COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- After a landmark victory over Alabama, Texas A&M returns home for the first home game since Oct. 20 as the Aggies prepare to host FCS squad Sam Houston State. The No. 8 Aggies are now 8-2 and looking to close out their season strong. Here are some storylines to look for this weekend:
1. Avoiding the letdown
The Aggies' win over Alabama, a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country before Texas A&M went into Tuscaloosa, Ala., was one filled with excitement and plenty of emotion for the coaches and the players. Drumming up that kind of excitement and anticipation to play is much more difficult with an opponent of a lesser caliber, such as Sam Houston State, an FCS team. Kevin Sumlin got the attention of his seniors on Monday, meeting with them and speaking to them about their legacy and the importance of the Aggies' final two games. And Sam Houston State is one of the best teams in the FCS (the Bearkats are ranked No. 3 nationally right now and last year made it to the national championship game). They even led Baylor 20-10 at halftime when the teams met in September. The Aggies are a much better team, but living up to their own standard is something Sumlin will want to see.
2. The kicking game
Redshirt freshman kicker Taylor Bertolet struggled at Alabama, missing a field goal and a point after touchdown. He has been inconsistent throughout the season, hitting 12-of-21 field goal attempts (57.1 percent) and 49-of-54 PATs. Sumlin said that he's still their guy until somebody can prove better. "He's got to get better. We'll continue to work with him and continue to try to develop some other guys in the program. Until someone steps forward better than him, he's our guy," Sumlin said. It's conceivable he gets plenty of PAT attempts this week, so anything that helps his confidence at this point would be help the Aggies.
3. Gaining experience
Depth is important always, but particularly this late in the season. If the Aggies get a big lead, this is a chance for some of the younger guys to get some more live game action and prove to the coaches that they can step in if their number is called.
4. Moving forward
As much as the Aggies fans are continuing to enjoy the aftermath of the Alabama win, the coaches and players must move on. The possibility of a 10- or 11-win season is real, and they won't get there by thinking about the Crimson Tide, who are in the rearview mirror. “As a senior it’s going to be very important because we’re hearing from so many outside sources -- from fans, from media, everybody -- they’re all saying that last week was such a great win that this week when you play Sam Houston State y’all should just go out there and beat them," senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "But they’re a very good team. We have to prepare just like we’re getting ready to face Alabama and we have to go out and play as hard as we did against Alabama and play our version of A&M football."
5. The Heisman Trophy chase
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is now part of the Heisman Trophy conversation after his performance against Alabama on top of the numbers he has put up and plays he has already made this season. This game can't really help his cause because of the caliber of the opponent, but it can hurt his case if he for some reason has an off day. If things go the way the Aggies plan and they have a large lead in the second half, Manziel probably won't see much of the field in the final two quarters. As long as he goes to the bench with no turnovers and some good-looking numbers, he can avoid losing the momentum he has built.