I don't know about you, but I am feeling SUPER about this weekend. You know who else is feeling pretty good? Aggie fans - not because of that whole baseball thing that's happening, but because they get to get out of College Station for the weekend. Even if (*when) they lose, they win! Let's see the Tale of the Tape of C-Stat (I hear that's what the kids call it these days).
WHO: Texas A&M University
WHERE: College Station, Texas
DIDN'T THEY CHANGE CONFERENCES RECENTLY?: Yes, yes... those of us in purple owe a small debt of gratitude to the Aggies, who's UT-fueled temper tantrum led to TCU's Big 12 invite. When A&M bolted for the SEC, along with Mizzou, it opened the door for TCU to come home to the conference we should have been invited to years ago (Thanks, Ann!). So, thanks for hating Texas enough, and being desperate enough to get out of their shadow, to sign up to play Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas, and Mississippi State every year. How's that working out, by the way?
TELL ME ABOUT COLLEGE STATION: College Station is home to over 100,000 people, and if you combine it with with Bryan they have closer to 300,000 residents - good for the 15th largest metropolitan area in Texas. Named because it was a station on the railroad, with a college (really), and at one point was actually considered the 11th most educated city in the country. Now before all of you that have an Aggie friend or an Aggie joke about them being less than... umm... brilliant... reminder: very few people that aren't directly associated with A&M live in CS. So, take that ranking with a grain of salt. Or an entire shaker. Or maybe a whole mine (Just kidding, Aggies!). College Station is the penultimate college town for just that reason - it's full of people that love their school. So what else has College Station given the world? Their best export may very well be the burrito franchise Freebirds, which is basically Chipotle on a serious bender. But they have queso, so I love them. CS also gave us Matthew Berry, which means a lot to you if you are in to fantasy sports. It is also home to the George Bush Presidential Library (not to be confused with W's over in Dallas) and New Republic Brewing - which I haven't tried but is highly rated.
HOW ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY?: Founded in 1876 under the name Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, A&M now boasts more than 47,000 undergrads and 62,000 current students in total. A&M has one of the most rabid and tradition-laden fanbases you will find - which can be a good thing, or an annoying one, or just plain this. They are also home to one of the most well-known traditions in all of sports (maybe!) - The 12th Man. A&M is also one of the largest campuses in the country, spanning over 5,200 acres.
FAMOUS ALUMNI: With 280,000 alumni worldwide, there are bound to be some big names on this list. Former Governor Rick Perry (and Presidential candidate - again!), and a host of other political big-wigs are Aggies; actor Rip Torn and musicians Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett called C-Stat home, as did Charles Doberman - who developed half of Hollywood, including The Hollywood Bowl and Chinese Theatre. Athletically, well, it's not just Johnny Manziel, fortunately. NFL coaches Gene Stallings and Dennis Allen graduated from TAMU, as did NFL stars Dante Hall, Dat Nguyen, and Von Miller. Bear Bryant got his coaching start with the Aggies, though he made his mark at Bama, and MLB legend Chuck Knoblauch played his college ball there.
HOW DID THEY GET HERE: A&M believed they should have been a National Seed, after getting off to a 24-0 start before dropping their first game, against Alabama. Setting the SEC consecutive wins record in the process, the Aggies vaulted to the top of several polls. They would finish with a 49-12 record, and an 18-10 mark in conference play, good enough for Regional hosting duty, but dropping them from the all-important top 8. The College Station Regional featured Coastal Carolina as a two seed, Cal as the three, and Texas Southern as the four. TAMU would open with a 5-0 victory over Texas Southern, fall in 14 innings to Cal in game two, then bounce back to wallop Coastal 8-1 to keep their season alive. Facing the same situation as the Frogs were up against in Fort Worth, the Aggies needed to beat Cal twice in just over 24 hours to advance. They would edge the Bears Sunday night 4-3 in twelve innings, and hang on for a 3-1 win Monday night. With their game ending as the Frogs looked dead in the water, many Aggie fans went to bed Monday night expecting to host NC State. Whoops. ;)
WHO YA GOT, AGGIES?: There will be a more detailed look at the Aggies down the line here, so I won't go in to too much detail. But, the Ags are a deep, productive offensive unit - that was slowed for the first time by Cal in Regional play. With six guys batting over .300 and one just a shade under, there is productivity up and down the lineup. The Aggies have two guys that have hit 10 home runs apiece - Logan Taylor and Ryne Birk. Five other players have at least seven long balls, and every starter has hit at least one. Four players have knocked in at least 40 RBIs, led by Taylor's 50. This is a balanced, dangerous lineup, that has scored almost seven runs a game and outscored opponents 414-222. The TCU pitching staff will need to be at its most effective to keep the Frogs within swinging distance. A&M has left an average of eight men on base each game, so that will be a stat to keep an eye on through the weekend as well.
For the TAMU pitching staff, the three go-to starters each have over a 2.50 ERA, but have a combined record of 23-2. Grayson Long is likely the Saturday starter, with a 9-0 record and 2.53 ERA, 104 strikeouts, and only 38 walks. If we get to see a Long/Morrison or Long/Alexander matchup in game one, we may see a duel for the ages. With a staff strikeout to walk ratio of 9/3, there won't be a lot of extra chances like TCU was gifted Monday night, but there will be a lot of pounding the zone and daring the Frog hitters to swing. So... basically the mirror image of what Schloss and Saarloos have built in Fort Worth.
The one glaring weakness for TAMU is their defense - with a fielding % of .969, which doesn't even put them in the top 100 nationally, the Aggies are capable of making costly errors at inopportune times. You might not get on base with walks, but there are other ways to rattle A&M - they have averaged over an error a game, led by senior infielder Blake Allemand's 18 errors and sophomore infielder Ronnie Gideon's 11.
WHATCHA GONNA DO?: I'm not quite ready to make a prediction here yet - but suffice it to say, I think this will be an intensely competitive series between two tough teams. TAMU feels slighted, and the Frogs feel like they got away with one. Both teams have something to prove, and will play like it all weekend. There will be a lot of pressure on the Frog pitchers to hold down the powerful lineup of A&M, and for TCU hitters to get them an early lead and allow them to settle in. I have a feeling we will need a certain College Station native to come up big in at least one big spot over the course of what I imagine will be a three game series.