The tools for success are there for the Texas A&M Aggies. They have been there for quite some time.
The loyal fanbase. The fertile recruiting ground that is the State of Texas. The 102,733 seat and newly renovated Kyle Field.
During Kevin Sumlin’s six year-stint at A&M, the Aggies experienced a plethora of highs and lows. There was the inaugural season in SEC play, when they won 11 games behind Johnny Manziel and his Heisman Trophy-winning performances. They had three straight seasons where they started 5-0 or better before struggling down the stretch. There was the time they were thumped 59-0 by the Alabama Crimson Tide.
There was the time Kenny Hill threw for over 500 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-28 thumping of the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks in a season opener, only to lose five of their last seven that season, and see Hill transfer. They soundly defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl and were themselves defeated by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the Belk Bowl.
Outside of that one night in Tuscaloosa, where the 15th-ranked Ags walked into Bryant-Denny Stadium and knocked off top-ranked Alabama, the program had garnered a reputation as one couldn’t win the big game during Sumlin’s tenure.
It wasn’t like the Aggies didn’t win any big games. But when it came down to the biggest setting on the biggest stage, they seemed to come up short more often than not. They will have a chance to dispel that notion under Jimbo Fisher in Week 2 when the No. 2 Clemson Tigers travel to College Station.
Maybe we haven’t gotten close enough to the season yet for this game to be discussed as much. But I feel as if this one hasn’t been getting a ton of offseason attention, mostly because A&M could be in rebuilding mode while Clemson continues to be in championship contention. There is reason for that.
The Tigers came in at No. 2 in Thursday’s preseason Coaches Poll, and are primed for their fourth-straight College Football Playoff run.
But how big is that game in Week 2? With the rivalry renewed between Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher-two coaches that provided us with so many classic match ups between Florida State and Clemson for the last 8-plus years?
Now, the man who used to tout the success and strength of the ACC will play host to the ACC’s ultimate superpower, with a chance to prove the SEC’s might in his first season.
It’s fair not to assume that Fisher has solidified Texas A&M among the conference’s elite with a win over Clemson. Sumlin, after all, won 11 games in the first year, beat Alabama on the road and was a play or two a way from being in Atlanta and possibly a BCS National Title Game. But Manziel won’t be suiting up this season, and Fisher, while talent abounds for the Aggies, will have his work cut out for him to pull off the massive upset. The game also being in front of what promises to be an electrified Kyle Field will work in Texas A&M’s favor as well.
If Fisher can lead Texas A&M past Clemson in only his second game of his first season at the helm, it will set up a titanic meeting in the second installment of the Fisher/Saban series two weeks later. The Aggies, of course, don’t have to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa for them to prove anything in year one. Especially if they can beat Clemson early in the season. But if they are able to hang with the Crimson Tide like they did a year ago, it will be clear that the Fisher era could be a legitimate one for a program that has long been built to reach the highest peak of college football but has often come up short.