Preview 2017: Texas A&M Won’t Win The SEC, And Then … ?
It’ll be another year when Texas A&M won’t win the SEC. And then what?
How does Kevin Sumlin possibly survive not winning the SEC again?
Texas A&M isn’t going to win the SEC West, and it’s certainly not going to win the conference title. So then what?
Really, A&M fans, what are you reasonably expecting out of Sumlin and your 2017 college football season, with a weaker team and a recent history of not doing much of anything with better ones?
It’ll be entertaining at times, heartbreaking and disappointing at others, and in the end – after a yearlong discussion of Sumlin being on the hot seat – the Aggies will probably go 8-5 for a fourth straight season.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
But this year, there’s no pretense about it what Texas A&M can and will be.
Last year, A&M had Myles Garrett leading what appeared to be a potentially dangerous defense. The receiving corps was a killer, and while Trevor Knight wasn’t expected to be Tom Brady, he was a rock-solid veteran who could step in and be the antithesis to all the flashy A&M star quarterback prospects who’ll play big roles somewhere else this season.
This year? There’s no Garrett, the all-things-considered underwhelming receiving corps is all but gone, and the new starting quarterback will almost certainly be a freshman. At least on paper, this should be a worse team than the 2016 version, but it’s supposed to somehow navigate its way through an improved SEC West and finally finish strong?
Quickly forgotten about, the Aggies started out 2016 7-0 and were fourth in the initial College Football Playoff rankings after the loss to Alabama. One 2-5 second half of the season later – and those two wins coming to New Mexico State and UTSA – and A&M became all about whether or not Garrett could stay healthy enough to be the No. 1 overall draft pick.
And Sumlin kept his job.
Now going into his sixth year in College Station, Sumlin has gone 79-38, and his teams – even considering the last three years had the exact same record – have gotten progressively worse since that 11-2 Manziel-fueled craze in 2012.
Worse than that, A&M 15-17 in the SEC over the last four seasons and hasn’t even finished in the top three in the West.
Again, that’s almost certainly not going to change.
And that’s the key to Sumlin and his survival after all the disappointments, all the failures, and all the missed opportunities. It seems like A&M is alway just this close to turning a corner, with all the talent and all the promise coming together in one big year that’ll be the catalyst to bigger and better things.
It’s so, so easy to fall for the potential when there’s so much great talent coming in, and it happened again with this latest recruiting class.
Kellen Mond is yet another special quarterback prospect who can do it all – and this time, this one actually might stick around.
Anthony Hines will eventually be an All-SEC linebacker, Jhamon Ausbon might start right away at one receiver spot, and Hezekiah Jones could step in at another, and there’s a lot more ready-made talent at several other positions ready to go and fill in the missing parts.
As is, the secondary should be one of the best yet in the Sumlin era, the linebacking corps is good, and despite the loss of the star pass rushers, the line should be fine.
Almost all of the top receivers might be done, but Christian Kirk is back to not only crank up the passing game, but lead the fantastic special teams that could be the best in the SEC.
The 1-2 rushing punch of Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford should be wonderful behind yet another good-looking Aggie line, and the quarterback? Whether it’s Mond, or Nick Starkel – a great prospect brought in last season – the Aggies will have a more talented player under center than Knight.
Best of all, and the real reason for all the hope, is the schedule – which was the catalyst to a caffeine-induced fit of whimsy highlighting the sleeper teams in the 2017 conference races.
If A&M can somehow, someway get past an improved UCLA in the opener in Pasadena, it could go on a roll with just one true road game until going to Ole Miss on November 18th.
Granted, that one road game is at Florida, and one of the dates is a neutral site game against Arkansas in AT&T Stadium, and playing at Kyle Field doesn’t guarantee anything against Alabama, or this year, Auburn. And there is still a brutal road game to deal with at the end, going to LSU, and …