Five storylines to watch in Texas A&M’s season opener vs. New Mexico

No more off-season hot takes and preseason “way-too-early” predictions, it’s time for real, meaningful college football! Texas A&M will jumpstart its critical rebound campaign against New Mexico on Saturday, Sep. 2 from Kyle Field in College Station.

Like so many of the Aggie faithful, we here at Aggies Wire have heard enough of the offseason chatter regarding Texas A&M’s playcalling duties and whether this program is equipped to compile a turnaround that will help it reach its fullest potential. Actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to college football, those actions take place on the gridiron.

When the Aggies kick off their season opener against the Lobos on Saturday, it should offer fans a first glimpse of the future of this football program. Granted, there are only so many takeaways and insights you can parse from four quarters of football, but keeping an eye on how this football team distinguishes itself from last year’s underwhelming campaign will be vital from the start.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top storylines in Texas A&M’s 2023 season opener against New Mexico.

Is Jimbo Fisher or Bobby Petrino calling the plays?

Nov 19, 2022; College Station, Texas; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher on the sideline before the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Kyle Field. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Make sure you have this on your bingo card for Saturday evening, because the ESPN broadcast is sure to mention the conundrum at least once. All offseason long we’ve heard the debate over whether Fisher would be willing to “put his ego aside” and hand over the reins to the offense to Petrino. Well, we should finally get confirmation on Saturday and put this topic to rest.

How will Conner Weigman fare as the Week 1 starter?

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: Conner Weigman #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies signals at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field on October 29, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Weigman was officially named the starter for the season opener on Monday afternoon, and the sophomore has an excellent opportunity to pick up where he left off. He threw for 896 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception for a 132.3 passer rating through five games as a true freshman. Now with a quarterback whisperer as his OC, Week 1 could mark the start of a promising sophomore campaign.

Is there a noticeable improvement in the run defense?

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: Jaxson Dart #2 of the Mississippi Rebels is tackled by Jarred Kerr #33 of the Texas A&M Aggies and Chris Russell Jr. #24 in the first half of the game at Kyle Field on October 29, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Edgerrin Cooper and Chris Russell will lead a linebacker unit that is tasked with improving on its 124th-ranked run defense in 2022. Granted, New Mexico isn’t the most fearsome program on the ground, ranking 110th in the country in rushing last season (109.9 ypg). How many yards after contact this unit gives up on Saturday should be worth watching.

How will the "Maroon Goons" hold up versus the Lobos?

Sep 17, 2022; College Station, Texas; Texas A&M Aggies offensive lineman Reuben Fatheree II (76) and offensive lineman Layden Robinson (64) in action during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Miami Hurricanes at Kyle Field. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Fisher highlighted in his weekly press conference that the Lobos’ physical defense will be tough to prepare for. Texas A&M finished with a 50.0 pass-blocking grade per Pro Football Focus last season but their offensive line will return nearly every starter from last season. New Mexico will leverage a ton of fronts, motions, and blitzes that should serve as a great first test for the Aggies’ offensive line.

Will the Aggies' secondary remain a "no-fly zone?"

Nov 26, 2022; College Station, Texas; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Demani Richardson (26) hits LSU Tigers wide receiver Malik Nabers (8) after he makes the catch during the second half at Kyle Field. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M’s secondary allowed an average of 162.1 passing yards per game last season, which was the fewest in the SEC and the second-best in the country (among FBS schools). The departures of Antonio Johnson and Jaylone Jones left some holes to fill, but transfers such as Tony Grimes, Sam McCall, and Josh DeBerry will be vital moving forward.

Demani Richardson should thrive in his leadership role, while sophomore Bryce Anderson, who will likely be the nickel corner, could be equipped for a breakout campaign.

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Story originally appeared on Aggies Wire