The Boulevard—SMU's fashionable, friendly, alcoholic front door—isn't really the place for slogans. Or really anything that requires more than a tent, a collar, and some sort of lace-accoutred date willing to drag around a cooler.
After high-fiving Biff the 4th over his apparent Iowa money-line cover, we slowly filed into Ford Stadium, where it quickly became apparent that: 1. Holy shit it was hot, and 2. SMU might be the worst FBS school we've ever seen in person, so let's take advantage of those in-game beer sales.
It was hard to tell much about the Aggies in Dallas this past week, then again it has been hard to convey any certainties about this A&M team post-South Carolina as Lamar, Rice, and SMU haven't exactly been swimming in 'others receiving' land. As injuries have forced mix-and-match lineups, especially on the defensive side of the ball, both players and fans alike have increasingly found their attention wandering to an SEC West gauntlet that currently features 6 (!) teams ranked in the AP top 17.
The challenge begins this weekend in Arlington, as the SEC's rage-iest, obese-iest muppet leads the Razorbacks into battle. The Arkansas head man may not be invited to your next pool party or have any idea how modern headgear works but if my life depends on scheming up a run game, I'm immediately calling Bret Bielema and then finding a gun, because what a completely ridiculous existential situation.
Meanwhile, yesterday in College Station Kevin Sumlin repeated the mantra he has trumpeted since arriving as head coach: It's about us.
"The focus, for us, it's really not coachspeak, it's on us."
For proof that Sumlin believes this down to the very core of his being, feel free to read any transcript of any interview the man has ever done, and a careful reader will find that phrase buried underneath the smirk almost 100% of the time.
Or, for the more simple minded among us, just walk into the locker room.
It's about us. Grind together. Shine together. @AggieFootball is all about the team. #wrts #teamadidas pic.twitter.com/CdvWNxxDtz— adidas Football US (@adidasFballUS) September 14, 2014
And it does ring true, especially in a world of dealing with 18 to 22 year olds, and social media, and ESPN,
and Tinder, and everything else that threatens whatever vague notions of unity and togetherness exist in most coaches minds.
However, this year, there's another reason Sumlin is constantly preaching the gospel of us: he knows his team is good. And potentially, really good. This team's ceiling has yet to be ascertained, but in a college football season where nobody looks unbeatable so far, the A&M coaches know the chance is in front of them to sneak into the playoffs a year ahead of schedule.
Even with the rugged nature of the 2014 SEC West on full display, there are noticeable flaws scattered throughout. Arkansas appears to be a couple of recruiting cycles away from competing for the league title. Mississippi State, though greatly improved, gave up over 430 yards passing to UAB and is still working on flame-resistant cornerbacks. Carl Lawson's injury has exposed a weak Auburn pass-rush, and Alabama still doesn't look built to defend a spread offense. Ole Miss looks feisty, but you can't convince me that Hugh Freeze isn't a self-combusting robot; meanwhile in Baton Rouge the combination of early NFL entries, and Anthony Jennings sporting the accuracy of a blind Jackson Pollock have led to what may be a season in transition.
Now, does this mean A&M runs the table? For the sake of a bet I made while heavily inebriated last March, sure - but in reality the youth of the defensive line, the injuries at linebacker, and the shakiness of the secondary will probably conspire to let the team down a time or two.
On the other hand, this is arguably the best offense in college football, led by two of the brightest offensive minds around in Jake Spavital and Sumlin, so who knows? Starting Saturday, A&M is down to eight opportunities to convince pollsters and opponents that it really is about the guys in College Station. Enjoy the ride, little motto.