With Pac-12 Media Days wrapping up last week, the beginning of the end of the long football-less summer approaches. UCLA starts fall camp in three weeks and until then, we’ll spend some time looking at each of UCLA’s 2016 opponents. Let’s take it from the top with Texas A&M:
UCLA at Texas A&M
Saturday, Sept. 3 | Kyle Field
12:30 p.m. PT, CBS
2015 in review:
Both UCLA and Texas A&M fumbled down the stretch last year. The Bruins lost three of their last four games. The Aggies, who started 5-0, lost three of their last five and landed at 8-5 overall (4-4 SEC). It was Texas A&M’s second straight eight-win season after Johnny Manziel vaulted the Aggies into the national spotlight during his brief career. With two underwhelming seasons, head coach Kevin Sumlin is feeling a little heat in College Station.
— A familiar face: The Bruins are already familiar with Texas A&M’s offense. They ran it last year under now Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. The Aggies averaged 27.8 points per last game, the lowest mark in the Sumlin era at Texas A&M, prompting the coaching change. UCLA put up 32.2 points per game last year under Mazzone, which was the lowest for a Bruin team under Jim Mora.
When asked of facing his former offensive coordinator, UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown smiled about facing the same offense he’s faced for three years in practice: “We’ll see what I learned. It should be fun.”
— The newcomer: He’s new to College Station, but this is not Trevor Knight’s first time as a starter. The former Oklahoma quarterback jumped ship to Texas A&M via the grad transfer rule after losing his starting job to Baker Mayfield. Knight started 15 games for the Sooners and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2013 season. In a chaotic offseason, the Aggies went from two capable quarterbacks to none when Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both transferred. Knight stepped in and claimed the starting job over former walk-on Jake Hubenak.
— SEC vs. Pac-12: UCLA’s game against the Aggies is one of two marquee season-openers in the Lone Star State featuring a Pac-12-SEC matchup. It’s a high-stakes, tone-setting game for both teams. They both limped to the finish line in 2015 and would like a big win to get out the gates quickly this season. Among the byproducts of a win against Texas A&M could be the start of a Heisman campaign for UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
Texas A&M players to watch:
— DE Myles Garrett: If he stays healthy, Garrett is a sure-fire top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. The junior All-American has 24 sacks in his career for the Aggies and was the SEC leader in sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forces fumbles (5) last year.
— DE Daeshon Hall: Garrett is already enough to handle, but when combined with Hall, the Aggies have a dangerous powerful one-two punch at defensive end. Hall had seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss as a junior last year.
— WR Christian Kirk: The Aggies have an experienced group of wide receivers as they returned every starter from 2015. Kirk eclipsed the 1,000-receiving-yard mark last year while also returning punts and kickoffs. He earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
2016 UCLA schedule
Sat., Sept. 3: UCLA at Texas A&M — 12:30 p.m., CBS
Sat., Sept. 10: UNLV at UCLA — 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Sat., Sept. 17: UCLA at BYU — 7:15 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Sat., Sept. 24: Stanford at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 1: Arizona at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 8: UCLA at Arizona State
Sat., Oct. 15: UCLA at Washington State
Sat., Oct 22: Utah at UCLA
Sat., Oct. 28: BYE
Thurs., Nov. 3: UCLA at Colorado — 6 p.m., FOX Sports 1
Sat., Nov. 12: Oregon State at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 19: USC at UCLA
Sat., Nov. 26: UCLA at California
Home games in bold, all times in Pacific Time