Maybe we jumped the gun and were a year or two early.
Hindsight is 20-20. Life looks better in the rearview mirror than through the windshield. Whatever cliché you choose, the point seems obvious now.
Texas A&M isn’t the contender it was made out to be.
And that’s no fault of the Aggies, no matter how many faults were exposed by Arkansas.
If Texas A&M is guilty of anything, it’s being almost good enough last year. The Aggies were on the verge of the College Football Playoff, and many in maroon bemoaned being left out in favor of Notre Dame.
Those arguments for the Aggies in were valid in many cases, though let’s assume here that A&M likely suffers the same fate as the Golden Domers in the semifinals. Being left out of the final four is likely why the Aggies ended up ranked in the top four.
That success served as a springboard of expectations into 2021. The No. 5 preseason ranking seemed about right until the warts, relatively speaking, started to show over the last few weeks and an injury hit at the most important position.
Losing quarterback Haynes King hurts. It hurts a lot. But is there any reason to believe he would have been the difference Saturday at Jerry World? Remember, Haynes is also a freshman and a first-year starter playing behind a rebuilt/subpar offensive line.
King could have been part of a loss just as easily as Zach Calzada was. A new quarterback with suspect blockers isn't ideal for Big Boy SEC ball.
The reality is A&M is a solid program positioned for greatness under Jimbo Fisher. The recruiting pipeline is pumping. There’s Sunday talent all across the current roster.
After Saturday’s 20-10 loss to the Razorbacks, Fisher talked about learning what his players “can and cannot do, and get them to do it.” Isaiah Spiller and DeMarvin Leal talked about attention to detail and focus in practice.
That sounds like a young team still growing and finding itself. Typically, those teams don’t compete for national championships.
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“We’re all in it together,” Fisher said. “Got to play better and got to coach together.”
To expect an SEC title and playoff berth this year was probably unfair, no matter how much the Aggies were saying that themselves or where they sat in preseason rankings. Everyone circled Alabama as the conference game of the year before the season’s first kick.
While that made sense, these Aggies should be circling the Tide in 2022 or 2023. This season should be about getting needed reps for players that should put A&M in position to compete for titles in years to come.
It seems so clear now, in the rearview, that A&M is a victim of the college football offseason hype machine. Great programs can have just good teams some years. Clemson and Ohio State are feeling that now.
There’s no shame in that, and through that lens, a loss such as the one to Arkansas isn’t a disappointment.
It’s the reality of where the Aggies are right now. Not where they can be.
That in no way makes it a lost season. The A&M defense, despite being blitzed early by breakdowns and poor tackling against the Hogs, remains a strength. Giving up 20 points in college football today is no sin. That’ll lead to more wins than not.
Playmakers also abound on the offensive side. Whether it’s King or Calzada or someone else taking snaps, they’ll be more effective with a cohesive and punishing o-line. Four new starters in 2021 could morph into five returning starters in 2022.
Maybe the Aggies bounce back this week and beat Mississippi State. Maybe A&M finishes this season 9-4. Perhaps 10-3 or better. Whatever the final record is, this season should more of a launching point than 9-1 was last season.
Maybe then, they’ll all be right.
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