The long, hot summer months are fast approaching, and, with spring sports beginning to wind down, Aggieland’s attention begins to turn once again to the Texas A&M Football program. Following the disappointing 2022 campaign, the Aggies are either in the high teens, low twenties, or altogether unranked in most preseason top 25 lists. Perhaps that’s a good thing—Jimbo Fisher’s squad started out ranked 6th each of the last two seasons, and ended the 2021 and 2022 years with records of 8-4 and 5-7, respectively.
The Aggies began the 2020 season, however, ranked 13th, finishing out the year with only one loss, a host of double-digit victories over SEC opponents, an Orange Bowl win, and a top-4 ranking. The last time the Aggies started the season unranked was Fisher’s first season as head man—a season in which the Aggies, for the most part, exceeded expectations.
This season comes at a strange time. After the aforementioned disappointment of last year, Fisher has used up most of the goodwill that came along with the 2020 season and all the highly-ranked recruits he has pulled in. A certain portion of the fanbase consider this upcoming campaign a referendum on Fisher’s job, though it remains to be seen whether the actual decision makers feel the same way. What’s the mark Jimbo needs to reach in order to keep his job? 8 wins? 9? Even 10?
As with anything, the answer needs context. 4 blowout losses are obviously different than 4 close losses. Losing a game in which you are the underdog is different than getting upset. The perception of the numbers in both the win and loss columns, to some, is dictated by the circumstances; others maintain, with apologies to Josh Pate, that you are what your record says you are.
Regardless of context, most Texas A&M football fans agree that 7 wins or below will put Jimbo’s job in serious jeopardy. Others have additional qualifiers: the offense needs to look good, we have to be competitive in this game or that, so on and so forth. Those vary depending on the person, but most put the absolute cutoff at 7 wins or below. With the unforgiving SEC West slate once again staring down this Texas A&M football program, that’s a mark that’s much easier predicted than achieved.
I consider 8 wins the absolute floor for this team. Of course, last season really redefined what “absolute floor” might mean—injuries and off-the-field concerns can certainly throw a monkey wrench into the mix, but as currently constructed, it would be hard for a competent coach to do much worse than that. Though this is something of an unfashionable notion nowadays, I still consider Fisher an above-average coaching talent. The combination of he and Petrino, while doubtless a powder keg in certain respects, could also turn around the offense sooner rather than later. The schedule provides some ramp-up time (pending how certain opponents such as Auburn look early in the season) before the toughest part rolls around. This could be a big year for the Aggies. Or it could be another disappointment. Time will tell, but I’m optimistic. For Jimbo’s sake, I sure hope I’m right.