No. 21 Texas A&M has been an easy punchline since Jimbo Fisher’s first season. The $75 million man was getting paid like the coach who won the 2013 national title at Florida State while fielding a team that looked a lot like the ones that got his predecessor, Kevin Sumlin, fired in College Station.
More jokes followed during the week when he said one of the biggest changes to his program is that they now expect to win.
Saturday’s 41-38 triumph over No. 4 Florida was the breakthrough Fisher and his Aggies needed. They’re no longer expecting to win big games. They’ve actually done it.
“People doubted us,” Fisher said. “We deserved some of it. But we have a very good football team and a heck of a program.”
The first part is accurate. A&M is a good team. And he might be building a good program, too.
Fisher has recruited well, just as he did when he built the Seminoles into an ACC powerhouse that won 29 games in a row. His last two classes have ranked in the top six nationally. Saturday’s top rusher, Isaiah Spiller, and top two receivers, Caleb Chapman and tight end Jalen Wydermyer, were all Fisher signees.
Last year’s team finished 8-5, but all five losses were against teams ranked in the top eight at the time. Advanced metrics still considered his Aggies a top-25 team.
But Fisher didn’t get a 10-year contract worth a fully guaranteed $75 million to finish in the top 25. He was hired to win a national title.
Saturday, then, was progress toward that goal. It was his first top-five victory since joining A&M with one game left in FSU’s 2017 regular season, and it was the Aggies' biggest win since upsetting No. 3 Auburn in 2014.
And it fittingly happened against the Gators. Fisher was 7-1 against UF during his eight seasons in Tallahassee and considered his rivalry win in Year 1 one of his turning points at FSU.
Saturday’s upset against a familiar foe might end up as the springboard Fisher and his Aggies needed to become the powerhouse program he expects to build.