COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M players and coaches spent the month of August raving about the Aggies' potential. The time has come to see what they're so excited about.
When the curtain rises today against Montana State, A&M fans expect to see a powerful offense led by quarterback Stephen McGee. They're hoping to see a swarming defense that will blitz more and cover receivers better. Special teams should be special, too.
Fans aren't the only ones anxious to see the Aggies, who start the season ranked 25th. The players are curious, too. If A&M is serious about competing for a championship, then beating Montana State should be no sweat.
"I'm excited to see what kind of team we're going to be and how we're going to face some challenges and adversity," said McGee, A&M's undisputed leader. "Those are things that certainly make up a really good team, and hopefully that's something we can do."
Fifth-year senior Kirk Elder said coach Dennis Franchione has been in a great mood most of the preseason. At one point in a private setting, Franchione told the guard, "Kirk, you guys have had a pretty good camp."
"We came in with the right attitude and decided to come together as a team," Elder said. "As we got closer and closer to where we are right now, guys continued to pick it up and improve each week."
Those are all nice sentiments. But will that translate into on-field success?
Other A&M teams have been just as confident, or at least they said they were. The bottom line is Franchione is 25-23 in four years in College Station. The Aggies face a grueling schedule this season with road trips to Miami, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The skeptics among the Aggies faithful want this program to show them something positive after several years of close calls and heartbreakers. That's probably why attendance has waned at Kyle Field. Athletic director Bill Byrne said the school didn't sell out a single game last season. The stadium holds 82,600.
"Show it. We all feel that way, too," said linebacker Jordan Pugh of Plano West. "We're ready to play. You can just see the excitement with everybody. It's finally game week, and we're ready to show what we can do."
Franchione said there are still some unanswered questions. Take the receivers, for example. Will they provide some contributions? What kind of pass rush will the defensive line create? How will kicker Matt Szymanski handle kickoffs from the 30-yard line instead of the 35?
That being said, Franchione admitted that he'll be disappointed if A&M takes a step backward after going 9-4 in 2006.
"This team hasn't accomplished anything," Franchione said. "This team hasn't played a game. This team hasn't done anything but practice yet and so there are things that remain to be seen."