Texas A&M football has been notoriously bad in November the last few seasons. Will 2017 be any different? It certainly needs to be.
Since the magical 2012 season where the Aggies went 4-0 in November with wins at Mississippi State, at Alabama, and at home versus Sam Houston State and Missouri, things have been a bit different. In those four wins in November 2012, the Aggie offense put up 173 points while the defense gave up only 94. That’s good. Especially given the fact that it was in the SEC West and against teams A&M hadn’t seen often (save for Sam Houston).
In the four seasons since 2012, the Aggies have gone 7-9 in November and haven’t put up more than 139 points in the month. That was in 2013 with Johnny Manziel still at quarterback. They also haven’t finished November better than 2-2 since 2012.
What does this year’s schedule look like?
So what will this season be like? There’s good news and bad news about the Aggies 2017 November schedule. The good news is this: Alabama is nowhere in sight, and the toughest stretch of the season is in October. (So maybe this season the question becomes “what will October look like?”). The bad news: this is the SEC and November still won’t be easy.
November 2017 features two home games and two away games. The first two weeks of November are at home against Auburn and New Mexico, while the Aggies end 2017 with two weeks on the road against Ole Miss and LSU.
In the last three 8-5 seasons the Aggies have closed out the season with three home games in November. What should have been an advantage really hasn’t been. In those nine November home games the Aggies have gone 4-5, with those nine games being against Louisiana Monroe, Missouri, LSU, Auburn, Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and UTSA.
Let’s go ahead and give the Aggies the November 11 game against New Mexico. So what about Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU? Given everything that has happened this off-season at Ole Miss, I think it’s safe to give the November 18 Ole Miss game to the Aggies as well. If Shea Patterson puts on a show like he did last season at Kyle Field, however, things could get interesting. That leaves a home game against Auburn to start November and an away game at LSU to end it.
Two make or break games for Kevin Sumlin
Unless Nick Starkel (the presumed starter at quarterback) plays like Johnny Manziel did as a freshman, I don’t think this is the season the Aggies finally break the LSU curse. To do so would mean winning in Death Valley, and presumably winning a night game in Death Valley.
The Auburn game is a bit more of a toss-up. Jarrett Stidham, the former Baylor quarterback (and nearly A&M quarterback), landed at Auburn after deciding to transfer and has been named the starting quarterback for the Tigers. His 2015 numbers speak volumes: 1,265 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions as a freshman in the Big XII. The Tigers offense shouldn’t be hurting this season.
Their schedule, however, is not as nice. The trip to Aggieland will be Auburn’s third in as many weeks. The Tigers will travel to College Station having just played in Baton Rouge against LSU and in Fayetteville against Arkansas. Texas A&M will come into the game having just hosted Mississippi State the week before. In a tough SEC West where home field advantage is everything, I believe that this game will go to the Aggies.
The bottom line
That means the Aggies are looking at a 3-1 November. Given the Aggies history in November, 3-1 would be quite the accomplishment. It all hinges on quarterback play, however. Should Patterson or Stidham play out of their minds, another 1-3 November isn’t out of the question.
The schedule – especially Auburn’s three game SEC West roadtrip – sets up favorably for the Aggies. But, that’s why they play the game. The nice thing about the beginning of the season for A&M is that it features only two true road games: a trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA to open the season and a mid-season trip to Gainesville on October 14. The Aggies will play their annual neutral site game against Arkansas in Dallas on September 23rd. That gives any freshmen who will see significant playing time a few weeks to get comfortable playing SEC football before the November stretch. That could also be the downfall to the season, however, given that the Aggies will have only played away from Kyle Field three times before the final two games in Oxford and in Baton Rouge.
But hey, 2012 was not supposed to play out the way it did (at least if you talked to anyone outside of the A&M camp before that season). Maybe, just maybe, there’s a little bit more magic getting ready to happen.