What is the toughest game on the schedule for Texas A&M football in 2024?

Mike Elko faces a favorable slate in year one, with no Georgia or Alabama. Who is the toughest team Texas A&M football will face?
Sep 18, 2021; College Station, Texas, USA; A view of the stands and the fans and the 12th Man logo
Sep 18, 2021; College Station, Texas, USA; A view of the stands and the fans and the 12th Man logo / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What is the toughest game for Texas A&M football in the 2024 season?

Texas A&M football faces an easier than normal SEC slate in 2024, thanks to the absence of a game against either Alabama or Georgia. Even so, though, the Aggies still have several tough contests dotting their schedule for the upcoming fall.

Luckily, the common wisdom—at least at this point in the preseason—is that the toughest four games for the Aggies are all going to take place at home. Those games are Notre Dame, Missouri, LSU, and Texas.

Each of those teams, at least according to way-too-early top 25 rankings like this one, is ranked among the top 12 in the nation. None of the other games the Aggies play, including road games, include teams that made the cut for these rankings.

In that regard, I think it's safe to narrow the field of selection down to these four. Before we look at each of these teams' individual quality, we should take a look at the schedule that surrounds these games.

Notre Dame, obviously, is the first game of the year for Texas A&M football. The Aggies host McNeese the following week, so not an extremely taxing part of the schedule. Notre Dame has Northern Illinois in week 2, so they have a similarly easy follow-up. Both teams should not have any sort of lookahead element factoring into this one—there will be an intense focus by both squads on this matchup.

Missouri is next, and they come after a "home game" in Arlington, Texas against Arkansas. For the Tigers, this is the first big contest on the schedule—their preceding games are Murray State, Buffalo, Bsoton College, and Vandy—and comes after a bye week. It's not an exaggeration to say that the Mizzou staff may be preparing for this one in fall camp, while the Aggies have two big games to get through before they turn their attention to the Tigers.

Next, the Aggies have a home game against LSU. This one is sandwiched between trips to Starkville and Columbia, SC, with bye weeks bookending those road trips. These are both teams A&M should defeat, but also teams that are hard to beat on the road. For LSU, though, this is the second half of a back to back conference road trip, after they visit Arkansas the week beforehand. Though it's not an ideal spot for the game for Texas A&M football by any stretch, the setup of LSU's schedule is a bit tougher here in my book.

Finally, you have the Texas game. A&M will be coming off a road trip to Auburn, possibly their toughest away game of the season, while the Longhorns will have just hosted Kentucky in Austin. This disfavors the Aggies a bit—Auburn could be quite good by this time of the year, given the talent that Freeze has brought in—but given that the game is in Kyle, it's not a huge issue. Given the magnitude of this game on both sides, I don't think there will be any lack of focus on this one.

Now, let's consider the teams individually. If I had to rank them off the top of my head, I would probably go Notre Dame-Missouri-Texas-LSU. The Irish have likely the best QB of the lot in Riley Leonard, and definitely the best defense—not to mention that they just hired Matt House from Baton Rouge. LSU has gobs of talent as usual, but their potential didn't manifest at all on the defensive side last year.

Texas is losing their two best defensive and offensive players. Murphy and Sweat will not be easily replaced on the interior of that line; neither will Mitchell or Worthy. The hope is further OL continuity and stud OT Kelvin Banks can bolster Sark's offense; however, Ewers is prone to lazy and braindead plays at various times. In any case, given the emphasis that the team will place on this game, I don't know that I'm terribly worried about it.

Finally, you have Missouri. The more I consider the Tigers from CoMo, the more I think this could be an extremely difficult game for the Aggies. Not only is this one that Mizzou will begin to prepare for far before the Aggies can due to the schedule each deals with, the Tigers are legitimately good, especially on offense.

Now, this all needs to be tempered with a "we haven't seen this new staff yet." Kirby Moore returns at OC, but DC Blake Baker has made his way to Baton Rouge, replaced by South Alabama's DC Corey Batoon. The return of Brady Cook and Luther Burden, however, make this a formidable foe.

I promise I'm not just trying to be different here, but I truly think this Missouri game could be the toughest game on the schedule for the Aggies. Not because Mizzou is the strongest team that the Aggies will face—there's fine distinctions between that top four, but I don't think Mizzou is number one—but because of the schedule of each team coming up to the game.

In the first game against Notre Dame, it's a chance for the Aggies to prove themselves. The Collin Klein-coached, Conner Weigman-led offense will be entirely novel, as will this Elko and Bateman defense. By game five, there will be enough film that it will be hard for the Aggies to surprise anyone.

I know this is probably controversial. I know the other teams are more talented in the recruiting rankings. But as I consider the schedule, this is the game I feel most confident that the Aggies will struggle in—for one reason or another, I feel better about all three of the other ones.