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Better Know a 2017 Opponent: Texas A&M

The first entry of this new series would like you to know that A&M fans are very, very nice.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Texas A&M Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Hello there, friends. We’ve now entered the doldrums of the offseason for UCLA athletics, which means this is as good a time as any to start talking about the 2017 football season.

This won’t be your typical preview. These previews aren’t going to be heavy on things like numbers or fact-checking or even quality analysis from a professional. No, these previews are going to be about the real things that decide football games, like feel and gut instinct and continually misunderstanding anything to do with your opponent. In other words, this series is going to be the literary equivalent of UCLA’s offensive philosophy under Polamalu: poorly thought-out.

So let’s start this train-wreck by talking about Texas’s resident cult, the Texas A&M Aggies.

(PS if you’re wondering who it is that’s writing this, don’t worry. This is your friendly BN contributor Nirya. I was actually planning on switching my username over earlier, but I kept delaying it, and much like a bad press release, doing this on a Saturday as part of a joke column series seemed like as good a time as any to pull the trigger.)

The Fans

Hey, I need to be real with you for a second: the trip to College Station was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had as a Bruin fan. Texas A&M’s fans were so nice while we were on campus, and I can honestly say I’ve never felt more welcome as a visiting fan.

Seriously, I couldn’t take 5 steps at the pregame tailgate without having someone clad in Aggie gear welcome me to Texas and offer me a beer and some BBQ. It was its own special heaven, and I honestly want to just go back to College Station just for a random tailgate. Also, UCLA should totally schedule more home and home trips with SEC teams, if only so I can continue going to an area with a Waffle House (Arizona doesn’t count and never will, sorry).

That’s also why I’m going to feel real bad for the Texas A&M faithful when they come out here for the game. Sure, getting to come to Southern California is its own special reward, but it also means A&M fans get to experience the “joy” that is a UCLA tailgate. I have no qualms in saying that the UCLA tailgate experience is not the greatest thing in the world, and having the game on a Labor Day Monday is a good way of guaranteeing at least 1 parking lot stabbing (I’d have made it a 100% guarantee, but this isn’t a game against USC). LA fans in general aren’t the most welcoming people in the world, and I’m afraid for what the culture shock is going to do to the Aggies.

But I do also need to repay A&M fans for the 8 beers, 2 Bloody Marys, and 2 post-game whiskey shots at a Houston bar, so I’ll try not to be too mean to their team. Well, that and bring a Styrofoam cooler filled with Nattie Light to hand out to the visitors (look, this is all I can afford on my BN salary, ok?).

PS, when I call A&M a cult, I mean it. I didn’t go to Midnight Yell, because bar-hopping in Houston with friends I hadn’t seen since high school was more important than watching a bunch of psychopaths learn how to yell things properly, but watching 100,000 people sway back and forth in unison from a small corner of a stadium was one of the crazier things I’ve ever experienced. If UCLA ever got to even 1/5 of that level of fan interaction, the Rose Bowl might actually become a scary place to play at.

The Coaches

Congrats to Kevin Sumlin, who was just average enough last year to prevent A&M brass from firing him, thus allowing Texas and Baylor (AND NOW OKLAHOMA TOO) to upgrade their coaching staffs. You may be saying “But Dimitri, all of those teams are in the Big 12 and not the mighty SEC,” but those schools are also competing with A&M for those prized Texas recruits, so being average is a death-knell.

It doesn’t help that Sumlin has to work harder on the recruiting trail since he kept noted lazy recruiter and offensive super-genius Noel Mazzone. Mazzone’s offense was pretty decent last year, ranking 24th in offensive S&P (for reference, UCLA was 23rd in Mazzone’s last year), but this year he won’t have the benefit of playing an experienced quarterback in Trevor Knight. I’m sure everyone here is confident in Mazzone’s ability to nurture a young quarterback and help them grow.

The Players

A&M lost Myles Garrett, their terror of a defensive lineman, because he was good enough to be the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. That’s good!

A&M’s defensive line is still talented enough to pick on UCLA’s offensive line, a unit comprised of hopes and dreams. That’s bad!

UCLA’s defense actually did a pretty good job of containing A&M’s hyper-talented skill players last year, which game the team a chance to win. Now some of those players are gone, which means Christian Kirk is probably going to have to carry the load in the receiving corps. UCLA focused on him a ton last year, but he’s one of those receivers who’s still good enough to get his no matter the defense.

Trevor Knight isn’t here anymore, I guess. Look, I barely pay attention to the other teams in the Pac 12, you can’t expect me to have even a cursory knowledge of the two-deep for a team that we won’t play ever again. Bill Connely hasn’t even done the A&M preview yet so I can’t crib off him!

Priest Willis is set to start in the secondary. Yes, it’s that same Priest Willis that everyone was very excited about when he signed with UCLA. Life comes at Jim Mora fast.

Fearless Prediction

I get drunk and fall into one of the bunkers thanks to these A&M fans.

Also UCLA wins 31-24 in OT because THE COMEBACK SEASON STARTS NOW!