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BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 30, 2019 - quarterback Kellen Mond #11 of the Texas A&M Aggies during the football game between the Louisiana State University Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA. Photo By Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics

Close but not quite seems to be Texas A&M’s football mantra since joining the SEC. The Aggies have had good teams and borderline great teams, but they haven’t been able to escape the shadows of SEC West rivals Alabama, LSU or even Auburn.

Returning quarterback Kellen Mound compiled 3,398 total yards in 2019, but it wasn’t enough to win some key games. Sophomore tailback Isiah Spiller, who just missed rushing for 1,000 yards in 2019, returns as well. And while the Aggies have several offensive linemen back, the squad has had major problems allowing sacks in the past few years. If Mound can get better protection and some wideouts step up to offer big play capability, the Aggies’ offense could be quite good.

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HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 27, 2019 - quarterback Kellen Mond #11 of the Texas A&M Aggies during the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Texas A&M Aggies at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Photo By Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics

The defense lost a couple of players, but transfers and returners should keep the Aggies’ defense stalwart this season. The defensive secondary remains young and needs to improve on defending the pass, but if it can improve and the Aggies manage to manufacture a better pass rush, they will be stout.

The Aggies do have a much easier early schedule than most other teams. They travel to play Auburn in mid-October, but the final two games of the year are brutal: they play at Alabama on Nov. 21 before finishing the season with a home game against LSU. The Aggies will need a win against at least one of those squads and a win against Auburn to better themselves in the conference.

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A&M faced a much more brutal schedule last year, and it showed. If the Aggies can take care of Auburn in October, they could be undefeated when they face Alabama.

When the Aggies hired Jimbo Fisher for big bucks, many wondered if Fisher could work the same magic at College Station that he worked for Florida State. So far, the Aggies have been good but not great, and if big wins don’t start coming against big-time opponents, the natives will grow restless.

An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.