1. Temperature of Kevin Sumlin’s coaching seat. Sumlin is well known for comparing coaches to quarterbacks by saying they get more credit than they deserve when things are going well, and catch more flack than they should when things are going bad. After an 11-2 season in 2012 that ended with a Heisman Trophy win from Johnny Manziel and Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma, the former University of Houston head coach has watched his record regress by the season in College Station.
Sumlin followed 2012 with a 9-4 record in 2013 followed by two consecutive seasons of 8-5. His Aggies have been ranked inside the top 10 in every season since their arrival to the SEC in 2012, but haven’t finished in the AP top 25 since 2013, the last year with Manziel behind center.
Time is a valuable luxury in college football these days, and lack of consistent success could spell the end a coach owning a 3-1 postseason record with the Maroon and White. Current Cougars head coach Tom Herman has been the subject of much debate as a potential replacement for Sumlin, if the Texas Longhorns don’t land him first that is.
There’s still an entire season left to play, but that won’t stop the discussion every step along the way. Good or bad, be ready for consistent check ins with the job security of the Aggies’ lead man.
2. Who starts at quarterback? Jake Hubenak arrived to A&M with plans to battle Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray for the starting gig behind center. After the pair of five-star talents departed from College Station, Hubenak got the chance to start his first career game for the Maroon and White in last year’s Music City Bowl against Louisville.
He will be battling for QB1 once again in 2016. Though Allen and Murray are now at Houston and Oklahoma, new competition is represented by graduate transfer and former Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight. The 6-foot-1 dual threat Knight isn’t a guarantee to start for the Aggies in 2016, but next season does represent his only year of remaining eligibility. It’s an uncertainty in regards to who will start for A&M this season, but one thing for sure is it will be the subject of much debate from now until a decision is announced.
Don’t sleep on Nick Starkel, the 2016 quarterback commit out of Liberty Christian high school from Argyle.
3. How does Noel Mazzone perform in first year as OC? Jake Spavital has left to lead the offense at Cal while Noel Mazzone moves from the Golden State to Texas to help restore the pop to Sumlin’s fast-paced offense. The Aggies averaged 28.3 points and 423 yards per game in 2015. Meanwhile, Mazzone’s Bruins averaged 32 points per contest and 472 yards en route to an 8-5 record in the Pac 12.
Predictability was a big complaint from the A&M fan base last season, and although Tra Carson put up over 1,000 rushing yards last season, the run game saw overall regression from 2014. Mazzone has a small troop of running backs at his disposal this upcoming season, as well as NFL talent on the outside at wide receiver.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has the defense trending in the right direction with no reason to doubt success won’t continue. If Mazzone is able to hold up his end of the bargain in College Station, the Aggies could be poised for a run. The first indication of potential improvement will be seen in a matter of weeks.