DALLAS — After a game that saw two teams go blow for blow in five quarters during Saturday’s Southwest Classic AT&T Stadium, it’s seemingly unfathomable to say there’s more confusion now that there was before kickoff.
That, however, is the current state of affairs in Aggieland and the Southeastern Conference.
In recent years, the Aggies and Razorbacks have battled for the third and fourth spot in an uber-competitive SEC West that contains the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss.
Alabama and Auburn did what they were supposed to do against the less able Vanderbilt Commodore and Missouri Tiger teams. Thoroughly dominate all three phases of football for four quarters en route to respective 59-0 and 51-14 wins. It took Texas A&M, arguably the conference’s third-best team, nine fewer points than the Crimson Tide scored to top a resurgent Arkansas team — albeit sans four points after a botched whistle erased Kellen Mond’s should-have-been 89-yard touchdown scamper and forced a consolidation field goal.
While No.1 Alabama and No. 2 Auburn extinguished any fires of controversy surrounding where they stood in the conference, Texas A&M’s performance only handed pundits a mixed bag of statements and questions about how ready they are to compete in one of the toughest conferences in college football.
Especially after needing a rally to knock off the University of Louisiana at Lafayette a week earlier on Sept. 16 at Kyle Field.
Here are five observations that may help decipher the maroon and white magic 8-Ball that is Aggie Football in 2017.
1. Kellen Mond is for real
If there was ever a perfect scenario to proclaim himself King of Aggie Mountain, leading Texas A&M to an overtime win was pretty close.
It was more than Mond’s 14 for 27 passing and 216 yards through the air or another 109 on the ground. It was his poise in the pocket, ability to turn almost first downs into big gains for an offense struggling to keep pace with a suddenly explosive Razorback offense.
It was the way he needed less than a minute to escape the pocket, find Christian Kirk streaking down the right sideline, and rifle a bullet into the hands of the pass catcher for an 81-yard score.
It was the way in which he was the loudest person on the sideline after Kirk’s backbreaking, 100-yard kickoff return that gave the Aggies a four-point lead with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter or his calm, savvy, and ice water-like composure before, during, and after his 10-yard game-winning pass to Kirk in overtime.
2. Aggies marked the end of the QB carousel
In the 2017 offseason, there was much ado about where and to whom Head Coach Kevin Sumlin would turn his offense over to after the departure of Kenny Hill (now at TCU), Kyle Allen (now at Houston), and Texas high school legend Kyler Murray (now at Oklahoma).
Sumlin inadvertently strengthened the Big 12 and American Athletic Conferences, while leaving the cupboard in College Station seemingly bare. In the
Mond’s 433 yards and four touchdowns at a 50 completion percentage clip in two games may show the Aggies’ scavenging bore fruit.
3. Arkansas might be the third best team in the SEC
Some have already pegged Alabama and Auburn to finish neck-and-neck in the SEC’s final standings come bowl season. In pushing one of the conference’s best teams to the brink of defeat, however, the Razorbacks showed how far they’ve come from the “conference win guarantee” they were before Bret Bielema inherited an Arkansas team coming off a 4-8 season in 2013.
Bielema and the Razorbacks upset No. 17 LSU 17-0 and No. 8 Ole Miss 30-0 and earned a Texas Bowl berth in 2015. Despite the loss of a returning 1,190-yard running back to a season-ending injury, Arkansas caught fire winning six of its final seven games — including one against former mentor Bill Snyder and Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Arkansas may not have upended Texas A&M, but one thing is certain. Scheduling the Razorbacks — on the road or at home — is a cake walk no longer.
4. The force is strong in the SEC
It’s not a shot in the dark to predict Alabama will be one of the four teams competing for a national title in late December, but the presence of brooding talent in the SEC’s other teams — Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Tennesee, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss to name a few — threatens to shift seed power from the rest of the Power 5 Conferences.
Alabama’s blowout of Vandy was one example. LSU’s 9-point win against Syracuse in Baton Rouge was another.
Clemson will surely make its bid, as will the Big Ten with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, the Pac-12 with USC and the Big 12 with either Oklahoma or TCU, but the greater collective strength may lie in the SEC.
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of Texas HS Football. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.
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