Why Texas A&M needs to be taken seriously as an SEC contender

Texas A&M lineman Myles Garrett (right) tackles Auburn QB Sean White (13) during the first quarter. 

John Reed/John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M offense struggled for the first 45 minutes of the Aggies’ 29-16 win over Auburn Saturday night.

The Aggies were less-than-stellar in the red zone, scoring only one touchdown on four chances inside the Auburn 20, and the Auburn defense found itself in the backfield too often for Kevin Sumlin’s — or quarterback Trevor Knight’s — liking.

But the Aggies won Saturday’s game without too much drama.

Texas A&M can thank its excellent defense for that.

Yes, you read that right — Texas A&M not only has a defense, it has one of the best in the SEC.

Texas A&M might have one of the best defenses in the nation.

What defense it is. Texas A&M is paying former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis more than $1.5 million per season. And so far this year, he has shown that he’s worth every penny.

College football fans should know about Myles Garrett, the astoundingly talented defensive end. But with Daeshon Hall on the other side of the line, Daylon Mack in the middle of it, and a loaded secondary led by safeties Armani Watts and Justin Evans, the Texas A&M defense has playmakers that can work off Garrett’s brilliance.

While Auburn did amass more than 400 yards Saturday, Texas A&M showed a propensity to bend and not break — Auburn ran 89 plays Saturday; A&M held the Tigers to 4.5 yards per play.

But the box score didn’t show Texas A&M’s ability to swarm ball carriers and its sure tackling all game. It’s that kind of character that impresses.

Sumlin entered the season on the hot seat. Through three games, his team has posted two impressive wins over UCLA and an improved Auburn team to turn off the burner.

Perhaps the Aggie offense won’t become the high-flying operation that we’ve come to expect from Sumlin’s teams. But even if it doesn’t find its wings, A&M has the talent and guts on both sides of the ball to compete in the toughest division in college football. They’ll need that over the next four of games, where Texas A&M will have to take on Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama.

And if Knight can get the Aggies into another offensive gear in the coming weeks, look out: This isn’t the Texas A&M you know — it’s better.