SPORTS LIBRARY, Clemson, football

With the football season less than 60 days from opening, we are taking an early look at each of the Tigers' 12 opponents for 2019. Today is the week 2 foe, the Texas A&M Aggies.

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Head coach

Jimbo Fisher was hired at Texas A&M on Dec. 4, 2017, after eight successful seasons at Florida State, which included the 2013 BCS National Championship. In his eight seasons in Tallahassee, Fisher established himself as one of the elite coaches in college football. He led the Seminoles to an 83-23 record, winning three Atlantic Coast Conference championships, four Atlantic Division titles and five bowl games.

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Fisher quickly turned around the Aggie program in the first year, as he led Texas A&M to a 9-4 record, which was the program's first nine-win campaign since 2012.

The Aggies enter 2019 with their eyes on bigger goals, namely the College Football Playoff, and a win over the Tigers could go a long way toward helping them achieve those goals.

Aggies on offense

Longtime offensive playcaller Darrell Dickey is in his first season as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator.

Dickey, who got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 1985, came to Texas A&M after five seasons as the offensive coordinator at the University of Memphis under Justin Fuente and Mike Norvell.

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Dickey played an instrumental role in Memphis’ turnaround and rise on the college football national landscape. In the two seasons prior to his arrival in 2012, the Tigers won just three games, but Dickey helped change the program’s image quickly.

One of the keys to Memphis’ rise has been the consistently prolific offenses directed by Dickey.

Dickey’s 2017 offense — prior to the bowl game — averaged 47.7 points (No. 2 nationally), 548.2 total yards (No. 4), 339.1 passing yards (No. 8) and 209.1 rushing yards (No. 30). Memphis was one of six teams in the FBS to gain more than 6,000 total yards from 2015-17.

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Dickey joined the Memphis program after serving as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Texas State in 2011. Texas State’s rushing attack averaged 195 yards per game and scored 20 of the team’s 35 offensive touchdowns. In seven of 12 games, the Bobcats tallied at least 200 yards rushing, and the squad registered at least 40 carries in nine games.

Aggies on defense

Mike Elko enters his second season as the leader of the Aggie defense.

Elko is one of a select group of defensive coordinators nationally having overseen a top-50 defense the past six seasons. Last season, Elko made the move to Texas A&M after one season of directing Notre Dame's defense.

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In his lone season in South Bend, the Irish's defense ranked in the top half nationally in all four major defensive categories as the Irish finished with a 10-3 record, which included a 21-17 win over LSU in the 2018 Citrus Bowl. Elko was a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which is given annually to the top assistant coach in college football.

Last season, Elko's defense held opposing offenses to 92.0 rushing yards per game, which is the best in the SEC and second in the FBS behind Michigan State (81.3).

In Elko’s "multiple" scheme, Texas A&M, which has faced four teams in the current College Football Playoff rankings including Alabama and Clemson, allowed nearly 80 less yards on the ground compared to the year before.

Elko and the Aggies’ defense held Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. to a season-low 60 yards and Clemson’s Travis Etienne to 44 yards. The year before, the Aggies allowed 35-plus points in six of their 13 games, while last season, Texas A&M only allowed 35 or more points in two games (45 at Alabama and 72 against LSU in 7 overtimes), and held five teams to 20 points or less.

The early line

The Tigers are 17.5-point favorites over the Aggies.

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io


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