Don't write off Texas A&M before the Aggies play Alabama football in upset bid | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

First, it’s a mistake to simply write off Texas A&M, disappointing start or not. For the rest of the 2021 schedule, the Aggies will have a heavyweight puncher’s chance just as Deontay Wilder will have when he steps in the ring for a third bout with Tyson Fury. There is too much talent on the Aggies roster, some of which seems like it has been in College Station since LBJ was riding his ranch in the Hill Country. Isaiah Spiller might be the best running back in the SEC Jalen Wydermeyer certainly might be the best tight end, DeMarvin Leal the best defensive lineman and so on.

But like a heavyweight, not Wilder in particular, but like generations of big punchers who would drop that right hand and leave themselves vulnerable, the fundamentals disappear from time to time and the champ delivers a shot that settles things. And it seems like this is a recurring theme that stretches back beyond Jimbo Fisher’s tenure and into Kevin Sumlin’s as well. The separation between those two coaching regimes is that Texas A&M seemed to on a gradual upswing. Other than Alabama, the Aggies handled the 2020 coronavirus season as well as any SEC team and came fairly close to making the College Football Playoff.

Hope springs eternal in Aggieland, and Fisher parlayed that season into a huge new contract. I’m not sure the money itself bothered the Aggie boosters in a town where millions turn on the price of sweet light crude every day (and it is currently sweet indeed). But money sends a message, and the message in College Station was that waiting was getting old.

Texas A&M Head Coach Jimbo Fisher speaks in the main media room in the Hyatt Regency during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Yet, there will be more waiting. A win over Alabama doesn’t necessarily send Texas A&M to Atlanta. Some of Texas A&M’s problems aren’t going to fix themselves this year, particularly the loss of touted freshman quarterback Haynes King. If it was too early to crown King, the consensus around College Station is that there has been a drop-off. The offensive line is patchwork. Two cornerbacks are hurt.

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There has also been an interesting difference in approach from former Saban assistant Lane Kiffin last week and former Saban assistant Fisher this week. The storyline, with Saban now at 24-0 against those from his coaching tree, is out there and will be until someone finally stops it. But the former assistants don’t come out of a cookie cutter. Say what you will about Kiffin, he played the matchup, personal and game-wise, for all it was worth. 

Fisher is playing, or downplaying, things the other way. 

Oct 2, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III (8) gestures first down after making a catch with Ole Miss defensive back Deane Leonard (24) defending at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama defeated Ole Miss 42-21. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

“Every game (as) a player should be the same,” he said earlier this week. “Your opponents are faceless. It’s great to be in a big game and all that, but you can’t look at that. You have to play the same no matter what you do.” 

Fisher’s point is correct. Saban preaches the same thing but has been better than anyone at implementing it. But when the hallmark of your teams, and those at your school for many years, has been inconsistency, when does the consistency start? And how much of the emotion can you wring out of that along the way? 

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt