Game day primer: What you need to know entering Texas A&M-Nevada matchup
Coming off a home rout of Ball State, Texas A&M stays at Kyle Field to play another tune-up game ahead of next week’s SEC opener against Arkansas. Here are a few thoughts to get you ready for game day in College Station.
Nevada (1-1) at No. 17 Texas A&M (2-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, noon (SECN)
Weather: High of 95 degrees, zero percent chance of rain
Line: The Aggies are favored by 34 points
By the numbers:
That’s Texas A&M’s record against non-conference opponents since Kevin Sumlin took over as coach in 2012, which includes a decisive 38-17 victory over a ranked Arizona State team in Week 1. The Aggies have not lost an out-of-conference game since 2011, when they fell to Arkansas as a member of the Big 12.
Wideout Christian Kirk became the first freshman in Texas A&M history to surpass 100 yards receiving in his college debut. Four of those catches went for first downs. Kirk, considered a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school, leads the team with 10 catches and 149 yards through two games.
That’s the offensive third-down conversion rate for the Aggies in 2015, which trails only Mississippi State (56.52 percent) among SEC teams. Texas A&M led the conference in that category in 2012 and finished second in 2013, but its mark dropped to just 40.78 percent last season (No. 8 in the SEC).
Texas A&M plays Nevada for the first time in 65 years. The only meeting between the two schools took place in 1950, and it turned out to be a lopsided 48-18 victory in favor of the Aggies.
Storylines to watch:
How long is Kyle Allen’s leash? Through two games, the Aggies’ sophomore quarterback has completed just over 64 percent of his passes for 324 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. That would be fine, except Allen has a former 5-star recruit sitting right behind him in freshman Kyler Murray, who has seen action in both games this season. The two QBs are a study in contrast, with Allen being the more polished pocket passer and Murray reminding Texas A&M fans of a certain someone with his ability to scramble (he tallied 69 yards on six carries against the Sun Devils). But the high-upside Murray may still have a ways to go — he took three sacks and lost a fumble against Ball State — and Allen, of course, has more experience. You can bet everyone will be closely watching how Sumlin divides up the playing time on Saturday.
The defense gets a boost: Former TCU Horned Frog and current Texas A&M middle linebacker A.J. Hilliard will play in his first game since Aug. 28, 2014, when he sustained a brutal dislocated ankle that ended his season all too quickly. With that injury and a two-game suspension behind him, Hilliard and a rejuvenated corps of linebackers will look to build upon a promising early showing under defensive coordinator John Chavis.
The coaching connection: Sumlin will be tasked with toppling one of his former assistants this weekend in Nevada coach Brian Polian, who served as Texas A&M’s special teams coordinator and tight ends coach in 2012. The two reportedly exchanged text messages this week, according to Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman, with Polian even joking that his offense would huddle if Sumlin’s did the same. “I said, ‘We’ll huddle on kickoffs and punts,’” Sumlin said. “I don’t think there was much of a response after that.”
Will they feed the hungry? A recently-upgraded Kyle Field opened its doors to over 104,000 fans last Saturday, and the response was overwhelmingly positive based on an article written by ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr. What did not go smoothly, however, was the stadium’s concessions operations, with stands reportedly running out of food and becoming overwhelmed by long lines. Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman vowed that his athletic department is working to correct the problem (among others) in an open letter. We can only hope those patrons get their fill of greasy onion rings and sugary soda.
My prediction: Texas A&M 42, Nevada 14