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Bohls: The No. 1 preseason team for 2013? Oh, the Aggie-ny
By Kirk Bohls
Texas A&M will win next season’s football national championship.
If I’m lying, I’m crying, and I’m not booked for Oprah or Katie any time soon.
OK, do not consider this anything close to a guarantee. But the Aggies look solid enough in January to earn the No. 1 spot on this We Don’t Want Football to End 2013 Preseason Top 25. I also like Alabama (duh), Oregon, Stanford and Ohio State as strong contenders, and have TCU in the Top 10 to make some serious noise. Remember, Notre Dame went from unranked in August to No. 1 in December to routed in January. (For Longhorns fans, I put Texas at No. 15 — with a whole lot to prove.)
In case you’re one of those hardcore cynics who think last year’s Aggies were a flash in the frying pan that is the SEC, think again. If you’re of the persuasion that SEC coaches now have a book on Kevin Sumlin’s team and whether Johnny Manziel will zig or zag, just know that Sumlin’s got a good read on SEC opponents, too, so that should cancel out any clear-cut advantage.
The Aggies are for real. Just ask Oklahoma.
They were more legit than either Lance Armstrong’s or Manti Te’o’s stories. About the only worry A&M has had the last six months is concern that Manziel is having more fun off the field than he did on. Guess you heard about how the redshirt freshman quarterback was chunking footballs at skeets the other day. I’m looking for him to sign up for “The Bachelor” or “Dancing with the Stars” any day now.
We can’t be too far off base with A&M. After all, since we know an SEC team will win it all for the eighth consecutive year, A&M has a 1 in 14 chance.
Are Kentucky and Vanderbilt really viable contenders? Can Auburn and Arkansas pull that big a reversal? Not likely. And does Ole Miss ever win anything besides best pre-game ambiance at The Grove? So now we’re talking a one-in-nine possibility. I like those odds. And LSU lost nearly everything but Les Miles’ hat.
So why not somebody other than Alabama?
It could happen. We know in these parts that no outsider since Texas in 2005 has managed that. And trust us, that’s been a while.
But there’s every reason in the world a new SEC team lays claim to the throne.
Bear with me.
There are any number of reasons to pick the Aggies over the two-time defending champion Crimson Tide, chief among them that A&M was the only team to beat Nick Saban’s bunch last season and did it in Tuscaloosa, to boot.
The 2013 matchup between those two comes in week 3 in mid-September, and it’ll happen in College Station. Big edge to the Aggies.
Let’s see how the two match up.
Alabama has a great quarterback in A.J. McCarron, one who has thrown 49 touchdown passes in two years. A&M’s got a better one. Just check out Manziel’s trophy case where the Heisman rests, probably along with a wad of cash and casino chips and NBA courtside ticket stubs.
Alabama had a great offensive line, but A&M might have had a better one. It was the Aggies, not the Tide, who broke the SEC record for total offense. That would be Cam Newton’s record. Besides, Bama lost three linemen and A&M just two when right tackle Jake Matthews decided to return to school. Put him down as the favorite to win the Outland Trophy, by the way. Only two starters are left from that vaunted Tide front.
Alabama has great running backs, A&M has equally great backs in the tough Ben Malena, the lightning-fast Trey Williams, the former Oklahoma Sooner Brandon Williams and 6-foot, 227-pound Oregon transfer Tra Carson.
Alabama has a great coach, maybe the greatest coach ever, and A&M has a rising coach who shows every sign of becoming elite if he’s not already there. Sumlin’s well-regarded enough that the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns reportedly courted him this offseason.
Alabama has a great defense, and … uh, A&M has some work to do, especially in the back seven.
Even the Tide will be without cornerback Dee Milliner, defensive anchor Jesse Williams and linebacker Nico Johnson, but the Aggies said goodbye to defensive end Damontre Moore — the best pass-rusher in college football this side of Jadeveon Clowney — and two of its three linebackers.
It’s on that side of the ball that requires the most work for A&M.
At least the Aggies won’t suffer from a lack of confidence when Alabama comes to Kyle Field on Sept. 14. They went in and shocked Bama Nation on the road.
It’s all set up so well for the Maroon.
The schedule’s friendly, with eight home games and trips only to rebuilding Arkansas, second-tier Ole Miss, an LSU team decimated by 11 defections to the NFL and erratic Missouri. They get to skip Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. But it’s stout enough not to have cynics question it with seven games against 2012 bowl teams, five of which won, as well as FCS national runner-up Sam Houston State.
The offensive line will greatly miss left tackle Luke Joeckel, who could be among the first 10 picks of the NFL draft and maybe the top three, but Matthews will shift over to his spot and sophomore Joseph Cheek will likely start at right tackle after playing in every 2012 game as a reserve.
