The 2020 college football season is two months away. Right? As it approaches with question marks, our 12th annual countdown series of our preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff, breaks down who we think are the top teams in the country.
Last year’s eventual College Football Playoff semifinalists ranked first, fourth, fifth and sixth in our 2019 poll.
No. 14 Texas A&M
Texas A&M was ranked 12th in our preseason poll last year.
About the Aggies
2019: 8-5, 4-4 in the SEC; beat Oklahoma State 24-21 in the Texas Bowl
Coach: Jimbo Fisher (100-32 overall, 17-9 in two years at A&M)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense
Shoes to fill: DL Justin Madubuike (led team in sacks); WR Quartney Davis; WR Kendrick Rogers; P Braden Mann (2018 Ray Guy winner)
It’s been a news-filled summer. The nationwide protests reached College Station, too. Several Black players, including seniors Mond and Jhamon Ausbon, actively marched as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. A number of A&M athletes are calling for the removal of the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross in front of the Academic Building; Ross, a former Texas governor and university president, also was a Confederate general. A petition has grown to more than 24,000 signatures. … And this past week A&M was placed on one year’s probation for recruiting violations and breaking athletic-related activity rules. … New staff hires: T.J. Rushing comes in from Florida State to replace secondary coach Maurice Linguist, now with the Dallas Cowboys. Tyler Santucci was hired from Wake Forest to coach the linebackers. The former Aggie graduate assistant replaces Bradley Dale Peveto. Tommie Robinson comes over from LSU to coach the running backs. He replaces Jay Graham, who left for Tennessee. And James Coley comes from Georgia to coach tight ends. He replaces Joe Jon Finley, who left for a job with Ole Miss.
Passing: Kellen Mond (led team), 258-419-2,897 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs; Zach Calzada (2nd), 12-24-133 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Isaiah Spiller (led team), 174-946-10; QB Kellen Mond (2nd), 126-501-8
Receiving: Jhamon Ausbon (led team), 66-872-5; TE Jalen Wydermer (3rd), 32-447-6
Tackles: LB Buddy Johnson (led team), 77; LB Anthony Hines III (T-2nd), 73; DB Demani Richardson (3rd), 71
Sacks: DL Tyree Johnson (2nd), 4
Interceptions: DB Myles Jones (tied for team lead), 2
Keep Mond clean: Mond is a really good scrambler, but Aggies quarterbacks have still been sacked 69 times over the last two seasons. Four starters are back up front, including sophomore Kenyon Green, who may move from the interior to left tackle. Expect good competition at center between Ryan McCollum (back from an injury-plagued 2019) and sophomore Luke Matthews, the latest product off the first family of A&M offensive lineman.
Sacks needed: The Aggies had only 25 sacks during the regular season, which ranked ninth in the SEC. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko wants more athleticism on the edge so he is moving sophomore Demarvin Leal from tackle to end. Look for newcomers Donell Harris and Fadil Diggs to compete for time as well.
2019 national stat rankings
Where A&M ranked nationally in various statistical categories last season — and how the Aggies ranked in 2018.
Scoring: 62nd (2018 — 19th)
Scoring defense: T-36th (47th)
Total offense: 72nd (15th)
Total defense: 29th (32nd)
Passing: 64th (44th)
Pass defense: 41st (98th)
Rushing: 68th (21st)
Rush defense: 30th (3rd)
Red zone offense: 41st (60th)
Red zone defense: 67th (15th)
Turnover margin: T-100th (110th)
Time of possession: 11th (3rd)
Our Top 25 — so far
No. 14: Texas A&M Aggies
Our No. 13 team. Want a hint?
This perennial Big Ten contender also ranked No. 5 on BestCollege.com’s 2019 list of the best party schools — three spots ahead of Texas.