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November 21, 2013

A&M's '14 schedule a mix of cupcakes and monsters

Here's a entirely too early look ahead at Texas A&M's 2014 schedule, as it stands now:

Aug. 28, at South Carolina (currently 8-2, 6-2 SEC): This won't be an easy place for any new quarterback to take over a team, but the offensive line should be solid; Trey, Tra and Brandon Williams will be there to run the ball and Malcome Kennedy and RSJ will be there to catch it. The defense returns all starters but one (Steven Jenkins) and should be deeper.
That's the good news.
The bad news is the Gamecocks are going to be loaded. The beastly Mike Davis is back and only two offensive starters, at this point, should be lost -- but one of them is Connor Shaw. Junior Dylan Thompson has been unimpressive, but let's see if he improves knowing the team should be his or if he gets pushed. On the defensive side, Carolina loses three of their front four starters and corner Jimmy Legree, so there could be opportunities for A&M's offensive line to (hopefully) impose their will on new starters. Still, this is a deep team with few holes. It'll be a tough task in Columbia.

Sept. 6, Lamar (5-6): The first game at the in-transition Kyle Field should be a blowout for A&M. Quarterback Caleb Berry (3,000 yards, 28 TD, 8 INT) will be back for his senior season and little scatback Kade Harrington from Kingwood will be a sophomore, but this is an average Southland Conference team. Blowout.

Sept. 13, Rice (7-3): This year's team is senior-laden and has the most talent the Owls have had in 50 years. Next year's group doesn't have either the talent or experience, and the Aggies beat the best they had to offer with a depleted defense and no Johnny Manziel for a half by 21. This one should not be as close.

Sept. 20, at SMU (4-5): The Mustangs aren't good this year and they lose their offense (Garrett Gilbert and WRs Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman). SMU's backup QB has thrown all of 5 passes and their running game is non-existent. This one does not look good for the home team. What could be good for SMU, though, is A&M may try to dump this game in favor of another home game at Kyle Field. We'll see if that occurs.

Sept. 27, Arkansas (3-7, 0-7 SEC): Bret Bielema's first year in Fayetteville has been an utter disaster. Next year, he returns QB Brandon Allen and stud RB Alex Collins, but the supposed strength of the team -- the defensive line -- gets gutted. The talent level here is not good to start with, so A&M should be favored to win here as well.

Oct. 4, at Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5 SEC): Starkville is never a fun place to play, but A&M enjoyed it last year. State does not lose many players after this year, but the ones they do are significant -- top offenslve linemen Gabe Jackson and Charles Siddoway; running back Ladarius Perkins; top pass rusher Denico Autry and safety Nico Whitley. They also lose Tyler Russell, which puts all the pressure on Dak Prescott. If the defense improves some against the quarterback run and A&M's offense can score a decent number of points (not 51), this is a winnable game for the Aggies.

Oct. 11, Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3 SEC): The trap game is not a trap anymore -- this should be a really good football team in 2014. Bo Wallace should be back, even though Donte Moncrief (likely an early draft entry), JaMes Logan and Jeff Scott won't be. They also lose three starters on the offensive line. On the other hand, they lose only one starter (at this point) off of the defense. This should be a good one.

Oct. 18, at Alabama (you know their record): The Tide loses AJ McCarron, CJ Mosley and...well, not much else, barring early entries (which should be plenty). Alabama loses one offensive line starter and two receivers, but keep TJ Yeldon, Kenyon Drake, Amare Cooper and Christion Jones, to name a few. On defense, Ed Stinson and Deion Belue are gone (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will likely join them), but they just roll in another group of studs. They have a total of five freshmen currently in their defensive two-deep, and none start. Only two have a real shot at starting next year (and both are from Texas).

Nov. 1, Louisiana Monroe (5-5): In the words of SEC Guy, "NEXT!"

Nov. 8, at Auburn (10-1, 7-1 SEC): Another dogfight on the road. Offensively, the Tigers should be loaded -- they get back everyone, unless Tre Mason decides to leave early. Defense could be an issue, as they lose two starting linemen, one linebacker and two starters in an early very average secondary. If they get some help in the defensive backfield, this team is a national championship contender (who would have thought that a year ago?).

Nov 15, Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC): The Tigers are the only team out of the elite in the SEC that can really be called "veteran-laden". They'll lose 12 starters (at least) next year, including QB James Franklin and stud DE Michael Sam. The left side of the offensive line leaves, but Matty Mauk will have all of his running backs and Dorial Green-Beckham around to help. On defense, the Tigers lose both starting corners and their free safety, but by this point in the season should know what to expect from their replacements.

Nov. 27, LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC): This group of Tigers, on the other hand, is relatively young. They do lose their quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, and that could be a massive loss. It also remains to be seen if Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry decide to declare early. LSU's defense should be better, but they do lose two of their top players: safety Craig Loston and linebacker Lamin Barrow. If a team looks like a mirror image of A&M on the 2014 schedule, this is it.

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