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A&M to face off against South Carolina State

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012

Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 02:09

All of the expectations, anticipation and sheer, overwhelming static that has engulfed College Station over the course of the past few weeks will, finally, be put on hold this Saturday in a matchup many will soon forget.

 As the Aggies lock their sights on FCS foe South Carolina State (1-2), a resident of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), a majority of fans will already be focused on A&M’s second SEC opponent, Arkansas, who visits town next weekend.

And for good reason. 

South Carolina State represents a staple of the college football world: the classic “tune-up” game.

Despite being a feature of the Aggies’ 2012 season that has yet to be explored up till this point, maroon and white clad supporters in the stands this Saturday shouldn’t have any doubts. In the sport, a low-level league matchup usually represents a “W” on the schedule for any high-class programs like A&M.

The team, however, has shown mental toughness and preparation worthy of any true competitor, a fact many fans should take solace in.

“Just because they are a smaller conference, not a marquee conference, we can't take them lightly,” senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. “We only have 12 guaranteed opportunities and we've already played two of them. We have to prepare for every single opponent as if they are a big-time opponent.”

As showcased by Michigan’s stunning upset loss to Appalachian State in 2007, FCS challengers aren’t to be underestimated. For a Bulldogs squad that was dominated by Arizona 56-0 last weekend, though, A&M seemingly has nothing to be concerned about.

Based off the Aggies play at SMU, though, this “tune-up” game might actually serve to accomplish its namesake. When facing off against the Mustangs, A&M struggled to find any kind of rhythm in their rushing attack behind a struggling, and now possibly overhyped, front five.

“As an offensive line, we have so many things to fix,” junior left tackle Luke Joeckel said. “This is a huge week for us to get better and Saturday's huge for us because we have to fix a bunch of stuff.”

With multiple division matchups looming against quality squads in the upcoming weeks, perfecting their craft against the Bulldogs remains an important objective for A&M’s high-powered offense and smothering defense. Behind a defensive front that leads the nation with 12 sacks, expect the Aggie pass rush to be constricting. Furthermore, anticipate A&M to focus heavily on creating turnovers after racking just one in two games.

Point being, the Aggies understand that there still remains holes in their play style that requires immediate attention and constant improvement. Fortunately, A&M will have the opportunity to correct mistakes against a squad that, unlike Florida or even SMU, doesn’t bare very sharp fangs.

This young coaching staff, though, continues to treat South Carolina State like a true threat to the integrity of Kyle Field. Bulletin board material for a historically dangerous FCS squad won’t be a blunder that will happen under head coach Kevin Sumlin, especially as he searches for his first home victory at A&M.

“They’re going to test our defense from sideline-to-sideline,” Sumlin said. “They've got a variety - a wide-open run game, a quarterback run game, spread the field, reverses. They’re wide open on offense. They’re all over the field, spread.”

South Carolina State may not be a matchup for the ages, but the vibe around the program says otherwise. And that itself speaks volumes on a whole other level.

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