Texas A&M Aggies Vs. Rice Owls Free Pick 8/31/13

Texas A&M Aggies Vs. Rice Owls Free Pick 8/31/13
2013-08-31 12:00:00 EDT

The Texas A&M Aggies and the Rice Owls open their 2013 college football campaigns as they face off on Saturday in College Station.

It is tough to overstate what Kevin Sumlin did in his first year as Head Coach for the Texas A&M Aggies, but now that he has set the bar so high, can the Aggies live up to the lofty expectations?  I was on the Johnny Manziel bandwagon early last season and rode it all the way to one of the more impressive bowl wins, but with the Heisman Trophy and the press comes a lot more scrutiny and Manziel has felt it all off-season. While it is doubtful Manziel will feel it on the field, all of the distractions can’t help. Christine Michael is gone, but Ben Malena remains and he, like Manziel, is a former Mr. Texas High School player and I look for him to be better this year. Luke Joekel is gone from the OL, but Jake Mathews remains and he is more than likely a top choice in this year’s NFL Draft. Mike Evans caught 82 passes a year ago, but Texas A&M have little else as far as experience at receiver, with Ryan Swope gone. I personally stated for most of last season that Damontre Moore was the best overall player in the nation. While some think I usually go overboard on defensive players, especially linemen who can run down backs, he is still going to be tough to replace, so Julien Obioha is going to have to step it up. Steven Jenkins is a sure tackler and the secondary is back, led by Howard Mathews and Deshazor Everett. Opposing defensive coordinators have more than likely been awake all offseason coming up with a scheme that can stop “Johnny Football”, I don’t believe anything short of playing 20 guys at a time or the NCAA can actually stop him.

The Rice Owls know they have their hands full in this matchup and Head Coach Daid Bailiff said he was going to bring chickens to practice one day and jackrabbits the next, and anyone who catches one starts. While Bailiff’s statement was obviously a joke, it really isn’t all that bad of an idea when it comes to defending Manziel. Rice is coming off of a win in the Armed Forces Bowl, knocking off Air Force after starting last season 1-5. Taylor McHargue is the starting QB, but in the bowl game Driphus Jackson played well and McHargue has to be looking over his shoulder. The Owls run and, while the QB’s run too, they have Charles Ross at running back as well as Turner Peterson. The receivers are going to be young, with Conner Cella and Reid Mitchell both freshmen. Rice returns it’s offensive line with center Nate Richards being on several national watch lists and kicker Chris Boswell is arguably the best in the country. Rice’s defense has been a sieve over the years, but I will give them credit, when they went on their run the second half of the season they played well, allowing barely over three touchdowns a game, which is a gigantic step forward for the Owls. Corner Phillip Gaines is an NFL prospect, Cameron Nwosu is coming off a 92 tackle year at linebacker, and Chis Covington and Hosam Shahin are good on the DL, but they are going to fare much better in conference play than here.

Texas A&M is 5-1 against the spread in their last six games overall, 7-0 against the spread against CUSA, and 4-1 against the spread on natural grass. Rice is 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games, 6-2 against the spread in their last eight road games, and 4-0 against the spread in their last four non-conference games.

I waited to write this up because Manziel’s status has been up in the air, but all signs point to him playing as Texas A&M doesn’t feel they will forfeit games he is playing because it will be found he has done nothing wrong. With Manziel playing, the Aggies never took their foot off of the gas for a second last year and I don’t expect to see them do it here, it isn’t in Sumlin’s make up. When the Aggies start rolling downhill, points go on the board fast and often and with Rice being behind, they might be forced to open their passing game, which isn’t their strong suit. This one could get ugly.

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