field
It's tough to say how good Missouri will be without Brad Smith running the offense for the first time in what seems like a decade. They should be better than Kansas and this could be a trap game with A&M coming home between the first two long road trips of the season. If the Aggies keep their focus, this could well be the seventh victory of the season.
Oct. 21st: @Oklahoma State, 6:00PM, Boone Pickens Stadium
This is OSU's homecoming game so don't count anything out. The Cowboys have 9ish starters back on offense, including the 47th Woods brother to don the heroic orange, senior wideout D'Juan. While Oklahoma State will be better than a year ago, A&M should be able to hold their own in this game, with the Aggie offense overpowering the Cowboy defense to bring this one home. (For those keeping score at home, that's 4 can't-not-be-victories, 2 probable-victories, 1 probably-ought-to-be-a-victory and 1 toss-up.)
Oct. 28th: @Baylor, Time TBA, Floyd Casey Stadium
The Baylor Bears are getting better, having beaten the Aggies in 2004 and coming within 3 points last season. They are, however, still Baylor. This version sports a rebuilding defense and a superb punter. By this point in the season, A&M should start to resemble a seasoned team, and show it against Baylor with an easy road win.
Nov. 4th: Oklahoma, 1:00PM, Kyle Field
Adrian Peterson and Rhett Bomar come to town and just like that, the season gets hard for our intrepid Aggies. Oklahoma lacks experience on the offensive line, but something tells me that it won't be a problem this late in the season. The Sooner defense could well be the best in the country. I'm not prepared to declare this game unwinnable, but it should be the stiffest challenge for Texas A&M this season. This will be the first time I've seen Oklahoma in person and I have to admit that I'm pretty excited for this game. After this game, the Aggies should be at worst 7-3, but could be as good as 9-1.
Nov. 11th: Nebraska, 1:00PM, Kyle Field
The trend of tough opponents continues in A&M's 7th and final game at Kyle Field. Nebraska's offense will continue to improve this season, but this is the most winnable game of the final three. The two teams prior to Nebraska to beat Michigan in a bowl game went on to win the BCS title the following year. That is stretching it a bit for Nebraska in '06, but they are a smart pick to represent the North in the Big 12 Championship Game. Without having watched A&M play a game yet this season, I'm terming this one a toss-up.
Nov. 24th: t.u., 11:00AM, Texas Memorial Stadium
The 2006 version of t.u. should have a defense that ranks somewhere between good and great, but for me the key is the quarterback position. If whoever emerges has things nailed down by this point in the season, it could be a long day for A&M. The Aggie defense stands a pretty good chance against Jamaal Charles and company if t.u. can't muster a passing game to keep them honest. This game is right there with OU as the toughest of the season, and I'm very much looking forward to my first taste of another big rivalry.
In summary, the Aggies should be somewhere between 10-2 and 7-5. If I had to call it now, sight unseen, I would pick the Aggies to beat the Citadel, La-L, Army, La Tech, Kansas, Missouri, OSU, Baylor, and swing an upset in one of the last three games. With a close loss to Texas Tech and losses in two of the last three games, Texas A&M finishes the season 9-3 in third place of the Big 12 South.