Schedule analysis: Texas A&M Aggies

We take a closer look today at Texas A&M's 2013 schedule:

Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)

Aug. 31: Rice (7-6)

Sept. 7: Sam Houston State (11-4)

Sept. 21: SMU (7-6)

Nov. 2: UTEP (3-9)

SEC home games

Sept. 14: Alabama

Oct. 19: Auburn

Oct. 26: Vanderbilt

Nov. 9: Mississippi State

SEC road games

Sept. 28: at Arkansas

Oct. 12: at Ole Miss

Nov. 23: at LSU

Nov. 30: at Missouri

Gut-check time: It's the game everybody in college football has been waiting to see, and they won't have to wait long. Alabama visits College Station the third week of the season. Johnny Manziel & Co. will be ready, but so will the Crimson Tide after losing at home to the Aggies a year ago. The winner of this game will emerge as the front-runner in the national championship race.

Trap game: Even though the Aggies will be coming off a bye week, that trip to Ole Miss on Oct. 12 has danger written all over it. The Rebels felt like they let one slip away last season when they couldn't finish the game, and thanks to a quirk in the schedule, get another shot at the Aggies at home.

Snoozer: A November home date with UTEP will break up the gauntlet of SEC games, but won't be one they circle on their calendars in Aggieland.

Telltale stretch: Really, there aren't any killer stretches for the Aggies. Those last three games of the season could be interesting, especially if Texas A&M is in contention for a title. The Aggies face Mississippi State at home, and after a bye week, end the season with back-to-back road games at LSU and Missouri.

Final analysis: One of the first things that sticks out is the nonconference slate. It's perhaps the easiest in the SEC. All four games are at home, too. For that matter, the Aggies will play eight games at Kyle Field this season. It's always nice to play that many games in front of the home fans and in familiar surroundings. Not having to face Florida, Georgia or South Carolina from the East also works in Texas A&M's favor, especially since Alabama avoids the Big Three from the East. Florida is replaced on the Aggies' schedule by Vanderbilt. Only one time all season does Texas A&M have three straight weeks where it faces an SEC opponent. After playing at Ole Miss on Oct. 12, the Aggies return home to face Auburn and Vanderbilt the next two weeks. So much hinges on that Alabama game on Sept. 14. A second straight win over the Tide would set the stage for a season even more memorable than the Aggies' first tour through the league.