Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin
New coaches, a new conference, new quarterback, new-found success and a soon-to-be remodeled and expanded Kyle Field have elevated Texas A&M from punchline to potential power in just its second year in the SEC.
With that comes a new mindset—a championship mindset.
When presented with a ticket from the 1940 Sugar Bowl—the last time Texas A&M won a national championship—by a fan looking for another title ticket this season, Sumlin did his best to temper expectations after a stellar 11-2 season in his first season in College Station.
"This is a team that didn't play in a BCS game," Sumlin said. "It's a good place to start, but it's not a good place to end."
That is the right mindset to have as a coach, because it prevents players from thinking too big. But this situation is different.
The Aggies return a ton of talent, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, and have a schedule that sets up with a title run. They have two tune-ups before hosting Alabama in Week 3 and have bye weeks before road trips to Ole Miss and LSU.
Coaches handle expectations in a variety of ways, and Sumlin is clearly taking the humble—and proper—approach from a coaching perspective.
This is a new team, and this new team is 0-0 with no proven track record of success.
But what fun is that?
Sumlin better get used to hearing it from fans, because those high expectations are going to persist this offseason and into the season—especially if the Aggies are able to topple the Tide in Week 3.
Texas A&M's 11-2 record, 29-24 upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10 and Manziel's record-setting season laid a foundation for what could be a new era of Aggie football. If that new era includes championships aspirations, don't hide from it or downplay it—embrace it.
Texas A&M is in a very interesting spot as a program.
That "sliver down the east side of Texas" that Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds referred to when knocking the impact of A&M in the SEC last year looked pretty large this spring when ESPN came to town for the Aggie spring game.
How should Texas A&M handle high expectations?
With Texas still down and the platform that the SEC provides, the door to gain a foothold not only as a state power but to become a true national power is wide open.
You know it. I know it. Sumlin knows it. Everyone in the country knows it, save for a few in Austin.
Sure, downplaying expectations is a motivational ploy, and coaches use this tactic to keep their players focused on the prize and fans humble.
But this Texas A&M team is different. It played with the confidence of a championship team down the stretch last season. While several key pieces may not be the same this year, the foundation remains intact.
Sumlin and the rest of the Aggie staff better embrace high expectations, because they aren't going away anytime soon.