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Texas A&M Aggies Preview: Can We Even Keep It Close..

I don't know what to say. Somehow most of us around here finagled enough hope to think we had a chance against a pretty solid Kansas State squad, even after we were absolutely destroyed in Waco. Well, the game against Kansas State went even worse than the Baylor game. It was 59-7 and it could have been worse. And worst of all, we were at home. It brought to mind terrible memories of Terry Allen and Kansas State storming the field at Memorial Stadium and Nebraska red covering 75% of the stadium to watch a 70-7 beatdown and a lot of things that made a lot of the fanbase, rightly or wrongly, give up on the football team a long time ago. 

We were supposed to be done with those days. Mark Mangino had turned the corner, and if we wouldn't make a run towards an Orange Bowl every season we'd at least show up at the Insight Bowl every season. We had permanently left the doldrums of major college football and entered into the muddled, crowded middle littered with the likes of Arizona State, Kentucky and Illinois. 

Think about it. Last year, we were ranked in the preseason. This year, we'll be lucky to win three games. Whether it's Turner Gill's fault or Mark Mangino's fault or Lew Perkin's fault or my fault (we've gone downhill ever since I slowed down blogging here at RCT..whoops) or whoever's fault, we've clearly fallen off the college football cliff. 

How far we fall will be determined the rest of the season. Go 2-10, and the Georgia Tech victory is treated as the total aberration that it is and the program, as a whole, basically starts over just like it's 2002. Win a couple of games the rest of the way out, and things could be worse. No matter what happens, Turner Gill has his work cut out. It's just a question of whether he can use a parachute to slow down the fall or we'll continue our descent into the nadir of college football. 

Only 14 Points?!

If you want another way to look at how far this football program has fallen in 12 months, check out this week's line. Kansas is 14 point underdogs, at home, against a team that went to the Independence Bowl last season. And worst of all, it seems low. Considering the fact we've been outscored 114-14 the last two games, facing off against an Aggie squad that is probably better than both Baylor and Kansas State. It's scary to think that 14 points doesn't seem like enough for us to cover at home against a non-elite team. 

Jerrod Johnson Is Talented at Football

The Aggie offense is all about Jerrod Johnson. He's tall, he's athletic, he's got a rocket arm and an NFL future. He's prone to make mistakes, throwing 9 interceptions on the year, but he'll make plenty enough plays to make up for it. In other words, he's kinda like Tony Romo. He threw 62 times in the shootout in Stillwater a couple of Thursday nights ago, and has thrown at least 31 passes in every game this season. At least 38 in all but one. He's also got some athleticism, pulling off a double-digit yardage run in each game this season save the opener. 

Put simply, we haven't seen a quarterback quite like him so far this season. Robert Griffin is comparable in talent, but differs in how he takes down opponents. Johnson is more of your typical dropback passer with passable athleticism, as opposed to Griffin's ability to wow you every time he touches the ball. It will be interesting to see how our secondary reacts to a passer as good as Johnson. It likely won't be good.

Nah, Christine's a Unisex Name

Beyond Jerrod Johnson, Christine Michael is easily the next-best player on the Aggies offense. He was the top recruit in the Aggies' 2009 class of freshmen and he didn't disappoint. This year, he's consistently gone downhill while receiving less carries. He's still the bellcow for the Ag's offense, but he isn't toting the ball as often as he did last year.

The Rest of the Weapons

While Christine and Jerrod are the two big names to know for Texas A&M, they aren't the only two names. Cyrus Gray is the other big name in the backfield, but he only had 1 carry against Missouri and 5 the previous two weeks. It isn't just Michael receiving less carries, it's the entire Texas A&M backfield. And if the runs are going down, that means they're passing more and someone has to catch these passes.

Easily the best name is Uzoma Nwachukwu, but he has only 12 catches and isn't the primary target of Johnson. The number one target of Johnson is Jeff Fuller, who has caught a touchdown in every game but one this season, while also projecting to finish the year with over 1100 yards receiving. By any stretch, Fuller is the clear go-to-guy for the Aggies. Beyond #8, Ryan Swope is number two on the list of Johnson's favorite targets, having caught 33 balls on the season. He opened off the season with a bang, catching 13 balls against Florida International. He's disappeared somewhat since then, but he still has remained at least a viable threat in the 15-yard range, if not as a downfield, long-ball threat. Other names fun to know for the whole family: Ryan Tannehill, who has thrown 4 passes and caught 11 as the backup quarterback is moonlighting at receiver, Nehemiah Hicks, a 6'4" freshman who may or may not actually get the ball thrown at him, fellow 6'4" receiver Terrence McCoy and Kenric McNeal, who serves strictly as an outlet for Johnson.

Texas A&M's Defense

You can't run against them. Besides Boise State, no team in the country is better at defending the run than Texas A&M. Now, this is partly because they have played nearly exclusively pass-happy teams, but even then second in the nation stands out. Opponents are averaging just more than a hair over 2.5 yards a carry.

Their passing defense is understandably poor, given the strength of the run D. Their passing D is led by one man, outside linebacker Von Miller who was a one man wrecking crew last season piling up 17 sacks, which lead the nation. This season, the Aggies have switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, allowing Miller a more traditional position from which to terrorize Big 12 quarterbacks. This season he only has 2 sacks, as opponents are notably doubling him and/or chipping him with tight ends and backs, forcing the rest of the Aggies to stop them. Thus far Damontre Moore is leading the charge regarding getting to the quarterback, piling up 4 sacks thus far while no one else has more than one besides Miller.

The back end of the defense is held up by SS Trent Hunter and CB Terence Frederick, while Garrick Williams and Michael Hodges lead the team in tackles from the linebacker spot.

So Now That We're Here

At this point, it's silly for us to expect to win even a game more this season. Even with the soft portion of the Big 12 South schedule, there isn't an easy win left on the slate, as even Iowa State and Colorado have shown at least a little more life than us. If you use what's actually happened thus far this season, and particularly recently, to make a judgment on the game, Texas A&M should win going away (despite coming off a 21-point home loss of their own) as they simply are better in every facet. 

However, I still believe this Kansas team has enough talent to at least hang with some of these teams in the Big 12. Maybe not Texas A&M, but at least Iowa State and Colorado. Whether we do or not, whether we can right the ship at least a little and start sailing back towards respectability depends on Turner Gill and the coaching staff. The program, as a whole, desperately needs something positive to happen. Anything positive to happen.

Even if it's in a losing effort, I'm just looking for a positive spark. A quarter where we thoroughly outplay the Aggies (and no, the 4th quarter against scrubs doesn't count) or a drive where we do whatever we want. We have to show some form of life, or the last remaining basketball-only fans who had started to care about football will go back to their hardball exclusive ways. 

Show me something. Please.