This is an early look at how the games on A&M's 2011 schedule rank in terms of difficulty based on a number of factors.
# 12 – Idaho – Game 2 – Sept 17th
The Vandals lose their starting quarterback, leading rusher, and their top three receivers coming off of a 6-7 season (extra game because they played at Hawai’i.) While Brian Reader got quite a few snaps in action last year, he’ll still be making his first road start at Kyle Field. Idaho hosts North Dakota the week before they head to College Station.
# 11 – SMU – Game 1 – Sept 4th
In what looks to be A&M’s first regular season Sunday game in almost 80 years, the Aggies will open the season the Mustangs of SMU. SMU ended up 7-7 last season after falling to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl (which was hosted at SMU’s Bell Stadium.) Quarterback Kyle Padron returns to lead June Jones’ spread offense, having thrown for over 3,800 yards as a Junior. SMU could be a decent early test for an Aggie secondary that battled injuries in the spring.
# 10 – Kansas – Game 11 – November 19th
The Jayhawks could be markedly better than they were in 2010 and still not pose much of a threat to A&M. Junior wide receiver D.J. Beshears will likely be called on to be the playmaker for Turner Gill’s offense, but the Jayhawks just don’t have the depth to handle a rugged Big 12 schedule. If the Aggies are having the kind of season their hoping for, the only issue they could have with Kansas would be overlooking the Jayhawks going into the Texas game.
# 9 – at Iowa State – Game 7 – October 22nd
Paul Rhoads has a four way competition going on for the starting quarterback spot, but whoever ends up holding the reigns for the Cyclones will be trying to manage one of the Big 12’s worst offenses from a season ago. In fact, of the remaining Big 12 schools, only Kansas had a worse year throwing the football.
# 8 – at Kansas State – Game 10 – November 12th
Kansas State has a lot of question marks coming into the season, but Snyder’s squad has talent and will have a chance to put it together before mid-November. The Wildcats return their top five tackles from a season ago, and should have a defense capable of finishing close to the top half of the Big 12. However, at this point of the season, the Aggies will likely be playing for more than the Wildcats.
# 7 – Baylor – Game 6 – October 15th
The Aggies will be returning home from two weeks away from College Station when they face Baylor in mid-October. At that point, if their season is going the way they hope it will, Baylor should not pose a great threat to the Aggies at Kyle field. Robert Griffin III returns to lead one of the Big 12’s highest scoring offenses from a season ago, but the Baylor defense ranked ahead of only Kansas last season in the conference.
# 6 – Texas – Game 12 – November 24th
Perhaps the biggest wildcard on the schedule, Texas could end up being the toughest challenge the Aggies face at Kyle Field this season. Until they prove it though, it’s impossible to rank them higher than maybe fifth. Texas was only above Kansas in scoring offense a season ago, and they’re going to need points to win in the Big 12. If this game were in Austin, it would probably be number three, but it isn’t.
# 5 – at Texas Tech – Game 5 – October 8th
Is Texas Tech going to be better than Texas? Probably not. But this game is going to be tougher for the Aggies. Having already played Oklahoma State and Arkansas, the Aggies could roll into Lubbock as a legitimate national championship contender, or they could roll in as a .500 team looking for their first meaningful win of the season. Not only that, but no team is better at wrecking A&M seasons than the Red Raiders. With just one win in Lubbock in the last 18 seasons, this game goes well beyond the X’s and O’s of what Tech is bringing to the table for the Aggies.
# 4 – Missouri – Game 8 – October 29th
As far as the Aggies came after the loss to Missouri last season, you can bet that the A&M players still remember it. The Aggie fans certainly do, and it’s unlikely that Gary Pinkel and company were very happy when they found out that they’d be making a return trip to Kyle Field in 2011. Blaine Gabbert is gone, but the Tigers should have a worthy replacement in either dual-threat quarterback James Franklin or Blaine’s younger brother, redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert.
# 3 – Oklahoma State – Game 3 – September 24th
No loss stung in the moment for the Aggies like the loss at Oklahoma State. It was a game the Aggies had a chance to win before a late turnover gave the Cowboys the chance to win the game on a field goal as time expired. The Cowboys offense lost it's head man to West Virginia, but returns Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and all five starting offensive lineman. This early season game will be a big test for the Aggie defense, as Oklahoma State will likely rank among the nation’s premiere offenses.
# 2 – vs Arkansas – Game 4 – October 1st
This is as important as a non-conference game can get. If the Aggies beat Oklahoma State, they’ll face an absolutely daunting test in Arkansas just one week later in a stadium that they’ve yet to win in. Controlling their emotions following the Oklahoma State game, win or lose, is going to be a big key to the rivalry game in Cowboys Stadium. Ryan Mallett may be gone, but junior Tyler Wilson gained some valuable experience in their loss last year at Auburn and should do just fine leading Bobby Petrino’s offense.
# 1 – at Oklahoma – Game 9 – November 5th
Could this game be the Sooner’s final test before Bedlam, or a BCS Championship elimination game? Either way, winning a game at Oklahoma will be the toughest test Mike Sherman’s Aggies face this season. The Aggies haven’t won in Norman since 1997, and Bob Stoops is an incredible 10-2 against A&M. The Sooners return a loaded group of linebackers, and are likely candidates to be the preseason number one team in America.
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