It’s not profound to say the leash of success for head coaches shortens by the season. Since the Bob Stoops and the Urban Meyers of the world began to take only a couple of years before they were winning national championships, programs have grown unequivocally more impatient with the staffs they hire. This new way of thinking breaks down into three parts. First comes the bumpy first year where every failure can be counted as transition from the former coaches ways to the present. Secondly are the signs of improvement; when the new systems begin to click with the players but not without hitting a couple of rough patches. The third and final stage is the leap--the game or moment when it all clicks. A signature victory that shows the school made the right hire and the program has nowhere to go but up.
In the last decade, Texas A&M has been able to accomplish the first two steps but were never able to make the third. The Franchione era brought a few “leap game” opportunities but all fell extremely short. During Mike Sherman era, the leap seemed to be made in 2010 when 90,000 Aggie fans watched A&M take down top-10 Nebraska. That night seemed to have represented the return to prominence, but that hope quickly diminished in the year that followed in 2011.
That season made for very minimal expectation for A&M’s first year in the SEC. Kevin Sumlin’s system differed extremely from Sherman’s, it seemed natural that it would take time to work out the kinks and take a few lumps in the nation’s most prolific conference. But Sumlin has not only broken that mold, he’s shattered it completely.
Instead of going through the first two steps, Sumlin cheated and started at three. Despite the close calls against Florida and LSU, Texas A&M once again earned another shot to make “the leap” in their next two contests against Mississippi State and Alabama. Talking about the Crimson Tide will come another day, but as for the Bulldogs, when comparing them with the Ags, there are plenty of similarities.
Outside the fact they both share maroon and white, both programs have been down near equal roads in the last three years. In 2010, both schools went 9-4 and earned high expectations for 2011. Both squads disappointed by going 7-6. In 2012, both have made quite an impact—Mississippi State sitting at 7-1 and A&M at 6-2—but still are looking to make a statement that they truly belong with the elite teams of the SEC. The Bulldogs made a big swing and miss against the Crimson Tide last week but look to bounce back against A&M.
Both squads stand in the same path. Come Saturday, it will be determined on that path which team takes the lead.