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2019 Opponent Preview: Texas A&M

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Another season, another tough Aggies team to contend with.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks hit the road for one last trip in 2019, this time heading to College Station to take on their annual SEC West “rival” in the Texas A&M Aggies. I say “rival” because it’s both an entirely manufactured matchup and also one that the Aggies have dominated, winning all five of the contests that have been played since A&M joined the SEC. While the timing of this year’s game is very late, thankfully the Gamecocks will enjoy their second bye week of the season after this and before taking on Clemson.

Last meeting: In one of the Gamecocks’ best chances yet to finally get in the win column against the Aggies, a second-half rally fell short as A&M nailed a game-winning field goal and escaped Columbia with a 26-23 win. USC trailed 13-0 at the half after an ugly start, but Jake Bentley woke up in the third quarter and started cooking for the Gamecocks. Two touchdowns and two successful two-point conversions tied the game at 16, and the teams traded touchdowns again in the final stanza before A&M eked out the winning field goal. It was — as every game against this team has been — thoroughly disheartening.

Last season: In their first season under the direction of former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies enjoyed a successful 2018, finishing 9-4 (5-3) and second in the rugged SEC West, topping things off with a demolition of N.C. State in the Gator Bowl. The Aggies also scored big wins over No. 8 LSU (in seven overtimes!) and No. 13 Kentucky, and came oh-so-close to toppling Clemson in Week 2. That A&M did all this against what was considered the toughest schedule in the country was even more impressive.

Player to watch: Quarterback Kellen Mond is, quite simply, a nightmare for the Gamecocks, and he’s only getting better. Last year, Mond went 25 of 37 for 353 yards with one touchdown against no interceptions, while as a less-polished passer the season before, he instead burned South Carolina for nearly 100 yards (95) on the ground. South Carolina really struggles to defend dual-threat quarterbacks, and Mond is one of the best the SEC has to offer. With another year under “quarterback whisperer” Fisher, he could be scary.

Prognosis: Ranked 12th in the preseason poll, the Aggies look primed to have another successful campaign, although the departure of some key starters on both offense and defense (which notably includes, for our purposes, tight end Jace Sternberger, who single-handedly dragged Gamecocks up and down the field last year) might make for a bit of a step-back year. Life is hard in the SEC, and especially the West.