It seems only fitting that “Talking Season” concludes with two of the SEC’s best trash talkers squaring off. Why not pit Lord Steve Spurrier from the East and Sir Kevin Sumlin from the West in a battle to open both the regular season and conference play?
We’re looking at buttoned up:
Versus dressed down:
Unfortunately, this one won’t be won at the podium, so let’s take a dive into the actual game play.
The Aggies must deal with more than life after Johnny Football. They also lost first-rounders Jake Matthews and Mike Evans to the NFL. The team is incredibly young on both sides of the ball this year, with 12 true freshman on the opening-day depth chart.
Offense is rarely an issue with Sumlin-coached teams, and while perhaps not as dynamic as last year, this squad will put up highlights. The Aggies have SEC First-Team lineman Cedric Ogbuehi anchoring the line at left tackle, and will provide good protection for Kenny Hill. Hill beat out 5-star freshman phenom Kyle Allen for starting QB, and will spread the ball around to top-flight athletes Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones. Look for the quick striking TAMU offense we’ve grown accustomed to under Sumlin.
Much like last year, defense is a big question mark for Texas A&M. Despite SEC first-teamer Deshazor Everett, the Aggies could very well be a sieve once again. Their defensive line was pushed around against the conference’s more physical teams last season, and starts no seniors this year. It could be a baptism by fire for many of the Aggies’ defenders.
Another season under Spurrier breeds more renewed hope for an SEC Championship. The Gamecocks have three consecutive 11-2 seasons under the belt, but no Southeastern Conference hardware to show for it. The only appearance the program has made in the conference title game under Spurrier was in 2010.
Connor Shaw may be gone, but Dylan Thompson has experience under center. South Carolina also returns dark-horse conference player of the year candidate Mike Davis at tailback. Once again, Spurrier should present a balanced offense capable of both grinding out a game and providing a quick strike. Having coached backs such as Davis and Marcus Lattimore, Spurrier has opted for more run-heavy offenses during his South Carolina tenure; however, he’s still as demanding as ever for his QBs.
South Carolina faces big changes on both the personnel and schematic side on defense: they lost all-world freak Jadeveon Clowney, and are reportedly tinkering with a 3-4 defense. Though Clowney is gone, Darius English should fill the void admirably. And for the second level, while the linebackers were a grave concern last season, the group looks improved.
Those are the facts, now it’s time to settle it.