Texas A&M and Kyle Field will usher in a new era of football Saturday afternoon as the Aggies make their Southeastern Conference (SEC) debut against Florida. Aggie fans are excited about the start of a new season and their journey in a new conference.
But this isn’t just any conference, it’s the SEC.
When I talk with coaches and other football insiders they have mixed views about what lies ahead for Texas A&M and first year head coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin became a hot commodity last year after he led the Houston Cougars to a 12-0 regular season record and a season-high ranking of seventh in the Associated Press poll before finishing 12-1 and taking the A&M job. His overall record at Houston was 52-35 before he left and headed north to College Station.
It is going to take a minute, and by minute I mean few years, for Texas A&M to get in the swing of the SEC.
Changing conferences has become somewhat common among major universities. In fact, when I attended Texas A&M we were part of the Southwest Conference (SWC). Of course that league folded and A&M joined several SWC rivals in the Big 12. Now, the Aggies made another big move. This time they are joining what most of us call the best college football conference in America.
The elephant in the room is: How will the Aggies fare in a league that has produced the last six BCS champions.
When the Aggies kick off their new look in their new league with their new coach and new quarterback against the 24th-ranked Gators, they will do it as the favorites. But don’t expect that to be the case every week.
The fact that five of the Top 10 teams in America play in the SEC is a clear indication that Texas A&M has a tough road ahead of it. Yes, the oddsmakers installed the Aggies as one-and a-half-point favorites at home Saturday, but this is Florida not Alabama. Texas A&M has won three straight season openers and is looking to make it four in a row.
Nothing would make the Aggie faithful happier. At least not at this point.
The New Guys
Sumlin and his staff are undoubtedly tired of talking about moving to the SEC and are just ready to play football. They know the journey to the top of the league must go through Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina . . . a mix of champions and perennial powerhouses in the land of college football.
But back to the Aggies . . . Sumlin is known for his offensive expertise. While the starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel, is a redshirt freshman, the Aggies veteran offensive line should make his transition a little easier. Texas A&M's strength at the guard position is a little up in the air, but we’ll see how well the line holds up as an entire unit.
You know what they say. The game is won in the trenches. By trenches I mean up front, on the offensive and defensive lines.
The Aggies offensive line is pretty strong, but defensively not so much. That won’t bode well in the SEC with the high-powered pro-style offenses they’ll face most weeks. Suffice it to say, Texas A&M will certainly be tested.
While the starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel, is a redshirt freshman, the Aggies veteran offensive line should make his transition a little easier.
I’m an Aggie and I would definitely like to see them do well, but I’m also a realist. It is going to take a minute, and by minute I mean few years, for Texas A&M to get in the swing of the SEC.
Sumlin is not only respected for his X's and O's but for his recruiting prowess as well. Of course one of the strengths of a good college team is in its ongoing recruiting effort. You have to keep top players in the pipeline. Sumlin will continue to win some of the recruiting battles . . . and make no mistake about it they are battles.
In case you don’t already know, Aggies have a lot of pride and anything less than the best just won’t do. Football at Texas A&M is not just a sport, it is an experience. There are midnight yell practices and the 12th Man that are part of a tradition that makes even the modest fan get fired up for game day.
Kim Davis is a seasoned journalist with nearly two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. She’s a talk show host, keynote speaker, media coach, entrepreneur and health and fitness enthusiast. If you have questions or comments for Kim or about “Chalk Talk”, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.