The Texas A&M Aggies’ meteoric rise grew into one of the 2012 college football’s biggest stories for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the skepticism about their ability to compete in the SEC. Forget pundits – I suspect that if you asked A&M fans before the season, a vast majority would have considered seven wins or so a successful year.
Win 10 games and beat Alabama? Dream on.
In the course of 12 games, however, new coach Kevin Sumlin, Heisman-winning freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the rest of A&M’s overachievers have completely changed the dynamic around the program. The discussion no longer revolves around whether or not the Aggies can survive in the SEC, but instead whether or not Sumlin is building a monster in College Station.
You don’t need to look beyond A&M’s upcoming date with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl to understand just how much things have changed for the Aggies in the last few months.
The Vegas oddsmakers have installed A&M as a three-point favorite over OU. That doesn’t happen often. The Sooners were favored in 12 of their previous 13 meetings with the Aggies as Big 12 South foes, the lone exception being Bob Stoops’ first season as head coach (1999).
In fact, prior to this game, the Sooners have been underdogs a total of 20 times in Stoops’ 14 years as head coach. That’s what tends to happen when you’ve been as successful as OU has under Stoops. It also means that his teams have played in plenty of – for lack of a better term – games that people give a shit about. Showcases against teams like Notre Dame and Florida State. Games between top five teams in the Red River Shootout. Conference championships. BCS bowls.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, has spent the last 14 years living outside the spotlight. Games that people give a shit about have been few and far between. The Aggies’ biggest moments, such as the upset of Alabama, have come when no one expects them. Hell, that’s what has made this entire season so special for A&M.
Friday night’s game is a different proposition. Playing the underdog card is tough when you’re not even an underdog, let alone when your Heisman-winning quarterback is getting the rock star treatment around town and golfing with the Jonas Brothers.
It may sound like a cliche, but Sumlin has earned deserved praise for changing the culture of A&M football. His job changed in the last month, though. His team is living with the spoils of success, not just trying to prove themselves.
The Sooners are accustomed to people are giving a shit about their games. We’ll find out at JerryWorld if the Aggies are ready for people to start giving a shit about theirs.