For members of the Texas A&M football team, all significant numbers are pointing in an upward direction as the Aggies prepare for Saturday’s home opener against Lamar.
The ninth-ranked Aggies (1-0) jumped 12 spots in this week’s Associated Press poll, edging past No. 10 Baylor to become the state’s top-ranked college football team after a 52-28 rout of then-No. 9 South Carolina. A&M heads into the game (6:30 p.m., SEC Network alternate) anticipating the largest home crowd in history at revamped Kyle Field, which will have a capacity of 106,300 this season.
Because of the decisive road victory over South Carolina, which included a school-record 511 passing yards from quarterback Kenny Hill, A&M also has emerged among the front-runners in the national championship and Heisman Trophy races.
Bovada Sports Book ( Bovada.lv) has installed A&M among the top nine betting favorites to claim the 2014 national championship, with the Aggies receiving 18-1 odds. Before the South Carolina victory, A&M was a 75-1 choice.
In addition, Hill debuted this week as a 16-1 choice to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy. The Southlake Carroll graduate, who made his first career start against South Carolina, was not on the board last week.
Among college players, Hill is tied for eighth in the website’s Heisman race, behind two fellow quarterbacks who are co-favorites: Florida State’s Jameis Winston (11-2), the 2013 Heisman winner, and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (11-2).
The next challenge, coach Kevin Sumlin said, is to build on those positive vibes and keep pushing the football-related numbers in a positive direction with a victory over the Cardinals (1-0).
Sumlin, the Aggies’ third-year coach, is particularly interested in seeing how many fans attend and how loud the crowd will be after an off-season expansion added 23,889 seats to Kyle Field.
A&M’s stadium had a listed capacity of 82,589 last year but squeezed in a stadium-record throng of 90,079 for a 2010 contest against Nebraska. School officials anticipate setting a new mark against Lamar.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Sumlin said. “I’ve been in there a couple times and you can tell the difference. With the speakers on, there’s a definite echo on the other side that wasn’t there before. We’re excited. Fans will be excited. We have a chance to have one of the largest crowds ever to see a game in the state of Texas. That’s a great opportunity and something our guys will never forget.”
Among the enthused Aggies is Hill, a sophomore who finds it fascinating that he has become a Heisman hopeful after his breakout performance (44 of 60, 511 yards, three TDs).
“It’s been crazy. The Heisman stuff, that’s surreal,” Hill said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid. It’s something I dream of doing one day.”
Hill, who played sparingly last season behind 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, is motivated to make his first start in Kyle Field. He predicted teammates will not overlook the Cardinals, who enter as prohibitive underdogs.
“We know we still have to work hard. We still have that chip on our shoulders,” Hill said. “People still feel like we aren’t that good, that beating South Carolina was just a fluke. But I don’t think that’s it at all. We’re trying to prove them wrong.”
Texas A&M vs. Lamar
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Kyle Field
|Category||Texas A&M (1-0)||Lamar (1-0)|