For the first time in his tenure, Mack Brown's team is not the top dog in Texas. How will he respond?
Even in the offseason, the Aggies are the hottest college football team in Texas and it is not even close. But that does not mean that the Texas Longhorns and their fans need to be worried about surrendering their status as the state's top program. Not yet at least.
Over the past year, between hiring head coach Kevin Sumlin and hauling in the nation's No. 8 recruiting class, the Texas A&M Aggies have made one of the most mercurial rises we have seen in the past decade. During that span the Ags made an 11-2 SEC debut—highlighted by defeating the eventual national champs—added a Heisman winner in Johnny Manziel and even stole a top commit from their former in-state rivals.
It is safe to say that the Aggies are back among the nation's top 25 programs and are there to stay. However, one year is not a trend and they still have some work to do before they can say they have caught the Longhorns.
Sure the 'Horns have struggled the past three seasons, but over the past decade they have posted seven consecutive 10-win seasons, seven top-10 recruiting classes and three BCS bowl victories, including a national championship. During that same span, the Aggies have only finished with a better record than the 'Horns twice and only out-recruited them once.
Not to dwell on the past, but Texas has built itself quite the resume while A&M is just not at their level yet. Even presently, the Aggies are not as far ahead as many believe.
Though the Longhorns struggled mightily at times in 2012, they were still able to churn out a top-20 finish. They also brought in two consecutive top-five recruiting classes in 2011 and 2012, and have played 34 of those 50 commits over the past two seasons to set the foundation for the future. This is also why the 'Horns were only able to bring in 15 commits in this year's No. 15 recruiting class, as they only had 16 available scholarships.
Many will also point to the fact that Texas lost five recruits this go-around, including top wideout Ricky Seals-Jones, to none other than the Ags themselves. But Seals-Jones was the only decommit that left for A&M, and he was one of only four players offered a scholarship to Texas to choose College Station over Austin. Ironically, that's the same number that picked Ohio State instead of Texas. Meanwhile, eight Aggie offers opted to join the Longhorns.
Also do not be surprised if we see the Aggies take a step back in 2013. Manziel and Co. will have a massive target on their backs after what they did in 2012, and they will have to handle that pressure without potential top-five picks Luke Joeckel and Damontre Moore. They can still have a great season, but the Ags will no longer have the element of surprise.
Still A&M is doing all the right things to move into the forefront that Texas once occupied. For that matter, so are a lot of the programs in the nation as they take prospects right out of the Longhorns' backyard. In short, it is time for the Mack Brown and his staff to get out of this funk, and start winning football games.
No, the Longhorns do not need to worry about the Aggies making them an afterthought in their own state. But the Aggies and the rest of the nation have laid down a formidable challenge, and the time is now for the 'Horns to answer the bell.