Let’s kick this post Labor Day off with a great conversation regarding this weeks opponent. I had a chance to share some thoughts with Robert Behrens from the Texas A&M Aggies SBNation site, GOOD BULL HUNTING, recently and he was kind enough to do the same for SOTU.
Let’s just jump in to the Q&A:
Obviously the 2022 season didn’t go well for A&M or Miami. From the Aggies’ perspective, what do you feel were the biggest factors that led to that disappointing season?
2022’s struggles were a little bit of everything going wrong for Texas A&M. It was perhaps the most injured A&M I’ve ever seen, combined with inexperience at key positions, a lackluster offensive scheme and a handful of problem guys in the locker room. A&M’s talent kept them in most games (5 of their 7 losses were one-score games), but was not enough to overcome so many other issues. We think most of those issues have been addressed, either by roster changes, returning experience/leadership and a new OC in Bobby Petrino. Now we just pray to the injury luck gods to be on our side this time around.
You mentioned A&M brought in Bobby Petrino as the new Offensive Coordinator this offseason. What are the early rumors about him having play calling responsibility, and do you expect the schemes will differ from what we saw last season?
Petrino is very much running the offense, as was evidenced in Week 1. In particular, the hyper-aggressiveness in passing downfield was a refreshing change. Petrino’s schemes aren’t polar opposites from Jimbo’s, but I think you’ll see more variance in formations, more use of tempo and a lot more pre-snap motion. It also helps that the Aggies are a much more experienced group on offense compared to a year ago, losing only one starter (RB Devon Achane). Petrino has always seemed to excel at adapting his offense to the players at his disposal, and I think (hope) that scheming guys open will be something we see a lot more of for A&M this fall.
24/7 Sports has A&M listed as the #1 most improved team for 2023, so what will it take to live up to that expectation?
To me, that’s 10 wins (including the bowl game). Any time you double your win total from one year to the next, that’s a pretty fantastic improvement. I think that outcome is on the table, but it requires a lot of things to go right for Texas A&M. We could just as easily see some of last year’s issues linger and this team limp to an 8-4 or 7-5 season. While still better than 2022, Aggie fans would not be particularly excited about it.
Understandable... so you mentioned roster changes... Who are some other Aggie players that Canes’ fans need to know going into this game?
Offensively it obviously starts with sophomore QB Conner Weigman, and A&M is also extremely excited about the WR corps he gets to pass to. Ainias Smith, Moos Muhammad III, Evan Stewart and Noah Thomas all have the potential to be game-breakers. On defense, the front four is full of blue chip monsters, and should be the strength of that side of the ball. I’d keep an eye on transfer CB Josh DeBerry, who was dominant in Week 1 with a team-leading 10 tackles, a sack and an INT. I’d also keep an eye on 5th year safety Demani Richardson and surprise true freshman starting LB Taurean York.
Sounds like you're cautiously optimistic, and we all have our reasons for optimism why “this year could be different.” What are yours this season?
Any time you have the fourth-most-talented roster in college football, there will be reason for optimism. A&M has the pieces to be great. It’s more a matter of the coaches creating a scheme/culture to put those pieces together. We think that the necessary changes have been made to address the shortcomings of last season. Petrino should reinvigorate the offense, and the Aggies return 19 starters. That’s the most in the SEC, and this is the most experienced team that Jimbo has had at A&M (the second-most experienced team being that 2020 squad that went 9-1 and finished No. 4 in the country). But then, this is the time of year when everyone has rosy outlooks for their season.
We win them all on paper (LoL), but I need you to give me your game prediction.
This game is a massive litmus test for both teams. Win, and you feel like maybe you’re setting yourself up for a massive rebound year. Lose, and fans start getting 2022 flashbacks really quickly. Now obviously the reality is not that black and white, but in Week 2, it sure does feel that way. Ultimately, A&M has the more talented team and the more experienced team. I think that wins the day. The ideal outcome is a CONVINCING win, but in a Power 5 road game, any win will do. I’ll say 31-24 Ags.
That wraps it up for this Q&A, but is anyone shocked he picked his team to win???
Never fear, I did the same for us in a piece I shared with their site.
A special Thank You to Robert Behrens, Managing Editor for @gbhunting, for participating in this Q&A with us.
Until next time, It’s All About The U! #GoCanes :)