Opinion: Middle of the pack
Lost in the SEC gauntlet, Sumlin’s extension means bright future
Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013
Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 20:12
The fluidity of sports, and more specifically college football, was on full display Saturday with Texas A&M finding itself somewhere in the middle.
On a day that saw top-ranked Alabama fall at the hands of Auburn in one of the most spectacular finishes in sports history, a resurgent Missouri team continued its strong play hours later against the Aggies in a 28-21 win.
I have a theory that, like many things in history, sports repeats itself. The worst-to-first stories are few and far between, but in the world of sports there is a cycle. It may take years, decades even, but no one team will forever be the worst and the best teams can’t peak forever.
A season ago, Missouri and Auburn were cellar dwellers combining for a 2-14 conference record. Auburn didn’t win a single SEC game all season.
Fast-forward and the two teams will be the only SEC teams playing next weekend in Atlanta, vying for the conference championship.
In both of the past two seasons, A&M had the league’s “hottest team” and the “best player,” but both of those intangibles combined for a 10-6 SEC record, leaving them somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Many believe the loss to Missouri was the tipping point. They are wrong.
This season of Aggie football had the life sucked out of it a long time ago at the hands of several Tiger foes (see: Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers and Missouri Tigers). But the real problem was false hope all along.
Upon giving up substantial yardage to Rice and Sam Houston State, few red flags went up simply because the Aggies won and Johnny Manziel was still the A&M quarterback, so what could possibly go wrong?
This year’s team was never going to the BCS National Championship, not with this defense.
But in the last two weeks of the season, there was a shift in direction. A shift toward the future.
Saturday’s most notable news had nothing to do with the “carmouflage” the Aggies wore on their cleats. It had nothing to do with the disappointing loss to a Top-5 opponent.
The biggest news of the day was the signing of Kevin Sumlin to a new six-year contract that is rumored to be worth $5 million a year. Players will come and go, but for now Sumlin remains in Aggieland where he insists on making A&M a national power.
“I am humbled and very appreciative of the commitment that Texas A&M has extended not only to me and my family, but to our football program overall,” Sumlin said in an A&M release. “We have only just begun to lay the foundation for sustained, long-term success here at Texas A&M, and we will work hard every day to make this great institution and the 12th Man proud.”
The 2013 football season isn’t a lost cause, but it is all but over. The attention now shifts to the recruiting class Sumlin is assembling that is competing for the best in the nation, again.
As he constructs what will surely become a bigger, faster defensive front, the Aggies will have a chance to decide where they belong in the daunting SEC, which finds a way to eat its own, week in and week out.
They won’t be battling their way from the bottom to the top like Missouri and Auburn did this season. But they also won’t have the pleasure of starting at the top like Alabama or LSU.
Like a young animal in the jungle, A&M is finding where it belongs among the SEC food chain.
The good news is, there’s still plenty of time under the direction of Sumlin to watch the sporting hands of time come full circle and put A&M truly on top.