“Don’t do it for equality,
do it because we’ve got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling…”
— D.H. Lawrence, “A Sane Revolution.”
Let’s face it. There are times in a world as strictly structured as college football has become when many fans want to see things change for the sake of change, to shake up the existing order. That’s not just college football, of course.
Think of Thanos snapping half the living beings in the universe out of existence in Avengers: Infinity War. Think of Daenerys, with her dragon, reducing King’s Landing to ashes in Game of Thrones. Think of Bachelorette’s Hannah B. doing the same thing to Luke on Monday night by telling him about … well, let’s just say “stuff.” It wasn’t as cataclysmic as the other examples, but the general idea was the same.
So in the college football world, unless you are a fan of Alabama or Clemson or Georgia (maybe Oklahoma and Ohio State as well), the whole season is built on pulling for your team but also hoping that someone, in a gentle way, will snap those contenders out of existence. A tremendous amount of subtext in the neverending “strength of schedule” debate rests on that premise. Yes, people (and the television partners) want big games. But the undercurrent when you hear the phrase “Alabama doesn’t play anybody” is a lament: “Alabama doesn’t play anybody who can beat them.”
There is always the hope, though, that a hero will arise and, to use Lawrence’s phrase, tip over the apple cart. This year’s likeliest candidate is Texas A&M, which faces not just one of the prohibitive favorites, but three: Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. South Carolina also plays those three teams, and has a puncher’s chance with Jake Bentley at quarterback, but it is easier to envision the Aggies breaking through and saying “Howdy, how’d you like a little chaos with that brisket?”
One win against those three might not be enough but two wins and success against the remainder of a schedule that includes LSU and Auburn, and that might place the Aggies squarely into College Football Playoff contention themselves. That’s why I asked Jimbo Fisher at SEC Media Days if he considered describing the 2019 Aggies as “spoilers” would be encouraging or condescending.
“Condescending,” Fisher said, adding a brief pause in his usual rapid-fire delivery before continuing.
“We don’t want to spoil anything. We want to take care of our own. They are great teams. But we expect to play with them and compete with them and win those games. That’s why we’re here. We are not looking to spoil anything. We’re looking to win something and go about our business and do the things we have to do. They are great programs, but Texas A&M can be the same way. We have to go play and prove ourselves and do the things we have to do, but I definitely think we’re on that track.”
A lot will depend on quarterback Kellen Mond, talented but inconsistent last season. This season, he doesn’t lack for confidence, as his response to a question about the SEC’s best quarterbacks showed.
“In my opinion, I’m the best one,” he said. “Not just because I’m a confident person, but I actually believe that.”
Fisher is confident, too, at least enough so to make a joke when asked about Nick Saban’s 16-0 record against his former assistants.
“I’ve never heard that, never, ever heard that before,” said Fisher, a former Saban assistant himself, to the media room’s general amusement.
“As far as Nick goes, what’s it going to take is it’s going to take 60 minutes of football. We all know, Alabama established itself as a great program. Nick is a great coach. What’s it going to take? 60 minutes of great football. You have to line up and play. And more importantly, you have expect to win the game. Don’t hope to win it. You got to expect to win.”
If the Aggies can do that once, they will be a spoiler, no condescension intended. If they do it three times, they may find themselves ushering in a whole new world.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.