When Johnny Manziel played at Texas A&M, the Aggies were threats to win every ball game – and they won a lot. That’s when happens when you have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
Texas A&M went 11-2 in 2012 and 9-4 in 2013, winning a bowl game each season. After back-to-back 8-5 campaigns, however, it’s fair to say the Aggies have regressed a little bit.
Or have they?
“I think they’ve made some strides,” FOX Sports college football analyst and New York Times best-selling author Bruce Feldman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “If you look at the roster, it’s probably better top to bottom now than it’s been since (Kevin Sumlin has) been there. Now there isn’t any Johnny Manziel, and I don’t think there’s quite a top guy like Mike Evans, but Christian Kirk is going to leave that place as an All-American as a receiver. The area where I think they are better than they’ve ever been since (Sumlin has) been there (is) the secondary, and they have some guys who look like SEC linebackers now.
“I think before the roster (wasn’t filled out),” Feldman continued. “They had some great talent on offense, but it was in different places, and I think they played some guys probably before they were ready. And after Manziel left, for basically the last two years, they were breaking in new quarterbacks, whether it was first Kenny Hill, then it was Kyle Allen, then they were trying to see what Kyler Murray had. Now they get a guy in Trevor Knight, who, he’s not as good as Baker Mayfield. But he’s a grad transfer, and the biggest thing is he brings stability and leadership to the quarterback room – and that’s something they’ve been missing.”
Knight, it is worth noting, was MVP of the 2014 Sugar Bowl, when he led Oklahoma to a 45-31 win over Alabama. Knight will face the Tide in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 22.
“I’m not saying they’re going to win the SEC-West,” Feldman said of the Aggies, “but I do think this is a more stable set-up than it’s been in the last couple years. Maybe that’s not saying a ton for some people, but I think that is a big step forward given the maturity of the roster now as well.”
As for the aforementioned Sooners, Feldman expects another highly successful season from Oklahoma.
“I think they’re the best team in the Big 12,” Feldman said. “I think they’re really loaded on offense. I think Baker’s going to have a huge year. They’ve got three really talented running backs and a lot of good receivers of all sizes and speeds. The defense is the part that gives me pause. . . . I don’t know if there’s a guy I look at in the front seven and say, ‘Okay, this is a guy that teams are going to have to game-plan (for) and worry about.’ So I think they’re going to score a ton of points, and I think Baker is going to have a huge year. But ultimately, I think there’s still a notch between them and (Clemson and Alabama). They don’t have the players Alabama has on defense. So I think they’re a really good team, but I think that they will fall short once again in the playoffs.”
Notre Dame, meanwhile, is seeking its first national championship since 1988. Feldman doesn’t see it happening this year. In fact, he didn’t see the Irish even making the playoff.
“I don’t think they are (a playoff contender),” he said. “I think they’re probably a shade below that. I would think they’re somewhere around the 10-to-15 range. I like both quarterbacks, and I think they’ll be able to run it because they have a good offensive line. But look, they lost a really good player in Will Fuller, who was a problem for defenses because he stretched the field. I think there’s some question marks at receiver, and they’re going to be really young on the defense. . . . You’re talking about playing for a national title. I don’t think they’re quite there. Maybe they’re a year away from being of that caliber, but I think it’s so hard to predict what you’re going to get from their schedule. I think they’re more of a 9-3, maybe 10-2, team. But I don’t think they’re quite at the level of being what I would say is a playoff contender.”