2010 record: 9-4, 6-2 (T-1st, Big 12 South)
2010 bowl: 41-24 loss to LSU in the Cotton Bowl
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 19th/21st
Coach: Mike Sherman, third year; 19-19 overall, 11-13 conference
Offensive coordinator: Sherman
2010 offensive rankings: 34th, scoring offense (31.2 ppg); 23rd, total offense (441.9 ypg); 46th, rushing offense (165 ypg); 20th, passing offense (276.9 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Tim DeRuyter, second year
2010 defensive rankings: 34th, scoring defense (21.9 ppg); 55th, total defense (364.3 ypg); 30th, rushing defense (130.2 ypg); 89th, passing defense (234.2 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 9
Returning defensive starters: 8
Location: College Station, Texas
Stadium: Kyle Field (Bermuda Grass; 83,002)
Last league title: 1998
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: Listen, I know I should like the Aggies more than I do. I get that. I really do.
I know A&M returns 29 of their 22 starters — OK, it’s 17 — from a team a year ago that finished 9-4 and was 10 points away from double-digit wins. I know its 2011 schedule — well, except for that whole “at Oklahoma” thing — sets them up for a run that could keep them inside The top 10 of the major polls for a good chunk of the season, perhaps even at the start of it. I know that, outside of Madison, Wis., the Aggies possess the best one-two running back punch in college football. I know that the defense in its first year under Tim DeRuyter — enjoy him while you can, College Station; he will be a Div. 1-A (FBS) head coach sooner rather than later — improved exponentially from 2009 to 2010, and, while the improvement may not be as striking, they will be better in the second year under the coordinator’s leadership.
Yet, even knowing all that, I couldn’t pull pull the trigger on a Top 10 spot for the Aggies, and actually had to talk myself into placing them this high in the initial poll. Why is that? I’m not really certain myself, but it could have something to do with an individual whose name rhymes with “Schmike Schmerman”. And, even if that’s the reason, that’s probably an asinine stance on my part. Yeah, Mike Sherman started off with seasons of four and six wins, but that was after he gutted what was left of the Dennis Franchione philosophy while simultaneously building and implementing his own system. Last year’s nine-win season was proof that the Sherman Way may have the program headed in the right direction.
While the 2010 season may have simply been an aberration and the first two the true barometer of Sherman’s program, I’m getting the feeling that I may rue placing the Aggies this low to begin the season.
Make-or-break games: The two Oklahoma schools
When it comes to the conference race this year, A&M’s season will come down to a home matchup with Oklahoma State Sept. 24, and the road trip to Oklahoma Nov. 5. Yes, it will have to navigate a road game against Texas Tech as well as a home game against in-state rival Texas in the regular season finale, but the Aggies’ conference season will, in essence, come down to the games against the two Oklahoma schools. Win them both, and there’s a clear path to an automatic BcS bid. Split the two, and an at-large BcS berth might still be within reach, depending on the results of the other 10 games. Get swept? They won’t be able to forget the Alamo.
Heisman hopeful: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill
While I may not “like” the Aggies as a national contender, I really, really like Tannehill as a football player. Tannehill was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 7 last season, and the Aggies proceeded to ripoff six straight wins, a streak that was preceded by three consecutive losses. The 17-point bowl loss to LSU may have taken some of the wind out of the Aggies’ regular-season sails, but it did nothing to the fact that Tannehill will likely be one of the preseason favorites for the Heisman. Oh, and the fact that first-team All-Big 12 wide receiver Jeff Fuller decided to return for another season won’t hurt his chances of being in the mix, either.
Postseason projection: Alamo Bowl