Bowl season is upon us, which means it's time for teams to generate offseason momentum based on bowl results, players returning to school and make impressions on coaches who may have new addressees in 2015.
Texas A&M generated some momentum on Monday, topping West Virginia 45-37 in the Liberty Bowl in a game that featured quarterback Kyle Allen growing up before the eyes of the world and a defense that, for the first time in a long time, made halftime adjustments.
Could the Aggies make a playoff run in 2015?
That question and more are answered in this week's SEC Q&A.
A playoff run? For Texas A&M?
It may seem crazy considering where the program is, but, as I wrote in mid-November, it's not the craziest idea in the world. Allen was a stud on Monday against West Virginia, and most of his skill-position players are coming back. If the play-calling from offensive coordinator Jake Spavital improves, it should avoid the prolonged lulls that plagued the offense in 2014.
Depending on whom head coach Kevin Sumlin hires as his new defensive coordinator, an immediate turnaround wouldn't be out of the question. Everybody knows about defensive end Myles Garrett, but other young stars on that side of the ball showed out against the Mountaineers, including linebacker Otaro Alaka—who had seven tackles.
Sumlin has done a great job laying the foundation for success with solid recruiting classes every year since getting the job prior to the 2012 season. The problem has been the inability to coach them up, but the dismissal of defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is a step in the right direction.
It's premature to put the Aggies into the playoff discussion right now. Would it shock me if we could do that by October of 2015? Not at all. All Sumlin has to do is press the right buttons and A&M will take the next step. Unfortunately for A&M fans, though, by pressing the wrong buttons, the program could easily remain in SEC West anonymity.
Carson Hagood @chagood54
@BarrettSallee how much of a difference does Duke Williams' return have on Auburn's 2015 season?2014-12-30 01:38:52
D'haquille "Duke" Williams, Auburn's leading receiver, won't play in the Outback Bowl due to a violation of team rules, but he will be back for his senior season on the Plains, according to Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com.
His return means that Auburn's offense won't miss a beat, and likely will be even better than it has been in head coach Gus Malzahn's first two seasons at the helm.
Williams caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns this season. More importantly, he was a machine on third down with 17 catches—15 of which moved the chains. He was quarterback Nick Marshall's go-to guy in the clutch, and likely will fill the same role next season when Jeremy Johnson takes over at quarterback.
On top of that, Auburn gets Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis and several other key receivers back to join him, which should boost the Tigers passing game under Johnson—who's a much more polished passer than Marshall.
Couple that with an offensive system that has produced 12 1,000-yard rushers in Malzahn's nine seasons as a college head or assistant coach, and the Tigers will be much more balanced than they have been in previous seasons
Williams' return gives Johnson a reliable weapon that he can trust, which will keep Auburn in contention for the SEC West and potentially help Johnson make a run for the Heisman Trophy.
James Carlin @GatorJJC
@BarrettSallee should Gator fans be worried about how few recruits we have at this point?2014-12-30 01:39:39
Yeah, for sure. Anytime Florida is below Florida Atlantic and South Florida in the 247Sports.com team recruiting rankings, that's a problem.
Is it worth freaking out over? Not yet. It was a season of turmoil in Gainesville, and prospects knew that a coaching change could be in the mix. Can you blame top prospects like offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson for waiting to see how it plays out?
Not at all.
New head coach Jim McElwain is still assembling his staff, and once the dead period ends, he and his staff will hit the ground running to try to reel in some of the 5-star talent that's on the board. Florida only has eight commits, which means it is set up to be the team that closes the strongest down the stretch.
Will Florida land in the top five in the final recruiting rankings? No, and that shouldn't be the goal.
McElwain needs to get what he can—including the three players mentioned above—fill specific needs and do enough to keep pace with the big boys this year.
Transition years are never fun, but if Florida can become this year's "USC"—the team that wins national signing day itself—that should be considered a win for McElwain.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.