Texas A&M’s transition into the SEC over the summer was accompanied by innumerable questions about the Aggies’ ability to compete in the top conference in college football. A&M was coming off of an abysmally disappointing 2011 season that saw them fall from a preseason top 10 ranking into the depths of college football mediocrity (7-6, 4-5 Big XII). Moreover, the Ags ushered out former head coach Mike Sherman and his staff to make room for former University of Houston head coach and spread offense mastermind Kevin Sumlin, whose experience had yet to be tested on a weekly basis by powerhouse programs. The uncertainty of a new coaching staff and A&M’s entry into the most difficult conference in college football left fans with their heads in their hands.
Entering the loaded SEC West was thought to lead to A&M having a losing record and not reaching bowl eligibility. When the time came for speculation to make way for results, adversity struck College Station in the form of the postponement of the Aggies’ opening game versus Louisiana Tech due to Hurricane Isaac. This meant that the Ags would open their season with conference power (and current No. 4) Florida and lose their only bye week of the season due to rescheduling.
Week two in college football (Aggie Week 1) saw the historic tradition of the 12th Man rally behind their team as the spotlight of ESPN’s College Gameday shone on the inaugural SEC matchup at Kyle Field. Despite Florida coming away victorious, A&M led for the majority of the game and matched the Gators almost stride-for-stride. The following weeks saw A&M dispatching non-conference foes SMU and South Carolina State before returning to SEC games.
When the Aggies returned to league play, they left no doubt in fans’ minds about their qualifications to move away from the Big XII, pummeling former Southwest Conference opponent Arkansas 58-10 for their first ever SEC win. Just a week later, Texas A&M overcame an unthinkable six turnovers to beat Ole Miss on the road en route to a 2-1 conference record.
The keys to success have been found in the hands of Kevin Sumlin and redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who revoked his verbal commitment to Oregon for Texas A&M. Sumlin’s aerial attack, which was thought by many fans to be a sure ticket to losing every conference game, has paved the way for the Aggies to be a scoring threat on every play. Through the first five games of the season, Manziel has amassed 1,285 yards passing and a team-leading 495 yards rushing, placing him sixth in the country in total offense. As a team, the Aggies rank 12th nationally and first in the SEC in team offense. These numbers are even more impressive when taking into account that A&M has done this with three of its five games played against heralded SEC defenses.
Naysayers will point out that this season’s four wins have been against teams who have struggled all season and that the real test will be when A&M reaches the heart of its schedule; a stretch that sees them playing LSU at home before going on the road to face Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama. These detractors may appear correct in the short term, but already this season the Aggies have outperformed Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Tennessee. The coming seven weeks will take every ounce of effort and skill in the Ags’ bodies, but college football fans can be certain that Texas A&M will beat the SEC learning curve and leave no doubt that they are well qualified to be among the ranks of the SEC and, sooner than one may think, at the leading edge. Gig ‘em.