3 games that will define Mike Elko’s first season as Texas A&M football head coach

Which three games are most consequential for Texas A&M football in year one of Mike Elko?
Oct 28, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame leprechaun mascot Kylee Kazenski leads the Notre
Oct 28, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame leprechaun mascot Kylee Kazenski leads the Notre / Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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Texas A&M football can set a tone against the Longhorns in 2024

How could this one have not made the list? Not only do the Aggies’ longtime rivals enter the year highly-ranked (some would say undeservedly so), but this is the first time that both share the same conference in more than a dozen years. The rivalry will return to Kyle in November, and Texas A&M football will be seeking vengeance for a fluky win upon which the Horns have hung their hat for that whole time period.

This will be the final game of the regular season for both teams. Texas will be rolling into College Station at the conclusion of their toughest conference slate in decades (though they still have Vandy on the schedule; truly a grace from the league office), and will thus in all likelihood come in disappointed, having already failed to reach the lofty goals they are even now building for themselves during the offseason. 

Whether or not this is the case, though, the fact that this is a rivalry renewed after such a long pause means that this will be a game that both teams will get up for. Knowing the general attitude down in Austin, the Horns are much more likely to bear unearned confidence, leaning on what is now distant history as if it is proof positive of a divine right for them to win against the Aggies, but you can’t count on such bluster to mean they will definitely lose the game.

Texas A&M football will have to be ready, in other words. Mike Elko and Steve Sarkisian will both be well aware of how big this game is. Especially if the Longhorns, as is likely, come in with eight wins or fewer, Sark may feel his seat getting a little hotter and know he needs this one to stave off a long offseason of debating whether he should keep his job. Elko, on the other hand, knows that this is a chance to establish how things will go over the next few years: in this rivalry, it has been a story of back-and-forth stretches of dominance stretching for about a decade at a time, at least in the modern era of the sport.

Can the Aggies protect home field and establish themselves against their perennially overrated rival? I feel good about the prospect right now, roughly nine months beforehand. There’s a lot yet to happen between now and then, though. Only time will truly tell.