Labor Day weekends: just a smorgasbord of college football. Injecting kilos into the veins after an eight-month dry spell. And boy, do the Aggies like to do it in style lately. The seasons might not end well, but they’ve sure started out nicely for the past few years. Maybe we should remember what happens when we don’t do so great right out of the gates. What odd correlative trends college football can foster.
2012: WE LIKE IKE
Disappointment rating: Category 1
Set the scene: there was a world of uncertainty in 2012 as we headed into the country’s premier conference with a brand-new coach. The ultimate new era. Now imagine the level of anticipation building up to this season. The season opener was going to be a fun game: a regional matchup with feisty but still-very-should-be-beatable Louisiana Tech. Ease into the season before the first SEC game. Nope, Mother Nature didn’t sign on for that. Hurricane Ike put a halt on those plans and the result was a season-opener that threw the Ags right into the SEC buzzsaw: a narrow loss to eventual Sugar Bowl team Florida with GameDay at Kyle Field. Disappointing start? Yes. But an incredible season.
2013: SUMMER OF JOHNNY
Disappointment rating: 2-quarter suspension
When Autographgate crashed the college football world in 2013, the Aggie Internet divided by zero and imploded infinity times within a galaxy of black holes. The molten carcinogenic fallout from this mountain of dynamite resulted in a flash-burning of the entire world wide web for weeks at 1.4 million degrees centigrade. By the time that August 31st noon kickoff against Rice rolled around and we all sat through Matt Joeckel going through the motions for 30 minutes in the sweltering humidity, the absolute raw emotional fever that had been festering took over as soon as Manziel trotted out on the field with an 18-wheeler-sized chip on his shoulder and started his 2013 brand of reckless gunslinging. His time was limited, but the legend was re-born. That win was chaotic, flashy, and gave up entirely too many points. Just like much of 2013. Not too disappointing a start (although a bit delayed), and a win total we’ve yet to replicate since he left.
2014: THE TRILL IS GONE
Disappointment level: Heisman front-runner
THE VERY FIRST GAME ON THE SEC NETWORK WAS UNRANKED A&M ON THE ROAD AT SPURRIER’S TOP-TEN GAMECOCKS. And the Ags crushed ‘em. Just unleashed hell. Pulverization. Answered all those questions about What To Expect Post-Manziel. It was thorough, dominant, overpowering, clinical football, and Kenny Hill was a conquering hero. This game was the antithesis of disappointment. The emotional high after this game was the polar opposite of the emotional low three months later when we lost to LSU to finish the regular season with only seven wins and the clamor for coaching change was in full roar.
2015: DEVIL WENT DOWN TO HOUSTON
Disappointment level: They Weren’t That Good Anyway
Neutral site games...bleh. But if you’re going to sell out in a featureless corporate NFL hellscape, at least do so close to home against a primo, sexy PAC-12 opponent. Arizona State was a top-15 team headed into this sucker. And the unranked Ags came out and throttled them. A good, sound, beating on the heels of the resurgence of defensive fundamentals under John Chavis and the extraordinary playmaking of Christian Kirk. If anything, this was even more of a surprise than 2014 because we were unexpectedly replacing a quarterback...again. NOT a disappointing win at all, but by the end of the year when both five-star QBs had jumped ship, it had lost almost all of its luster and meaning.
2016: THE EDUCATION OF JOSH ROSEN
Disappointment level: We’ve Seen This Movie Before
First off, Josh Rosen is an excellent QB. He just lost his frame of reference, like a child who wanders into a room, when he made this presser blunder. It got loud. And A&M came out strong. Again. It was tight, and UCLA climbed back into it late to send the game to OT, but Trevor Knight clinched the win with a 1-yard run and set the tone for his gritty, pull-it-out style on the year. Unfortunately he got hurt when we needed that style most, in Starkville, when the entire season came unravelled like a treadless, overinflated tire on a 160-degree desert tarmac. This was a nice way to start the season, but by this point in time we almost knew it wouldn’t last after 2014 and 2015.
The best season we’ve had in the SEC kicked off with a loss, and the most crippling seasons we’ve had have all started out with huge wins over highly-ranked teams that sparked very hot undefeated starts to the season that led to single-digit rankings and eventual excruciating downfalls. Maybe mix it up a little bit this year?
Yes, we may be hedging our bets a little bit and already writing off/making excuses for/otherwise rationalizing whatever may happen in Pasadena the first Sunday in September. Is that lazy and bad? Probably. Shame on us. Is it wrong? We don’t know yet, so why not try? It might not be the worst thing that could happen. Nobody wants to lose, but keeping a little bit of perspective open as an option is always a good idea.