COLLEGE STATION, Texas — If you thought Sept. 14 marked the first game of Texas A&M's 2013 football season, you're forgiven. Considering all the hype, buildup and anticipation for the rematch between defending BCS champions Alabama and the only team to take the Crimson Tide down last year it wouldn't be difficult to overlook or even forget that the Aggies had two games prior.
All summer long, as the college football world discussed the Aggies or its star quarterback, Johnny Manziel, the conversation would inevitably lead back to Sept. 14. Never mind that the Aggies opened the season on Aug. 31 against Rice or had another game a week later against Sam Houston State.
This is the game that college football fans have waited for.
The Aggies coaches and players could not and did not take that approach. As expected, their focus has been on their opponent that week -- and only that week -- at least according to their words.
"It's just another game for us," senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. said. "We're coming into it with the same mindset we came into it [against] Rice. It's one week at a time, one game at a time. We'll take it one play at a time starting Monday in practice. We'll just get ready and get prepared."
Walking around campus and listening to others outside of the Bright Football Complex build up the game well before its arrival was a challenge at times, though.
"Especially with family, fans, they're always like, 'Man, two more weeks,'" center Mike Matthews said. "Just in class the other [day], someone was talking about the [Alabama] game and I was like, 'We have Sam Houston first.' We've been taking it one week at a time but I guess it has been a little hard with these [first] two games. Everyone else has had their eyes on Bama."
By now you know the history: Texas A&M went into Bryant-Denny Stadium and upset then-No. 1 Alabama 29-24 in front of a stunned crowd. Manziel engineered the Aggies to a 20-0 first quarter lead and cornerback Deshazor Everett stopped Alabama's last offensive chance, intercepting quarterback AJ McCarron on fourth-and-goal with fewer than two minutes remaining.
With Alabama starting this season at No. 1 again and Texas A&M coming into this season with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, returning, a preseason top 10 ranking and discussions of being an SEC West, SEC and perhaps dark horse BCS championship contender, it has all the makings of landmark clash.
Even Manziel, at least publicly, downplayed the significance.
"Feels like another game," Manziel said. "Feels like Week 3 of the season. Gotta continue to get better as a team and continue to get better in every aspect: offense, defense, special teams. Having a full roster of guys back that have been out will be nice, but for us, we'll just continue to get better like we did last year, week-by-week continue to get better and just see how things go."
With an unprecedented amount of media and attention coming to College Station for this battle, there will be plenty of outside distractions to chew on. What will coach Kevin Sumlin do to keep his team focused?
"Same thing we always do," Sumlin said. "If you're around here a bunch, it ain't going to change."