Texas A&M has exploded onto the scene in the SEC and is threatening to become a perennial national college football power.
Did the SEC awaken a sleeping giant?
Think about it. The Aggies have everything – location, recruiting, branding and leadership, and all the pieces are seemingly in place for Texas A&M to become a yearly staple on the national scene, not just a one-hit wonder.
The Aggies’ brand is – for the moment – shinier and more attractive than Texas’, and the Aggies are proving that on the recruiting trail. Texas A&M jumped back into the No. 1 slot yesterday after nabbing the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class in Kyle Allen.
Backed by the SEC brand and an extremely rowdy and dedicated fan base, is Texas A&M ready to become a yearly force?
Getting to the top is much easier than staying on top. Just ask Urban Meyer. And it will be tough to duplicate the success we saw last year, even with Johnny Manziel returning for another sexy and creative season.
Here are the three biggest potential threats to the Aggies not becoming a perennial contender:
One of the biggest threats to any perennial national power within college football is parity. Yes, Alabama is right now the biggest dynasty we’ve seen in many years. LSU and Auburn are two other teams even within the Aggies’ own division that have won national championships in the last six years. But teams like Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas can slip up and beat perennial powers on any given year, not to mention the Aggies’ new 2014 cross-divisional rivals South Carolina is at the height of their program under Steve Spurrer. Why? Recruits are staying home more than in years past, thus creating legit parity within the national landscape. Backed by the SEC brand, all programs are playing that power card. A great example is Kentucky. They are recruiting better than ever before. Much of it has to do with a new head coach, but it’s largely due to Mark Stoops’ SEC platform. No longer do players get national exposure at certain college powers; they get it at local state U. Figure in the attractiveness of playing against the country’s best competition, and it only becomes more alluring. To stay on top, the Aggies have to beat Alabama and LSU on a yearly basis to even win their own division. That’s a major threat in itself.
While the Aggies have an SEC monopoly on the state of Texas, the Longhorns aren’t going away. After all, they’ve been the state’s historical power and won a national championship just eight years ago, the last non-SEC program to hoist the crystal ball. And you know the Horns will always recruit well in state. But after 2009, the program hasn’t had a pulse, and Mack Brown is on the hot seat entering 2013, creating a beautiful collision for Texas A&M’s entrance into the SEC. Texas will rise again, and it only matters how far ahead the Aggies are when that happens. Even if Mack Brown gets canned, it has to be unsettling for Texas knowing the Aggies have a top five coach in the country.
3. Johnny Manziel
Are we underestimating how much of an impact Johnny Manziel has made at Texas A&M? A single player like Manziel, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton can win games themselves. A perfect example is the rise and fall of Auburn. The pre-Cam Newton year was 8-5, and the post-Cam Newton year was 8-5, leading to Gene Chizik’s firing this past year. But for that one moment in history, the Tigers captured a 14-0 season, a Heisman Trophy and a BCS National Championship. Obviously, the Aggies are in a much better place to recruit top talent in the fertile grounds of Texas, and Sumlin is a much better coach, but Auburn has finished top five in recruiting nearly every year, despite being below average recently. Very few players can have the type of impact that can make a program dominant, but Manziel is certainly that type of player. And let me remind you – Manziel’s eligibility doesn’t last forever, and he could depart as early as after this year.
Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell