Coming off a good first win of the season, Texas A&M looks forward to their matchup with top-ranked Clemson. Here are the five things to look for this week as the Aggies take on the defending national champs.
1. Secondary vs. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross
All-American receiver junior Tee Higgins and sophomore Justyn Ross are both major elements of the Clemson offensive toolbox. Higgins led the team in receptions and touchdown receptions with 59 receptions, 936 yards and 12 touchdown catches, becoming Lawrence’s go-to target in 2018. Ross recorded 46 receptions, 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns, becoming another key target for Lawrence. This receiving core for Clemson is considered the best in the country and will be one of the best the A&M defense will see this season. Coming into the season, the biggest question mark around the Aggies was the secondary. A strong performance in week one quieted the critics, but the true test for this A&M secondary will come against Clemson.
2. Kellen Mond and Trevor Lawrence
At this time a year ago, both quarterbacks had to prove themselves. Mond had just won the starting job over now-Arkansas quarterback Nick Starkel, and all had eyes on how well he would perform. For Lawrence, it was fighting for playing time as a freshman. In their matchup last year, Mond threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns. This season, both quarterbacks have matured into their starting roles nicely. Jimbo Fisher has said the biggest difference this year compared to last is how much more comfortable Mond is. He made numerous deep throws in week one and has continued to grow within the offense. On the other side of things, Lawrence is capable of making tough throws, shows elite athleticism and displays a high football IQ while running Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s offense. Lawrence was sluggish in the season opener against Georgia Tech with two interceptions. The optimistic perspective for the Aggies lies in how much more prepared Mond is compared to last year’s matchup. This theme rings true in all aspects of this Aggie football team: they performed well last year but are much more prepared this year.
3. Etienne vs. A&M
defensive front seven
Travis Etienne is considered one of the best running backs in the country. Last year, he put up 1,658 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. Some say he is the best in the country and is slated to be a top-15 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. For the Aggies, the rush defense got off to a strong start while limiting Texas State to just eight rushing yards total. The A&M defensive line features junior Justin Madubuike and sophomore Bobby Brown III to fill interior line gaps and make tackles at the line of scrimmage. On the edges, athletic defensive ends Tyree Johnson and Michael Clemons will work to funnel the rush attack. To limit the offensive production from Clemson, A&M will have to make the Tigers’ offense one-dimensional.
4. Dabo vs. Jimbo
Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher are regarded as two of the best coaches in college football and have an extensive history playing against each other due to Fisher’s tenure at Florida State. They have met at least once a year since 2010. Prior to last season’s matchup at Kyle Field, the two coaches were tied in head-to-head contests. After a road win for Swinney last season, the record gives Swinney a slight edge at 5-4. Swinney has won the past four matchups, but Fisher is up to settle the score.
5. Xavier Thomas vs. ‘The Green Mile’
Xavier Thomas was a reserved defensive end for the Tigers highly-touted defensive line a season ago. Despite being a reserve, Thomas made an immediate impact and was recognized as a Freshman All-American in 2018. Now in 2019, Thomas looks to spearhead his unit, recording 1.5 tackles and 0.5 sacks in his debut as a starter. A&M freshman guard Kenyon Green showed some tenacity against Texas State when he broke up a pile surrounding quarterback Kellen Mond. Junior right tackle Carson Green, a returning starter, performed well against Texas State by not allowing a sack. The offensive line is a much more prepared unit entering this matchup compared to last year’s contest.