Kevin Sumlin chased, and he chased, and his quarterback dazzled, but the devil burned him.
As one of the game's brightest young coaches who possesses the one thing the meticulous Nick Saban can't control -- Johnny Manziel's creativity -- Sumlin had his Aggies as well-positioned as anyone to knock Saban off his red-horned perch.
A little more defense, and Sumlin might be No. 1 on this week's list (he was third last week). But Manziel's scrambles and deft throws from the pocket couldn't mask a young Aggies D that will be good in the future but wasn't ready for Alabama's versatile attack.
Sumlin remains in the top four of the "Chasing the Devil" list of coaches best positioned to unseat Nick Saban, winner of three of the last four titles and purveyor of the houndstooth spaceship that hovers over the SEC offices in Birmingham.
Sumlin's Aggies still can make a run if Ole Miss and LSU help them out by throwing off Bama. If A.J. McCarron builds off his surgical performance and the running game does the rest, Alabama overkill won't be dissipating any time soon.
Les Miles makes a hatterific move up the Devil charts this week with his hit single, "The Mett is Mine," a love letter to Zach Mettenberger, who is easing concerns in Baton Rouge. Miles jumps three spots. Deal with it.
|Chasing the Devil|
|Urban Meyer, |
|Mark Helfrich, Oregon -- When's the last time a team put up at least 59 points in consecutive weeks against BCS-level opponents like Oregon just did? The 2012 Ducks, who hung 70 on Colorado, 62 on USC, 59 on Cal. What the Ducks offense is doing is frightening. Sure, Tennessee and Virginia aren't national powers right now, but these are established programs the Ducks plowed through. This isn't just about offense. Oregon has skilled standouts at nearly every position.|
|Jimbo Fisher, Florida State -- Jimbo's Noles made Fish Food out of Nevada (yes, we'll see our way out). The Devil board isn't ready to create a Heisman campaign for Jameis Winston just yet, but it looks like Fisher has a hit on his hands with this signal-caller. Remember, Fisher is good with quarterbacks. He's produced two first-round quarterbacks in his short FSU tenure. He doesn't get enough credit for QB work despite his oft-conservative play calling. He gets them ready.|
|Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M -- A&M's coach slides only one spot this week because of the valiant effort from the Sumlins on Saturday. The Aggies will be in every game with this offense. The schedule is favorable. If Bama slides, A&M will be lurking in the title race. Actually, the loss could play in A&M's favor if Alabama goes to the SEC title game and loses. Sumlin could be the next man up.|
|Les Miles, LSU -- Miles jumps an absurd 2.0 Devil rating points for the body of work through three games. Most of us undervalued LSU, placing them outside of the top 10 in the preseason in part because of the NFL draft defections. But the Tigers had depth on the lines to offset the losses -- and most importantly, a semblance of a passing game. Find Miles' white bill wedged between Nick Saban and Pasadena.|
|Dabo Swinney, Clemson -- Clemson hasn't been tested since the Georgia win, so the Devil board is eager for the Tigers' showing against N.C. State. Swinney has fought hard to erase Clemson's past blemishes, and he's succeeded with back-to-back wins over LSU/Georgia dating back to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. How will the Tigers respond as the country's third-ranked team and the torch-bearer for the ACC, which hasn't won a title since the 1999 season.|
|Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State -- While Oklahoma State alums do their best to poke holes through the Sports Illustrated investigation on Cowboys improprieties, Gundy quietly leads a talented group of Pokes. The Devil board wonders: Was Gundy considering the Tennessee job because of the looming SI report? The man can coach, but now he must learn how to coach underneath an NCAA cloud. Don't expect that to stop dual-threat quarterback J.W. Walsh and a much-improved defense.|
|Mark Richt, Georgia -- The Bulldogs rested up this week as they brace for the showdown with LSU on Sept. 28 that will shake up the Devil rankings. Richt is the steadiest hand in the SEC East. He's Professor Richt, as Miles calls him. His offense is sparkling, and his young defense got invaluable experience in shootouts with Clemson and South Carolina.|
|Al Golden, Miami -- Miami is coming off a bye week, and now the Canes basically have another bye (Savannah State). The offense has to figure out what to do when |
|David Shaw, Stanford -- Giving up 284 yards on the ground is uncharacteristic for Stanford's vaunted front seven, though Army did run the ball a characteristic 61 times in Saturday's 34-20 loss. Stanford had a conservative game plan with Kevin Hogan (11-of-18, 188 yards), but the Devil board wonders if the Cardinal is keeping things vanilla until Pac-12 play.|
Unheralded Devil: Bethune-Cookman's Brian Jenkins, who spanked FIU on Saturday to lead the first MEAC or SWAC school to a I-A/FBS win since 1987 (Delaware State over Akron). Since leaving Schiano's Rutgers staff, Jenkins is 30-8 in four years at B-CU, a school with scarce resources. He deserves recognition.
Next Devils up: Will Muschamp, Florida; Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Charlie Strong, Louisville; Jim Mora, UCLA; Todd Graham, Arizona State; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona; Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss; Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern; Steve Sarkisian, Washington.
Devil's hot seat: Lane Kiffin, Mack Brown, Lane Brown, Mack Kiffin, coaches at Texas and USC
Next devils up: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Charlie Strong, Louisville; Jim Mora, UCLA.