In a year when SEC coaches on the hot seat haven't done a particularly inspiring job of making good impressions, Texas A&M and coach Kevin Sumlin have quietly put together one of the most impressive seasons to date. The Aggies started the year off with a win over UCLA, and victories at Auburn and Saturday night's 45-24 thumping of Arkansas have since vaulted A&M into the top 10. Considering where this program was nine months ago, it's incredible to believe the Aggies are in the top 25, much less the top 10.
Last December, two former five-star quarterbacks who had struggled last season—Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray—decided to transfer within a week of each other. That left the Aggies with no quarterback on scholarship, and with the look of a program in chaos. Allen, in particular, was critical of the program he left. "I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny [Manziel]'s era there—the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there," he told CBS Sports. "They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny...and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.
"A lot of people were riding off that, 'I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'"
Sumlin, known as a brilliant offensive coach and recruiter, seemed to have worn out his welcome in College Station, where he had gone 8-4, 7-5 and 8-4 since going 10-2 in his first season with the Aggies. But, with the program seemingly in shambles and its coach on a notably hot seat, Texas A&M quietly had a good offseason. The Aggies found a quarterback in Oklahoma graduate transfer Trevor Knight, and the young former five-star recruits that Sumlin landed after his big inaugural season started to come of age. The defense, with the likes of Myles Garrett, has been filthy this year in shutting down three good offenses. On offense, Knight might have the best stable of receivers in the SEC. And suddenly, a coach that seemed bound for Purdue is on track for a top-three finish in the SEC West, and a top-15 ranking to go along with it.
Sumlin still faces some tough questions at Texas A&M. Can his team hold up in a tough SEC West and still get to nine wins? Can he rebound in recruiting after last year's quarterback debacle? Those are big questions, but they're also easier tasks than the one Sumlin was dealt last December. After a better start than any Texas A&M fan could have imagined, at least one hot seat in the SEC has significantly cooled.