Is Mississippi State the biggest game of Sumlin’s career?


Kevin Sumlin has amassed a 32-11 record (just shy of 75%) since taking over for Mike Sherman as the Head Coach at Texas A&M. The Purdue graduate has made assistant coaching stops at his alma mater as well as schools like Washington State, Minnesota,

Oct 19, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin is interviewed by CBS reporter Tray Wolfson (right) before the game against the Auburn Tigers at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M, and Oklahoma before landing his first head coaching job at Houston and then in College Station.

Kevin Sumlin is no stranger to big games, partcipating in many bowls as both a player and coach – including the 2004 National Championship game – and has coached several Heisman winners in Sam Bradford and Johnny Manziel.

His regime at A&M has been wildly successful, and he has coached in numerous  nationally relevant contests since taking over in 2012. Many think of A&M’s victory over top-ranked and eventual National Champion Alabama in 2012 and drubbing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl later that season. The Aggies also went toe-to-toe with the Tide the following year in perhaps the biggest game Kyle Field had even seen. Texas A&M also knocked Auburn out of the Playoff Picture last year with a road victory and beat an Arizona State team that some predicted would make the College Football Playoff. Yet…

This week’s game against Mississippi State might be the most important of Kevin Sumlin’s career.

Perhaps a more accurate statement is that the next three games (vs. Mississippi State, vs. Alabama, and at Ole Miss) are DEFINITELY the most crucial to date for Kevin Sumlin, but seeing as Mississippi State is widely considered the weakest of the bunch, a win this Saturday at Kyle Field is truly the only option for the Aggies and their program changing Head Coach.

DISCLAIMER: This isn’t a speculation that if the Aggies don’t get a win over the Bulldogs, Kevin Sumlin will be on the hot seat. That is absolutely ridiculous to think of even as I mention it. I firmly believe that Kevin Sumlin is the man that will bring Texas A&M it’s first National Championship since World War II. Realistically, if the Aggies win on Saturday, then Sumlin’s Aggies will play in even bigger games as this very season progresses.

Oct 12, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) advances the ball during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Texas A&M Aggies defeated the Mississippi Rebels 41-48. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M took the world by storm by winning eleven games in 2012, winning a Heisman Trophy and finishing in the top 5. Since the severely underrated senior class that season departed, the Aggies have posted 9 and 8 win seasons, very good considering the competition but not quite at the heights achieved by Johnny Football in his Heisman year. Now, the Aggies are no longer a team made up of Sherman’s players – In Year 4 of the Sumlin era, the Aggies are a team led almost exclusively by players lured to College Station by the master-recruiter Kevin Sumlin himself. Kyle Allen, Tra Carson, Josh Reynolds, Christian Kirk, Avery Gennessy, Myles Garret, Otaro Alaka, Armani Watts, and Brandon Williams are all of Sumlin’s players. He also hired John Chavis away from LSU. This is now officially Sumlin’s team.

His Aggies are 4-0, and are hovering comfortably in the Top 15 of both the AP and Coaches Poll with a chance to jump into the top 10 with an impressive showing. The 21 point win over Arizona State doesn’t look nearly as shiny after USC took the Sun Devils to the woodshed this past week, and it is difficult to understand just how good the Aggies are after a narrow victory last Saturday.

While Mississippi State is in a perceived “down year”, the truth is the Bulldogs are less than a year removed from spending a good portion of the season as the #1 team in the land, and return more talent than people realize outside of QB Dak Prescott. Dan Mullen’s team is a quiet 3-1, with a road win at Auburn, and were a missed field goal away from beating a nationally ranked LSU team that was riding the back of Leonard Fournette.

This Mississippi State team isn’t as good as it was last year, but last year’s was good enough to beat just about anybody. A win on Saturday is much more crucial than most people realize, particularly the typical fan who is already looking towards the Alabama game on the 17th of October or the Ole Miss game the following week. Beating the Bulldogs has to happen for those games to matter.

Sep 26, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) looks to pass during the first quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Not to mention Saturday will be the first “Big Game” at the new Kyle Field. The Aggies have posted a positive road record in the SEC, but have yet to record a big win at home. Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Florida, and Auburn have all bested the Aggies on their home turf over the past three seasons, and Texas A&M needs Kyle Field to be among the most daunting venues to play football in the nation. Winning games is even more important when there are over 100,000 fans watching. Saturday will be the first Top-25 game at the new Kyle Field, and only the fifth since joining the SEC. The Aggies are 0-4 in those games.

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen (10) runs out to the field before playing against the Arizona State Sun Devils at NRG Stadium. Aggies won 38 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If the Aggies win on Saturday, they will likely make a small but significant jump in the polls, and reaffirm their status as elite. Depending on how Alabama fares in Athens against Georgia, the next contest against the Crimson Tide could receive College Game Day treatment.

But, if the Aggies fall to a team in the middle tier of the SEC West, it will again appear as if Texas A&M remains a year away from being a true contender.

I don’t believe that is the case, and think the Aggies have as good a chance to win the SEC as anybody this season, but for that to occur, Texas A&M needs a win in what is to date the most vital game of Kevin Sumlin’s career.

This game won’t be remembered as such, as Kevin Sumlin is destined for greater things during his tenure in College Station. Even if the Ags lose, Sumlin will still field a championship caliber team and play in bigger games at some point in the future. But win, and the Aggies will move on to bigger things right now, and Sumlin’s next “Biggest Game of His Career” could be as early as this month.

But he has to win this one first.

Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen meets Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin midfield after the game at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 48-31. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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