Texas A&M Preview 2006

Posted Jul 31, 2006

Seven years removed from when Texas A&M was champion of the Big 12 conference, the program is more in limbo now than ever. It wasn't supposed to be like this.   

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

A&M fancies itself to have a football program that should be on par with the elite, but it can't seem to do more than tread water in its own division under head coach Dennis Franchione.

With Texas coming off a national title, Oklahoma appearing to have reloaded to championship form, Texas Tech emerging more and more as a Big 12 player, and with Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa State, and even Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas all with positive momentum, A&M needs to come up with a big statement season or it'll be back to square one next year.

Franchione was the Urban Meyer of 2002. He was the hot head coach that had a reputation of turning around programs and making them into winners. Certainly he helped kick-start TCU into the mid-level power it is now, and he was able to clean up some of the mess at Alabama and head it in the right direction. Now the question becomes whether or not someone else will benefit from anything positive that has happened in College Station over the last few years.

After three seasons, A&M is just supposed to be hitting its stride under the coaching staff. Instead, it's still rebuilding trying to patch up one of the nation's worst defenses while searching for an identity on offense. If you're bringing in new coaches and a new defensive coordinator, either you're having so much success that everyone wants to hire the talent, or else the wheels are coming off. If it's the latter, then the next step is to panic if the moves don't work out.

Head coach: Dennis Franchione
4th year: 16-18
15th year overall: 91-74
Ten Best A&M Players
1. LB Justin Warren, Sr.
2. DT Red Bryant, Jr.
3. RB Courtney Lewis, Sr.
4. TE Martellus Bennett, Soph.
5. RB Jorvorskie Lane, Soph.
6. RB Mike Goodson, Fr.
7. OG Kirk Elder, Jr.
8. OT Yemi Babalola, Soph.
9. DE Chris Harrington, Jr.
10. QB Stephen McGee, Soph. 

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 The Citadel
9/9 UL Lafayette
9/16 Army
9/23 Louisiana Tech
9/30 Texas Tech
10/7 at Kansas
10/14 Missouri
10/21 at Oklahoma State
10/28 at Baylor
11/4 Oklahoma
11/11 Nebraska
11/24 at Texas

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-4
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Clemson L 25-24
9/17 SMU W 66-8
9/24 Texas State W 44-31
10/1 Baylor W 16-13 OT
10/8 at Colorado L 41-20
10/15 Oklahoma St W 62-23
10/22 at Kansas St W 30-28
10/29 Iowa State L 42-14
11/5 at Texas Tech L 56-17
11/19 at Oklahoma L 36-30
11/25 Texas L 40-29

Most maddening has been how close A&M has been at times to looking like it's on the verge of big things. No one outside of Ohio State and USC played Texas better than A&M did last year. The Aggies almost beat Oklahoma at Oklahoma and lost a classic in the season opener at Clemson. Outside of the gaffe against Baylor two years ago, all the losses under Coach Fran have come to teams that finished with winning records with nine of the 18 defeats coming to teams that finished with three losses or fewer. It's no sin to lose to Texas, Oklahoma, the juggernaut 2004 Utah team or the high-powered 2004 Volunteers. But Aggie fans aren't into close losses. Unfortunately, with a team as young as this year's, there might be more on the way.

The defense will switch to a 4-2-5 alignment to try to help the nation's worst pass defense and be more productive against one-back offenses. New defensive coordinator Gary Darnell has beef to work with on the front four and lots and lots and lots of interesting inexperienced prospects in the back seven.

The offense should be humming as long as new starting quarterback Stephen McGee is merely adequate. The line is among the best in the league, the receiving corps has the potential to break out and have a big season, and the running back trio of Courtney Lewis, Jorvorski Lane and Mike Goodson should be terrific. Now it all has to come together in the form of wins.

This is a team that's about a year away from potentially challenging for the South title, but that's what was said last year. However, there's no need for Franchione to polish up his résumé quite yet. There's enough talent to win several games with, and there's a big boost thanks to ...

The Schedule: No one can use the schedule as an excuse if the Aggies have another disappointing season. The non-conference schedule is a joke, and the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech is at home. In fact, until the season finale against Texas, all the tough games are in College Station including battles against Oklahoma and Nebraska. Even with the with the showdown against the Longhorns, the road schedule is one of the easiest in the nation facing Kansas, Oklahoma and Baylor.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Courtney Lewis. But this could very quickly change if true freshman Mike Goodson is as good advertised or if Jorvorskie Lane gets a more prominent role. Lewis isn't a flashy back, but he has enough speed to be used as a kickoff returner and has the experience from being the team's leading rusher over the last three seasons to be used even more.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Justin Warren. With so much uncertainty on the defense in the new 4-2-5 alignment, Warren will have to be better than ever. He'll have more responsibility than ever before with more room to roam.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Stephen McGee. He's not going to be horrible and he doesn't have to be Reggie McNeal. He has to be a consistent passer who makes teams pay for leaving him alone to run. McNeal might have been special, but McGee could turn out to crank out more wins.

The season will be a success if ... A&M wins eight wins and goes to a bowl. Anything less than a bowl season means a new coaching staff will be in place next year at this time. Eight wins and a post-season appearance would be a nice stepping stone season for a program with too much young talent. Aggie fans would get really, really excited about 2007 if this year isn't a total disaster.

Key game: Sept. 30 vs. Texas Tech. Here will be the biggest test for the new defense with the ultimate passing offense against 2005's worst pass D in the Big 12 opener. If A&M can pull it off it'll be 5-0 going into a winnable game at Kansas. Win that, and it's home against Missouri followed up by road trips to Oklahoma State and Baylor. As crazy as it sounds for a team as average as this one, 9-0 is pipe-dream possible with a win over the Red Raiders.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Third down conversions: Opponents 81 of 169 (48%) - Texas A&M 51 of 144 (35%)
- Average yards per carry: Texas A&M 5.7 - Opponents 3.6
- Sacks: Texas A&M 26 for 226 yards - Opponents 16 for 117 yards

The Last Time Texas A&M…
…played in a bowl game…2004 (Cotton Bowl vs. Tennessee)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Wyoming)
…was shutout…2003 (Oklahoma)
…scored 50 points…2003 (Baylor)
…went undefeated…1994
…won a conference title…1998 (Big 12)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2003 (Courtney Lewis)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…never
…had a first-round draft choice…2003 (DT Ty Warren and DB Sammy Davis)

Related Stories
Texas A&M Preview 2006 - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Texas A&M Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Texas A&M Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006

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