The outcome of Texas A&M's season opener against Florida won't define the Aggies' first SEC season.
By ANTHONY ANDROFS Southwest
Big time college football is nothing new at Texas A&M.
Aggies have a national championship to their credit, although it came way back in 1939. They have a Heisman Trophy winner too, but that came more than 50 years ago courtesy of the then fleet-footed John David Crow.
What they'll have Saturday when they make their SEC debut is an entire country watching to see how the Aggies perform in the nation's best conference. Texas A&M hosts Florida in a nationally-televised game at Kyle Field in what's arguably the most anticipated season ever in Aggieland.
The media requests for the game rival that of the 1999 Texas A&M-Texas game that followed the Bonfire tragedy. The reason everyone wants to see this game is to see how the Aggies stack up against the big boys.
That's great, but it's also important to keep Saturday's sellout at Kyle Field in perspective -- it's just one game on a 12-game schedule.
Whether or not the Aggies open the season with a win over a nationally-ranked opponent won't change the fact that A&M starts a stretch of 12 games in 12 weeks Saturday.
It won't change the fact that for the first time since World War II, the Aggies are starting a season opener with a freshman quarterback in redshirt Johnny Manziel. It won't change the fact that the Aggies are doing this all with a new coaching regime headed by offensive wizard Kevin Sumlin.
No Saturday's going to come and go and there will be a lot more SEC football in the future for Texas A&M. Pacing themselves may their best bet.
"The energy level at our university is as high as it's ever been and we're looking forward to playing Saturday," Sumlin said.
The Aggies have to hope that same energy level next weekend when they play SMU or later in the month when they host South Carolina State and Arkansas.
So much has been made about the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC and whether or not they belong, every game will be scrutinized as if the Aggies were playing Texas every weekend.
That kind of excitement is hard to temper.
"Our fans, our former students, our current students are excited," Sumlin said. "There's a real buzz around here. When you're on a campus with 50,000 students, people are letting them know that they're excited about seeing them play Saturday."
The good news for the Aggies is that while few people them to compete with the likes of Alabama or LSU for the SEC title, there's no reason to think they won't be able to hold their own.
Getting off to a good start Saturday would go a long way towards showing they belong.
Offensively that shouldn't be a problem.
Manziel wasn't given the starting quarterback job. He won it by beating out Jameill Showers, who played some for the Aggies last year. Running back Christine Michael is back and healthy after tearing his left ACL last season. Receiver Ryan Swope is one of the top pass catchers in the conference. A&M returns eight starters on offense, including four on the offensive line.
The biggest questions around the Aggies center around their inexperience and their defense. Sumlin isn't the only new face in Aggieland. Texas A&M has 17 first-year players on its two-deep roster, including 10 true freshmen.
The Aggies allowed more than 28 points a game during a disappointing 7-6 season in 2011 and allowed more than 378 yards a game. That was in a pass-happy Big 12 Conference though. In the SEC, the Aggies are going to have to be more physical if they are going to be able to keep pace in conference play.
Saturday isn't going to make or break the season for A&M despite the fact that everyone's watching and everything that happens against the Gators will be under a different microscope.
A big-time microscope, which is just fine with the Aggies.