Opinion: Down, but not out
Losing to Alabama hurts, but history proves A&M is not out of championship contention
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 21:09
It was being called the Game of the Century. Saban versus Manziel. Alabama against A&M.
While most Games of the Century fail to live up to the hype, this one did. This time, unlike a year ago, the team that was supposed to win did.
The parallels from a season ago were so similar that Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin addressed them in his post-game sermon to the players following the loss to No. 1 Alabama at home.
Johnny Manziel thought the same.
“This isn’t the end of our season,” Manziel said following the game. “This wasn’t the Super Bowl. This wasn’t the last game of the season. Alabama lost a game last year and still went on to win a national championship. They lost to LSU the year before and still went on to win a national championship. Our season isn’t over. Anything could happen. This is college football.”
Manziel and Sumlin are right. Just because the Aggies lost a game to the top-ranked team in the nation doesn’t mean their ultimate goals are now unattainable.
The battered Aggie inside most juniors and seniors on campus, and countless A&M graduates, told us Saturday night following the game that the season was a lost cause. Having to watch highly touted Mike Sherman-coached teams consistently choke in the second half has left bruises that are still changing color.
This A&M team is much different than those that once battled on Kyle Field. These are the Aggies of new that truly run out of time.
Not the teams of old that forced us to convince ourselves walking down the ramps of Kyle that they ran out of time when in reality they had laid an egg coming out of the locker room — again.
But if there is any proof behind Sumlin and Manziel’s claim of optimism it’s the history of the Bowl Championship Series.
Since 1998, the first year of the BCS, 11 of the 30 teams that have competed for the BCS National Championship crystal football trophy have entered the game with a loss.
Heck, in 2007 LSU made it into the game with two losses — against No. 17 Kentucky and unranked Arkansas. That’s what happens when computers decide which two teams are the best. And subsequently, that is why those computers will be trashed after this season in favor of a playoff system.
Still, the odds may not seem to be ever in A&M’s favor. But in just six of the 15 years that the BCS has existed has there been an undefeated-on-undefeated championship game. It happened most recently in 2009 and 2010.
A&M already played a role in one team’s less than perfect season entering the national championship game. In the first year of the BCS, Florida State opened its season with a win against A&M at the neutral site of Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
The Seminoles lost the next week to North Carolina State but still made the national championship game after dropping as low as 11th in the standings.
As a matter of fact, 1998 Florida State and 2008 Tebow-led Florida were the only two teams to make it to the championship game after losing in the first four weeks of the season.
Florida would have to be the best comparison to this season’s A&M team. Polarizing quarterbacks, coaches on the rise (Sumlin and Urban Meyer) and losses in the first few weeks that dropped them to the edge of the top 10. (Florida dropped to No. 12 — the lowest a team that would later contend for the championship has ever dropped in the BCS era.)
The two teams split in comparison when looking at Florida’s loss to an unranked Ole Miss team while A&M lost to the defending champion and top-ranked Tide.
But what Aggie wouldn’t like to see Manziel make a Tebow-like run toward the national title and win it all? The Gators did defeat No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship that year before making it to the title game.
A&M’s loss to Alabama seems deflating in Week 3 of the season and it drops the Aggies to No. 10 nationally. But nine weeks remain for this team to rise again, and with a favorable schedule at hand, a BCS run seems possible.
The history suggests that Sumlin and Manziel weren’t wrong for implying the Aggies aren’t out of this long distance race.
As a matter of fact, after losing to A&M in its 10th game of the year last season, Alabama watched both Kansas State and Oregon lose on the same Saturday paving the road for a Crimson Tide trip to the ’ship.
The Aggies aren’t out of the national title race according to history, but in order to repeat what they read in college football’s index, they’ll have to win this week and win out.
While A&M won’t be overlooking SMU at Kyle Field Saturday, the team certainly can’t afford to look too far ahead to LSU on Nov. 23 either.
This week’s game marks the beginning of a new season for A&M. If they make goals of winning each game until the end of the season, they may hear their name called come December for a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
“This is college football,” Manziel said. “Some of the craziest things happen every week so you never know how things will turn out. All we can do is take care of ourselves and continue to get better as a team.”