Kyle Field’s crowds of more than 100,000, with a third of them students, is proof Texas A&M has one of the best home-field advantages in the country. But A&M’s 5-11 record against Top 25 teams since joining the Southeastern Conference is proof opponents aren’t intimidated by the environment — actually, they might thrive off it.
Top-ranked Alabama opened as a 17-point pick for Saturday’s game and jumped to 19 that day. Two years ago, Alabama, also ranked No. 1, opened as a 21-point pick and immediately jumped to 26.
Right now, A&M doesn’t have a decided home-field advantage because the team is not good enough. It’s not that Florida’s “The Swamp” is more intimidating than Kyle Field, but that the Gator football team is much better than the Aggies, along with about four others in the SEC.
Kyle Field was rocking to the tune of 101,681 for the Auburn game Sept. 21, but after four plays, the visitors were kicking an extra point and about 30% of the crowd’s emotion was gone. Auburn made it 14-0, and the crowd got even quieter. A&M finally scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pull within 21-10, and the crowd came to life, but Auburn answered with a 12-play touchdown drive with some of the crowd heading to the exits.
Auburn true freshman quarterback Bo Nix played like a senior his first true road game, a 28-20 victory, but he struggled mightily two weeks later against Florida.
Auburn opened with back-to-back three-and-outs with Nix having two incompletions. It was a sign of things to come as Nix completed 11 of 27 for 145 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. He was sacked twice and ended with 18 yards rushing on 10 carries. He completed 12 of 20 for 100 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against A&M. He was sacked once and ended with 38 yards rushing on 12 carries. More importantly, Nix and Auburn never led at Florida. Against A&M, they never trailed.
Florida’s defense made “The Swamp” an intimidating place for Nix and Auburn, just as Hall of Fame coach Steve Spurrier and all those great Florida teams did when the moniker originated. It wasn’t the stadium that was intimidating, it was the teams. Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow continued that tradition.
A&M had a huge home-field advantage in the 1990s at a much smaller Kyle Field, going 55-4-1. The intimidating factor was called the “Wrecking Crew.” That defense put life into crowd time after time. Teams hated to play here because of the team, not the crowd.
A&M is 87-44 at Kyle Field since the turn of the century. The venue got bigger and better, but not the teams. It’s just not the record against ranked teams that’s disappointing. A&M also has lost at home to five unranked teams since joining the SEC in 2012, but all those were under former coach Kevin Sumlin. A&M is 8-2 under Jimbo Fisher at home, with both losses to top 10 teams. A&M almost beat second-ranked Clemson last year and did beat 13th-ranked Kentucky and eighth-ranked LSU.
“I think this is one of the great places to play in college football,” Fisher said Monday at his weekly press conference. “My games, that I’ve been in here, and the games we’ve been in here, have just been tremendous. I think this is as good as anywhere to play, the atmosphere, the electricity. The fans, I think are awesome. They are into it as much as any place I’ve ever been. And I don’t mean that in any disrespect of anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s a phenomenal place.”
Fisher said it’s the team’s job to make opponents uncomfortable.
“If we play a little better, it makes it tougher [on Auburn],” Fisher said. “But those fans didn’t go anywhere. They were right there.”
Where A&M has failed most to take advantage of Kyle Field’s crowds is recruiting and developing better players. This is one of the nation’s best venues. A&M has the facilities and support that should lead to top 10 recruiting classes annually followed by top 10 rankings. It hasn’t happened, but A&M paid Fisher $75 million to make it happen. It hasn’t happened yet, but he also hasn’t lost to an unranked team at home, which is progress.
A&M’s game at Ole Miss on Oct. 19 will be at 6:30 p.m. and televised by the SEC Network. … Fisher said senior cornerback Roney Elam will miss his third straight game.