Kevin Sumlin: We Blocked Things Out Earlier

When the College Football Playoff committee unveiled its initial rankings Tuesday night, many people expected the top four teams to be Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington in some order. After all, they’re all undefeated.

As it turned out, however, Washington, at No. 5, was on the outside looking in, with Texas A&M (7-1) sliding in at No. 4.

Kevin Sumlin’s response? Let’s see where we are in a few months.

“We don’t hide things (like this) from (our players), but we’ve had conversations before,” the Aggies coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think the way our team’s handled things from the beginning of the year, when the narrative was completely different and a lot more negative around this program, guys went to work on a week-to-week basis and blocked things out. I don’t see that changing even with the events of yesterday.”

Indeed, Sumlin was considered to be on the hot seat when the season began. The Aggies responded by going 3-1 against ranked teams, with the only loss coming to No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Based on that alone, you’d think Sumlin would have a mic-drop for his detractors.

Nope.

“I don’t know that it motivates me personally,” Sumlin said of the naysayers. “I think as a coach, you’ve got your own opinion of where you are all the time. Otherwise you don’t do this. If things like that affect you, you’re in the wrong business. What it can do with the access to social media and everything that’s around – regardless of what you say as a coach – access to phones and TVs, that’s all part of it, and guys getting a different message somewhere else. I think the key to that is the trust factor that’s in the room – guys believing in each other and (having) a mature team, which is what we’ve had since January. We’ve made some tough decisions. Some guys aren’t here anymore. The guys who are here understand what we’re trying to do and understand the message inside the building. The narrative has changed completely outside of this organization, but I think inside with our team, I don’t think it’s changed one bit since January.”

Sumlin was asked about ay number of playoff scenarios: What if No. 11 Florida (6-1) wins out and beats Alabama in the SEC Championship? What if No. 3 Michigan (8-0) wins out but loses in the Big Ten Championship? What if there’s bedlam and craziness and no easy choices for the committee?

Do coaches think about all this?

“No,” Sumlin said, chuckling. “Actually, I was just watching video of Mississippi State and their quarterback (Nick Fitzgerald), who last week threw for 400 yards and rushed for 100 yards (and scored seven touchdowns in a 56-41 win over Samford) and who’s 6-5, 230. I got some other issues going on. Really, that’s where you are as a coach. The rankings, it’s great for our fans, it’s great for our university and the publicity and the recognition, and it’s great for recruiting also. But the biggest thing is right now for our program, where we’ve been, is to be relevant in November. As long as we continue to win, you keep that relevancy. If you don’t, you don’t. That’s what you want to do as a coach. That’s what you want to do as a program. The scenarios, like I’ve said before, all you’ve got to do is look at the last few years at the original rankings (and see) how many guys are there at the end. So it’s win and advance. The only way to do that is to keep your focus week to week.”

A&M plays at Mississippi State this Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

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