Moments after his surprising, dramatically improved A&M team had just finished walloping No. 15 Mississippi State 38-13, Kevin Sumlin ran toward the maroon throng of people still going bonkers at Davis Wade Stadium and flung his white visor into the crowd, like a bride flinging a bouquet.
The lucky fan who caught it held onto it with the grip of death, like she had caught a drumstick at a sold-out rock concert.
To A&M fans after just nine games, Sumlin is a rock star.
The long-suffering, loyal-to-a-fault fanbase has every reason to laud their new head man. Sumlin has changed an entire mindset. His confidence – heck, his cockiness – has rubbed off on his players in a way that they play like they truly believe they're going to win every time they step on the field – big, bad SEC be damned.
That's been the biggest change in the past eight months. College football, more so than professional, hinges so much on emotion. Sumlin gets that aspect of it.
He has A&M football on the rise, competing in year one in the preeminent conference in America, headed for a potential 10-win season and Cotton Bowl berth.
Long a sleeping giant, this program has one of the country's best, brightest and most boastful at the helm.
Now, let's get to some thoughts from Mississippi State and moving towards one of the more hyped Aggie football games in recent memory – against No. 1 Alabama.
-For the sixth consecutive game, A&M scored a touchdown on its first offensive drive. Much of the credit has to go to Kliff Kingsbury, who scripts the first drive like any other coordinator. A&M comes out firing on all cylinders, looks confident in the gameplan and the results speak for themselves. But a lot of the credit has to go to Manziel and the speed of this offense. It is impossible to replicate that in practice during the week with a scout team.
-That aspect of the game will be huge Saturday in Tuscaloosa. 'Bama, on the heels of an emotionally draining, physical win over LSU, may take a few series to get its bearings against a team with such a contrast in style. If A&M is to do the unthinkable and defeat the Tide, they have to get out to a fast start – much like they've done all season long.
-I don't think A&M could have had a better outcome in Baton Rouge this weekend. Had LSU won, I'd give the Aggies zero chance to win in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban-coached teams, especially ones this talented, don't lose two in a row. Not only did 'Bama win, but they got beat up for 60 minutes. Eddie Lacy is nursing a gimpy leg. And the entire looked physically and emotionally drained at about 11 p.m. Saturday night. Conversely, A&M's starters got to relax in the fourth quarter – a week after being able to rest during an entire second half.
-Lost in the blowout win over State was Manziel's performance through the air. He went 30-for-36 and didn't turn the football over. I don't care who you're playing, that's impressive. But to do it against the No. 15 team in the nation, on the road, as a freshman? That's unbelievable.
-The kicking situation was big in getting A&M beat against LSU. In Tuscaloosa, in a game that will assuredly be competitive, it will again be an issue. Taylor Bertolet is struggling mightily, but I don't know if the Aggies have another option. He's 3-for-8 on field goals in his last three contests. And the one he did make Saturday – a 24-yarder – could best be described as “questionable.” He had one blocked that barely got off the ground and he badly pushed a 43-yarder. I don't know if the struggles are mental, physical or both, but A&M is going to dearly need as many points as they can when trying to pull an upset Saturday.
- A great statistic is that Sumlin already has more SEC West wins as Dan Mullen – in his third season at Mississippi State. And Sumlin already has as many conference wins as Tennessee's Derek Dooley.
- After another outrageous performance, Manziel is on pace to put up more total yards than both Cam Newton and Tim Tebow did during their Heisman Trophy seasons. He's on pace to, literally, have the greatest single season of any quarterback in the history of this prestigious conference. And he's still not guaranteed a trip to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman? Really? If he, somehow, leads a miraculous win over 'Bama, he has to vault to the top of the Heisman list, doesn't he? I say, yes.
- Oregon is outrageously good. The Ducks against the Tide would be an epic national championship.
- Starkville is something else. A cool place with cool people and a really cool atmosphere. Those cowbells make an insane amount of noise.
- I liked the all-black uniforms and loved the helmets. You also can't argue with the team's performance coming out of the gate.
- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger gave A&M somewhat of a blueprint as to how to attack this incredibly fast and physical Alabama defense. The much-maligned transfer threw for nearly 300 yards Saturday, showing that when the Tide go man coverage, they're susceptible. Saban said today that they're going to come after Manziel relentlessly, meaning he's going to have to trust his arm and his receivers greatly.