The new center replacing senior Patrick Lewis? A sophomore named Mike Matthews, Jake’s younger brother. He’s got to be good, right?
Also gone are trusty Ryan Swope and dependable Uzoma Nwachukwu, but glue-fingered Mike Evans returns after a breakout freshman year. Malcome Kennedy, who caught the game-winning pass against Alabama, will get first shot at taking Swope’s spot although he’s got some catching up to do since the former Westlake star caught 252 career balls for 3,117 yards and 24 scores. Swope was busy the last four years.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, junior Tyrell Taylor played behind Moore and will showcase his skills this spring. Without Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart at linebacker, Michael Richardson played behind Porter as a true freshman before suffering a neck injury against Sam Houston State. It’s questionable if he will be ready for the season.
Donnie Baggs could be a replacement in the middle, but Sumlin’s already brought in nine players at mid-term, including junior linebacker Tommy Sanders, from Butler (Kan.) Community College.
So Sumlin’s restocking quickly.
Besides, do you want to tell Johnny Football his Aggies aren’t No. 1?
KIRK BOHLS’ 2013 PRESEASON TOP 25
1. Texas A&M;11-2/T-5;Johnny Manziel’s encore season and offensive firepower will wow ‘em.
2. Alabama;13-1/1;If V-Tech or playing at A&M don’t end the streak, a raw secondary might.
3. Oregon;12-1/2;Helfrich proves to be a Chip Kelly off the old block. No Barner, but lots of burners.
4. Stanford;12-2/7;Could Barry Sanders Jr. pair with a rugged defense for another Pac-12 title?
5. Ohio State;12-0/3;Road trips to Michigan, Northwestern, but a tame non-conference schedule.
6. Georgia;12-2/5;QB Murray’s back with his front line, but lots of gaps on the defense.
7. Clemson;11-2/11;Tons of offensive weapons remain, but home opener vs. Georgia looms.
8. TCU;7-6/NR;High ranking serves as a compliment to Gary Patterson, returning players.
9. South Carolina;11-2/8;Jadeveon Clowney’s the nation’s best non-QB. SC’s other 21 aren’t bad.
10. Notre Dame;12-1/4;Title game blowout be a sign of impending trouble, or motivation?
11. Boise State;11-2/18;With QB Southwick and defensive stars back, 11-12 wins are possible.
12. Louisville;11-2/13;Charlie Strong has a big new contract and a dashing Heisman contender at QB.
13. Florida;11-2/9;Gators lost key defensive players, must atone for a miserable Sugar Bowl effort.
14. Michigan;8-5/NR;A stout defense coupled with emerging offensive newcomers.
15. Texas;9-4/19;Seasoned QB, deep backfield, talented WRs, but can UT beat OU? Or tackle?
16. Florida State;12-2/10;Way too low considering the talent, but QB’s unsettled, defense must be rebuilt.
17. Oklahoma State;8-5/NR;Cowboys catch Big 12 heavies TCU, OU, Baylor and K-State at home this year.
18. Oregon State;9-4/20;Two solid QBs, but Beavers sometimes struggle in picking the right one to start.
19. Northwestern;10-3/17;First bowl win since ’49, 10 wins, 16 starters back. Does it get any better for NU?
20. Baylor;8-5/NR;Bears finished strong, winning five of last six. Don’t underestimate Art Briles.
21. LSU;10-3/14;Not a misprint. Eleven underclassmen bolting for NFL, erratic QB Mettenberger returns.
22. Oklahoma;10-3/15;Solid OL, RBs, but can Blake Bell throw as well as he runs? Lots of defensive holes to fill.
23. Northern Illinois;12-2/22;Now that the Huskies burst on the scene, no going back for talented QB Lynch.
24. Nebraska;10-4/25; NU has eight home games, and Ohio State/Wisconsin are not on the schedule.
25. Utah State;11-2/16;Ten of 17 All-WAC players return, and there’s a chance to impress vs. USC, BYU.
* 2012 record, final AP ranking
BOHLS’ TOP FIVE
Kirk Bohls’ top five teams heading into next season. And why:
1. Texas A&M: So what if they lose their star left tackle and next Reggie White at pass rusher? The Aggies have back the best quarterback in the land, an Outland Trophy candidate and skill position players out the wazzoo. And, yes, Alabama has to come to them.
2. Alabama: The offensive line may be a shell of itself after three took off for the NFL, and maybe two other NFL first-rounders at tailback and cornerback left with them. A.J. McCarron may steal Johnny Manziel’s trophy in 2013, especially with Amari Cooper as a target, but Nick Saban needs to drastically upgrade his secondary and develop a better pass rush.
3. Oregon: A new coach has the whistle, but the Ducks will have the same whiplash effect on offense under Mark Helfich as they did Chip Kelly. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has a full season under his belt, and De’Anthony Thomas is positively electric.
