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Road takes Texas A&M to Auburn in post-Johnny Manziel Era

May 30, 2014

Auburn's Kris Frost found Johnny Manziel last season

By Charles Goldberg

DESTIN, Fla. -- Kevin Sumlin was the guy who had Johnny Manziel at quarterback. 

Now, Kevin Sumlin is back to just being one of the new guys in the Southeastern Conference.

The Texas A&M coach will enter his third year in the SEC without his star attraction and his top receiver, but with a road game at South Carolina to open the season and a defense that needs to make more stops. He'll bring his Aggies to Auburn on Nov. 8. That'll be Auburn's ninth game of the season. 

That's why we care. 

The Aggies finished 9-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC last season with Manziel. This year without him? Who knows? 

Auburn won an Old West-style shootout against the Aggies 45-41 last season when the two teams combined for 1,217 yards. Texas A&M averaged 7.3 yards a snap. Auburn averaged 7.2. Manziel accounted for five touchdowns.

Sumlin's first order of business, though, is South Carolina… on the road. Again. The SEC schedule-makers did the Aggies no favors in 2012, either, when they entered the league. 

"The first year we went five out of six weeks straight on the road. Hopefully, in the next couple of years we'll stop being the new guy." 

Now, Sumlin has to prove himself again, starting with South Carolina. 

"It doesn't matter how I feel. We're playing them the first game. What do you want me to say?" Sumlin asked at the SEC Spring Meetings this week. "Everybody made a big deal out of my statement: 'I'm the new guy. It doesn't matter what I think.' It doesn't. I say what I want. I think Commissioner (Mike) Slive does a great job with this league.

Would I rather not go on the road the first game?" 

Of course not. 

One of the hot topics at these meetings was whether league schools should play FCS schools, the old Division I-AA, because it might hurt their strength of schedule, a larger consideration now that there is a four-team national playoff. 

Sumlin's take was a lot like the other SEC coaches here: 

"Moving from the Big 12 to the SEC, we're bidding for the same teams like Oklahoma, which played Florida A&M," Sumlin said. "We couldn't find anybody to play one year, two years. And the schedule goes out six or seven years in advance. 

"The commissioner made it clear when we went to the eight-game schedule, and a ninth game against another team like you. That's why we put UCLA on the schedule before that came out. We had a feeling that was coming." 

That's a good non-conference game, but "it just becomes a difficult process when you're talking about 12 games and people who have established schedules. Everybody thinks you can just pick up the phone and say, 'Let's play.' It would be nice if that happened, but there are contracts involved, and I'm just the coach." 

Auburn's stance is similar. Both coach Gus Malzahn and Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said they're OK with playing FCS schools.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:
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