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CESSNA: Texas A&M prepares for challenges ahead
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CESSNA: Texas A&M prepares for challenges ahead

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Texas A M South Carolina Football

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher runs off the field before the team's NCAA college football game against South Carolina on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

The Texas A&M football team is in uncharted territory, but clear sailing is still the forecast as long as it takes care of business.

The fifth-ranked Aggies (5-1), as expected, postponed Saturday’s game against Ole Miss because of COVID-19 issues. The quarantined players who forced A&M to cancel last week’s game at Tennessee are still unavailable. A&M had only two players and a staff member test positive for the virus, but contract tracing made more than a dozen players unavailable, creating a two-week break in the middle of the season.

The Aggies are expected to get their quarantined players back Sunday and should be ready for their next scheduled game against LSU on Nov. 28 at Kyle Field. But will A&M be the same team that three weeks ago played one of its most complete games in a 48-3 victory at South Carolina? That was the Aggies' best game in recent memory as they stretched their winning streak to four. Can they be at their best whenever they return?

“I mean that’s the challenge each and every week, whether you’re on a roll or not on a roll,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “They say, ‘You’re on a roll; do you take things for granted?’”

There’s no way A&M physically and mentally could have improved on the South Carolina effort last week or this week, considering the COVID-19 issues, right? Fisher would beg to disagree.

“It matters how you practice, how you prepare, how you get your mind ready to play each and every week,” Fisher said. “And now these are challenges because they’re new, but there are things that can definitely be done and taken care of.”

There’s a couple of things that could help A&M through these strange times.

Few thought A&M would have played six games by Nov. 7 after the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences voted not to play this fall.

“We were wondering if we’d even have football,” Fisher said. “So we can complain about this and this and that, but listen, we’re still getting to play football. The season’s going on. So those are great things for us and the SEC and everybody in college football.”

What’s even better for A&M as it waits to get back on the field is the Aggies are in the running to make the College Football Playoff. And if you’re looking for a plus in having the Ole Miss game pushed back, consider that the Rebels in a 59-42 win over South Carolina piled up 708 yards. Ole Miss, despite not being able to play a lick of defense, might be the toughest opponent left on A&M’s schedule.

“When you’re playing well, you want to keep playing,” Ole Miss first-year coach Lane Kiffin told the Clarion Ledger. “We’re on a two-game winning streak, so I wish we were playing. But we’ll just utilize the time to refine certain things and see if we can get better.”

Whenever the Rebels come to Kyle Field, they’ll be out to make their season. So it might be good for A&M to jump back into competition against someone else.

The Aggies would have no problem getting ready for defending national champ LSU. Fisher preaches to his players about making opponents nameless and faceless, but odds are his players remember the 50-7 loss at LSU last year. LSU, with three losses, is not the team it was last year. And neither is A&M, which probably doesn’t care if it plays Ole Miss or LSU or Auburn next.

A&M redshirt freshman wide receiver Kam Brown has entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to al.com’s Matt Zenitz.

Brown played in all six games this season with starts against Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State and South Carolina. He had five receptions for 55 yards. The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder played in three games last year, making two receptions for 19 yards.

A&M’s game against LSU at 6 p.m. Nov. 28 will be televised by ESPN. The CBS 2:30 p.m. game that day will be Auburn at Alabama. The rest of the schedule is Arkansas at Missouri, 11 a.m. (SEC Network); Kentucky at Florida, 11 a.m. (ESPN); Mississippi State at Ole Miss, 3 p.m. (SEC Network); Georgia at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network); and Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network alternate).

A&M’s odds of winning the CFP are 40/1, which is eighth best. Alabama leads at 2/1, according to www.BetOnline.ag. Ohio State is second at 5/2 followed by Clemson 3/1, Notre Dame 7/1, Florida 8/1, Cincinnati 25/1, BYU 33/1 and A&M.

Kellen Mond’s odds of winning the Heisman Trophy are 66/1, tied with Miami quarterback D’Eriq and Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book who both were off the board last week. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask leads at 3/2 followed by Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (2/1), Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (3/1), Clemson quarter-back Trevor Lawrence (13/4) and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (33/1). Those are the only players currently on the board.

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