Texas A&M getting benefit of the doubt vs. South Carolina as Aggies...

Texas A&M getting benefit of the doubt vs. South Carolina as Aggies look to stay in the CFP conversation

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Anywhere there’s discussion of the College Football Playoff right now, there’s mention of Texas A&M.

They talk about the Aggies’ path and their chances and every now and again A&M will get a high-profile endorsement or two. This week, it was ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, among others, suggesting that No. 7 A&M could have one loss going into the regular season finale Dec. 5 at Auburn.

“Don’t have to worry about playing in a conference championship game,” Herbstreit said on ESPN. “You look at their resume. If they win all those games, they’ll have their chance to throw their hat in the [playoff] ring and be in that discussion potentially with those other teams, whether that’s Cincinnati, BYU, maybe a Pac-12 team.

“I think they’ll be sitting there with a real shot to be 9-1.”

Of course, all the praise and playoff speculation matters little if A&M (4-1, all SEC) can’t take care of its business Saturday at South Carolina (2-3). A win would give A&M its best six-game SEC start since joining the league in 2012 and extend A&M’s unbeaten streak against the Gamecocks to seven.

“We live in our own little world. You always hear: ‘Why are you not having success?’” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Well I ask them, why are you having success? Because you block out the clutter.”

A&M opened as a 7.5-point favorite on the road, not that Fisher is putting any faith in the odds, either.

“You got to live up your own expectations,” Fisher said. “That’s how you prepare every day. It’s how you practice every day, it’s how you think. That’s the world you have to live in. You’re never a favorite in any game. Everybody in this league can beat you.”

With all due respect to Fisher’s worldview, A&M is getting the benefit of the doubt because of a three-game winning streak that includes Florida, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

A veteran quarterback, like four-year starter Kellen Mond, can make a big difference on the road, as well.

“Experience, number one. The guy has seen a lot of looks in his experience as a player,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said when asked what he liked about Mond. “He has legs and can hurt you with them. He’s very accurate with the football….

“He presents a lot of issues as a thrower and a runner, a guy that their staff and team believe in an awful lot and the confidence they have in him.”

Mond is coming off arguably his most impressively efficient game, where he complete 21 of 26 passes against Arkansas for three touchdowns without an interception.

Under Mond, A&M has scored on 13 of its last 14 trips inside the red zone, with 11 touchdowns.

He’s also operating behind an offensive line that hasn’t allowed a sack since the season opener against Vanderbilt.

Mond gained another weapon when junior receiver Hezekiah Jones returned to the lineup after nearly a two-year absence after an Achilles tendon injury.

“Hez understands how to read coverages, and he understands holes in zone coverages,” Mond said.

During Jones’ enforced layoff, he decided to catch up on his reading, including one favorite on ancient history and something more current.

“Jimbo’s playbook,” Jones said of another bit of dense reading. “That’s one of my favorite books. Those are my two favorite books right now.”

Find more Texas A&M coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.



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