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Opponent Q&A: Texas A&M

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Breaking down the Aggies with Good Bull Hunting.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Opponent Q&A returns with all the answers to your burning questions about the Texas A&M Aggies, brought to you this week by our friend Chuck over at Good Bull Hunting. How are the Ags feeling about this heated rivalry? Read on!

Jimbo Fisher looks to be off to be a pretty solid start as the Aggies’ new coach. So far, what’s been the biggest difference between him and Kevin Sumlin?

In the broad sense it’s maybe a bit melodramatic to say that everything seems different, so while that’s true I’ll try to limit the scope of response. Watching the Aggies on the field the real difference is adaptability. Kevin Sumlin’s offense was extremely effective when it worked and pretty inept when it didn’t. The word ‘gimmicky’ is unfair to the complexity of his system, but when a defense had an answer for his scheme little could be done to change the attack. At a casual glance Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style offense might seem much more vanilla, but it has been refreshing to see him take what the defense gives him and make subtle tweaks to take advantage of those opportunities. The game plan itself feels a bit more sage and wise.

Although he played well against South Carolina last year, Kellen Mond had an up-and-down freshman season and ultimately found himself on the bench. Now, he’s back in the starting spot and looking like a much more complete player. What’s been driving his improvement?

This is the other huge difference with Jimbo. Lightning in a bottle aside, Sumlin’s struggles with quarterbacks were renowned. Last season the Aggies were on their fourth straight season of an unsettled QB position which is not good for a freshman’s confidence or development, and as a result Kellen Mond looked understandably overwhelmed on the field. Jimbo Fisher arrived with a reputation of being a quarterback whisperer, and the difference in Mond after just one off-season was palpable. Mond has spoken glowingly about how much Fisher has helped him to understand the system and play the position at a higher level.

With the Gamecocks struggling so much to defend the run, is it pretty safe to say that will be an emphasis for A&M? Which Aggies should USC fans be watching out for?

Trayveon Williams is the obvious answer, but it’s obvious for a reason. Currently the top rusher in the SEC, Williams is on pace for well over 1,000 yards and averages a touchdown and change per game. Clemson did the best job of shutting him down, but as I mentioned before Jimbo was able to take advantage of what the defense gave him and turned this run-first team into an aerial attack that almost beat the Tigers. Mond is an athletic threat, but he tends to use his legs to buy time or eke out a first down if the opportunity presents itself - rarely does his number get called on a designed run. Look for the Aggies to use a pretty heavy dose of Williams in an attempt to set the pace of the game and wear down the defense early.

What concerns you the most about this matchup? Are there any particular weaknesses you think South Carolina could exploit effectively?

With all of the attention on SC’s quarterback situation or the potential run defense mismatch, no one seems to be talking about the Aggies’ soft passing defense this week. Senior veteran Donovan Wilson is playing with the skill and toughness that A&M expected and desperately needed from him, but the rest of the secondary is exploitable with a well executed passing attack. Tua Tagovailoa’s entire season is an endless highlight reel, but his best game of the season came when he lit up the Aggies for nearly 400 yards and 4 TDs in the air. After the Crimson Tide, the Gamecocks’ 256 yards per game is the best passing attack the Aggies will have faced all season. If the quarterback position is played consistently and well, there is potential for South Carolina to do some damage.

Finally, care to make a prediction?

In this week’s Tailgate I took A&M, gave the 2.5 points, and bet the over on 53.5. I am sticking with all of that, although only just. The Aggies will find running room, the Cocks will gash the Aggies through the air, points will get scored on Saturday, and A&M’s secret weapon will be a non-factor. Ags prevail on a lucky bounce and keep the historic and definitely not stupid Bonham Trophy.

Texas A&M - 29

South Carolina - 25

Thanks again to Chuck for taking the time to sit down with GABA, and check out Good Bull Hunting for our own responses!