Texas A&M Aggies Football // Photo via Texas A&M Aggies Twitter
Coming off the bye week, Tennessee stays home in Week Seven of the college football season when they host the Texas A&M Aggies.
The Aggies are one of the more difficult and interesting opponents on Tennessee’s schedule. Jimbo Fisher’s squad was a preseason top ten team in 2021 and 2022 but finished both years unranked. In the past two seasons, the Aggies have gone 13-11 with a lackluster 6-10 record against conference opponents.
Despite all of that, the Aggies are still a dangerous SEC team given their blue chip ratio. While there is significantly less hype for Texas A&M football heading into this season, the great amount of talent on the roster landed them at No. 23 in the preseason poll.
Texas A&M is one of the swing games on Tennessee’s schedule. The Vols will likely be favored in 10 of 12 games, but Texas A&M, along with Kentucky and Florida, is one where the Vols could slip up.
Fortunately for Tennessee, they get the Aggies at home and coming off a bye. Josh Heupel is 7-1 coming off a bye in his coaching career and 2-0 at Tennessee. Additionally, the Aggies come in to Knoxville after their Alabama game. Granted, the Alabama game is in College Station. But it’s still tough to travel to a place like Knoxville after facing a top-five team.
This upcoming season is a big one for Fisher. If the Aggies underwhelm for a third consecutive season, things may start to get sticky in College Station.
Let’s take a look at the Aggies heading into a significant 2023 season.
How They Fared in 2022
As already mentioned, Texas A&M came nowhere close to living up to their No. 6 preseason ranking. If it weren’t for a stunning upset victory over LSU in rivalry week, the Aggies’ 2022 campaign would have been downright disastrous.
But the last time Texas A&M was on the field, they beat the 2022 SEC West champions, generating early optimism among the Aggie faithful for the following season.
Outside of the LSU win, the best thing Texas A&M can hang their hat on was that they were a play away from beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa. But when push came to shove, ho-hum quarterback play prevented the Aggies from pulling off the upset and ultimately plagued a good chunk of their season.
Heading into this year, the Aggies should be more stable at the quarterback position, their wide receiver corps is amazing, and if some stars emerge from their No. 1 2022 recruiting class, they could easily have their best season since 2020.
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2023 Offense Outlook
There’s a new sheriff in College Station calling the shots offensively, as Fisher brought in former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino to be his new offensive coordinator.
Petrino has SEC experience and has always produced high-scoring offenses at his stops. After finishing 101st in scoring last year, Petrino looks turn the ship around.
Quarterback Connor Weigman enters the season as the starter after playing in five games as a freshman. Weigman did well in his appearances, throwing for just under 900 yards with an 8/0 TD/INT ratio while also rushing for 97 total yards.
Weigman is one of the biggest unknowns in the SEC and has the potential to breakout this fall.
The sophomore will also have the luxury of throwing to arguably two top five SEC wide receivers in Evan Stewart and Ainias Smith and proven junior Moose Muhammad.
Stewart is coming off a All-American freshman campaign while Smith returns for his fifth season after missing most of the 2022 season with a leg injury.
LSU and Tennessee can certainly make a case, but it’d be difficult to put any wide receiving corps ahead of Texas A&M in the SEC.
The biggest concerns for the Aggies offensively are the running game and the offensive line. There’s no clear candidate to replace DeVon Achane, and there’s no new blood up front after a poor showing last season.
2023 Defense Outlook
There’s a litany of highly touted recruits on the Aggie defense that could breakout this season, including Knoxville native and former Tennessee target DL Walter Nolen.
Texas A&M has to improve against the run after finishing 123rd in the country last year. Getting players such as McKinnley Jackson and Fadil Diggs back to 100 percent will help.
As for the pass defense, the Aggies were first in that category a year ago. Several contributors from last year return, including safety Demani Richardson, and Texas A&M grabbed UNC transfer CB Tony Grimes out of the transfer portal.
It won’t be an easy day at the office for Tennessee’s wideouts against Texas A&M, and Josh Heupel is going to have to get creative. Expect a heavy dose of Tennessee’s three-headed monster at running back to set up play action and potentially allow Joe Milton to find his speedy wideouts downfield.
Although they are ranked, people may still be sleeping on Texas A&M this year. If even half of the blue chip recruits hit on defense this year, and Connor Weigman is not a liability, the Aggies will be in the Top-20 mix all season.
I have my fair share of concerns as well, especially along the offensive line.
But when looking at this matchup, I think about two things: Josh Heupel’s record coming off of the bye and the fact the game is taking place in Neyland Stadium.
Everything points to Tennessee. And while I agree Texas A&M is one of Tennessee’s harder games on the schedule, the Vols get it done at home with a comfortable win.
Tennessee 31, Texas A&M 23