SMU – September 15
Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert figures to be the starter from day one at SMU.
A season ago…
SMU is one of only three opponents from last season that the Aggies will face again in 2012 (the others, obviously, being Arkansas and Missouri) After that game on September 4th a season ago, it would have been impossible to guess that one year later A&M would have a new coaching staff and be coming off of an appearance in the Meineke Bowl.
It was a game that the Aggies absolutely dominated. They sacked J.J. McDermott seven times in the game, and that’s after sending starter Kyle Padron to the sidelines with interceptions on the first two drives of the game.
But the loss wasn't a harbinger of the type of season either team would have. The Mustangs would go on to win their next five games, including a win over eventual Mountain West Champion TCU in Fort Worth. They would go on to lose four of their last six regular season games, including losses to Navy and Tulsa. However, the up and down season ended on a high note with a victory over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
From last season both Kyle Padron and J.J. McDermott have moved on, as has 1,000 yard receiver Cole Beasley and 500 yard receiver Terrance Wilkerson. Probably more detrimental, the Mustangs lose most of their offensive line from a season ago, and replace them with a group that has just 36 starts among them. (26 of those by center Blake McJunkin) SMU does return their entire linebacker corps from a season ago, but loses three of their four starters in the secondary.
Names to Remember…
Garrett Gilbert – Oh yes, that Garrett Gilbert. The former Texas quarterback finished out his degree at Texas this spring and summer and will report to fall camp at SMU ready to go for the 2012 season. There’s no question that Gilbert was terrible at Texas, but the question is whether or not the record-setting high school quarterback is still inside of him somewhere. Could he flourish in the pass-happy system of June Jones at SMU? The only thing we know for sure is that the SMU game will test the young A&M secondary, and it will test them in the middle of the afternoon.
Zach Line – The 6-1, 230 pound line was the highlight of SMU’s game at Kyle Field a season ago. The big back rumbled for over 120 yards on the game. He wouldn’t slow down after that either, rushing for over 1,200 yards on the season while averaging almost 6 yards per carry.
Darius Johnson – Johnson led the Mustangs in receiving a season ago with over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. With the departures of Beasley and Wilkerson, his numbers might even improve over those.
Taylor Reed – The senior middle linebacker for the Mustangs led the team in tackles a season ago, and will anchor a group that features three seniors this year. He and his teammate Ja’Gared Davis accounted for 142 tackles a season ago, or just under 20% of the team’s total.
Margus Hunt - The 6-8 defensive end blocked four kicks last season, and is one of the most interesting athletes in all of college football. He had three sacks in the BBVA Compass Bowl, and every day that he becomes a better fundamental football player is a bad day for opposing players.
Why SMU can win this game…
There’s been a lot of talk about the possible “trap game” to start the season, but with a new coach there shouldn't be a trap game to start the year. The Aggies should be focused on Louisiana Tech all off-season. Mike Sherman’s tenure was haunted by the fact that he lost his first game to an overmatched opponent, and you can bet that Sumlin’s focus will be on making sure that he doesn’t do the same.
SMU, on the other hand, is a classic trap game. It comes on the road, and one week following one of the most anticipated games in the history of Kyle Field. SMU is also a veteran team, with players that have been through the fire at a number of key positions. That includes Gilbert, who despite his struggles at Texas, won’t be phased by the pressure of a big game.
When game times were announced recently, everybody talked about the 2:30 start of the Florida game, but seem to have overlooked the 2:30 start for the SMU game. The SMU offensive system stresses secondaries, and the Aggies are thin at corner already. As a result, the heat could definitely help the SMU offense if the Aggies can’t rotate players into the game. Florida may be talented, but their offense probably isn’t going to push the Aggie secondary like SMU’s could.
Of course, that depends on how quickly Gilbert can pick up the offense. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on the former Lake Travis quarterback to come in run the team from day one.
All of that said, the Aggies are still likely going to be heavy favorites going into this game, and it’s a game they’re absolutely going to have to win to have a successful season. SMU couldn’t slow down A&M’s offense last season, and there’s no reason to think they’ll be able to slow it down now. The Aggies could run all over SMU if they wanted to, and the Mustang secondary is even more inexperienced than A&M's is.
The biggest factor in this game for the Aggies is how they can either get back up, or come back down, from an emotional game against Florida the week before.