Head coach Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M football team have little margin for error in 2017. Which games might sneak up on them?
Games against inferior opponents that have the potential to be much closer than expected are known in the sports world as trap games. Teams get caught looking ahead at a future opponent and aren’t prepared for their game the coming Saturday.
To quality as a trap game the Aggies have to be favored to win and have a quality opponent the following week. Six games meet that criteria next season. I’ve used ESPN’s FPI as my criterion. Here are the potential trap games for Texas A&M in 2017.
6. Arkansas – September 23
Next Game: South Carolina
The Aggies have had the Razorbacks’ number since joining the SEC, but that doesn’t mean the Hogs are going to roll over come game time. These have largely been close games decided by a few big plays late in the second half. Texas A&M gets an improved South Carolina team the week after Arkansas. Past success doesn’t guarantee future success. The Aggies had better do their due diligence against and prepare equally for the Razorbacks.
5. Louisiana-Lafayette – September 16
Next Game: Arkansas
The Ragin’ Cajuns come to Kyle Field the week before the Arkansas game. They are the second of two “cupcake” games the Aggies have scheduled between the opener against UCLA and the start of conference play. The game is early enough in the season that the coaches will still be trying to determine starters at a few positions at getting reps for the freshman. Winning can’t slip on the priority list just because this isn’t a Power 5 team.
4. South Carolina – September 30
Next Game: Alabama
Kevin Sumlin can cool his seat off rapidly if he’s able to beat the Crimson Tide, a feat that he hasn’t duplicated since his first game against Alabama in 2012. The Aggies won’t be expected to beat Nick Saban, but that doesn’t mean the staff and players haven’t circled that game on their calendars. They’d better not overlook South Carolina who continues to get better under new head coach Will Muschamp.
3. Ole Miss – November 18
Next Game: LSU
The Rebels rallied from a 21-6 deficit to stun the Aggies at Kyle Field last season with a true freshman quarterback playing in his first career collegiate game. Texas A&M has yet to beat LSU since joining the SEC. The Aggies visit Ole Miss and LSU in consecutive weeks to end the season. Sumlin needs to win these both, but could his emphasis on earning win number one against the Tigers interfere with his preparation against the Rebels?
2. New Mexico – November 11
Next Game: Ole Miss
Before the Ags play Ole Miss they host New Mexico in their last home game of the season. New Mexico isn’t considered to be an elite team, but they have an interesting quirk. They run the triple option. It’s an offense that SEC squads don’t see very often; nobody in the conference runs it. It’s going to take the full week of preparation to make sure everyone knows their assignments. That’s going to be a tough week to focus with two massive conference games looming.
1. Mississippi State – October 28
Next Game: Auburn
2017’s downward spiral began with a road trip to Starkville. The Bulldogs come to College Station this year one week before the Auburn Tigers. Auburn has been in many of the top 10 preseason polls so far and the Tigers are the first game that Texas A&M will play in November. It’s understandable to focus in on what could be the marquee home win of the season against Auburn, but it better not be at the expense of being ready for Mississippi State.
***Stats from Sports Reference***