4. Stanford: When’s the dropoff coming? Maybe never so long as David Shaw sticks around. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan should be much improved behind one of the nation’s best offensive lines, and few teams are as physical and rugged on defense as the Cardinal. Stanford won at Oregon last year and welcomes the Ducks to Palo Alto this season.
5. Ohio State: Is perfection two straight years too much to ask? Urban Meyer has something more tangible to play for in Year Two. He said goodbye to two top defenders, but Braxton Miller is coming into his own and should excel behind an experienced offensive line.
Kirk Bohls has been a voting member of The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll since the late 1980s, and has been a Heisman Trophy voter since the 1980s as well. He’s the first vice president of the Football Writers Association of America and, around this time last year, he placed USC atop his 2012 early poll (“So obviously I know what I’m talking about,” he quipped).
Texas Am not booked ...
This post was edited by James Hale 18 months ago
Unlike Kirk, I think Bama beats them at Kyle Field next year. We're a long ways away though.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me onTwitter @TylerMccomas247
I agree. I put $100 on them at 15 to 1.
"The way I figure it, everyone takes a beating..."
A&M had a great line, but can't tell me losing the #1 pick in this years draft isn't going to hurt.
You went to Vegas and didn't invite me?
so basically he is picking OU to finish 5th in the B12 behind TCU, Texas, OKST and Baylor...hmmm.... The Sooner Nation would explode to nuclear proportion...if that were to happen... Personally I think OU will be primed to make a run at the title in 2014...looking for one of the four playoff spots...2013 is anybodies guess...
Oh and as far as A&M winning the Natl Championship in 2013..you can never count out LSU and believe it is in their house next year ...right?
This post was edited by wilsonIII 18 months ago
The two best professional rookies in 2010 and both from Oklahoma City,Oklahoma.
You're spot on here. It's hard to pick a team to win the conference when you don't know who the QB will be. They lose 5 on the defensive line and basically your whole secondary. Not exactly a recipe for preseason hype.
Kirk! He is always wrong! I am really surprised Kirk doesn't have UT Number 2 in the nation. Anything to hurt OU. My name is not Kirk Bohls, but I say A&M doesn't even win their own division. Johnny Football can not keep up his running style in the SEC without being injured. I have been around the Aggie program a long time as a fan and they've never win two years in a row. And remember this, they have to play Florida, LSU and Alabama next year.
On the dark side, I see OU at 8-4 and tying for the Big 12 again and missing a BCS bowl.
The SEC is a passing fancy for the aggies, especially if they don't win quick. When is the last time the aggies won a BCS bowl?
LSU does not play Florida unless it is in the SEC Championship and have 8 home games. They play LSU on the road who will have their worst team in years after losing 11 jumiors to the NFL and they also play Missouri,Arky,and Ole Miss on the road.
I agree with you here. 2013 is a guess right now as we have no idea who is even running this team. I also think there will be a lot of young guys on defence that will be learning on the job and learning to bring Mike’s attitude. In 2014, we will have a QB with a years experience, some great skill players and a completely new D with a new attitude. My concern would be the OL and who ends up being around and how much playing time they have together, but the skill players (especially rushing, Ford and Ross) and incredibly talented WR’s and maybe a TE or 2. Just think we set up nicely for 2014. Just not convinced yet about 2013. We will be good, just a lot of learning to do on the job.
"I Feel Better, So much Better, Since I laid my Burdens Down" Glory Glory - Wayman Tisdale 1964 - 2009
They were talking on the radio that TCU has 9 or 10 starters back on defense and some injured players back this year. They will be tough IMO.
Bohls makes a living writing for the "Austin Statesman". He has spent a career in Austin. He understands that he needs to put an Orange tint on everything. Few people will remember that he picked Texas ahead of OU by next October. He is just trying to do something Mac Brown can't--get the Longhorn faithful excited about next year! Also, his predictions of A&M is to put as much pressure as possible on the Aggies. Personally, I think the Aggies will lose 3 games next year, if Johnny can stay healthy. If he doesn't, they will be a five-loss team.
Somebody knows what they are doing.
Bohls, unlike our local media hacks and slugs, gives his local team credit and highlights their successes and has an upbeat discussion about ut most of the time.
Here in Oklahoma, OU is demonized, considered and average program, always underachieving even though they are usually ranked in the top 5 at some point in a season. Recently OU ranked #1, ends up #8, terrible football team and underachiever. Brokeback State starts ranking #15 and end up unranked and they are such a great team filled with talent that will be Great Next Year!!!! It sure does get tiring around Oklahoma listening to our sports media.
It would be nice to have a few Bohls' in the Oklahoma media that sees the great tradition, history and value of the OU Program.
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