John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

SEC Football: How Texas A&M Could Change The SEC Landscape

The Alabama Crimson Tide, a team that was supposedly untouchable, was taken down by SEC newcomer Texas A&M in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday evening, ending Alabama’s hopes for a perfect season and likely dealing a fatal blow to the Tide’s (and SEC’s) national championship hopes.

The Aggies have been turning heads this season with each victory, but the win over Alabama confirmed that Texas A&M can play in the SEC. That’s very different from what most thought at SEC Media Days prior to the season.

One of my high school friends made an excellent point regarding the fact that A&M is on the verge of changing how the SEC plays football:



It’s strange to think that an SEC rookie like Texas A&M would cause this weird variable in the SEC formula. This is a team that wasn’t forecast to have such a season, particularly when compared to how fellow SEC newcomer Missouri is doing.

The Southeastern Conference has been all about a tough defensive game with dynamic, but strategic offenses. SEC fans mock games in other conferences where both teams score over 30 points each, claiming that games aren’t as good without good defense.

The rest of the nation disagrees. Looking at last year’s bowl season TV ratings, seven of the top eight games were those in which both teams scored 30 points or more, including the 70-33 blowout by West Virginia over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The Sugar Bowl between Michigan and Virginia Tech was the lone game in which the teams scored fewer than 30 points each.

Texas A&M – as well as Missouri – came from the Big 12, a conference known for high-talent, big-play offenses. The question coming into this season was whether these two new teams could adjust to the level of play of the SEC? Now, with two weeks left in the season, the question has become: how do the SEC teams adjust to playing with Texas A&M?

This win over Alabama doesn’t mean Texas A&M hasn’t made adjustments in order to play in the SEC. Everybody knows that you can’t win on offense alone in the SEC. The Aggie defense hasn’t given up more than 27 points this season to SEC teams. What hasn’t changed for Texas A&M is their prolific offense with a star quarterback at the helm, which is a rarity in SEC country. A&M’s success in playing a fast, high-powered offense while still maintaining a balance on the defensive side of the ball is exactly why the Aggies have had success against SEC teams this year.

Few teams have had an answer to the Texas A&M question this season. Sure, they have played some of their games close this year. But could this improved A&M team beat Florida if they faced them now instead of at the beginning of the season?

The SEC formula has worked, as evidenced by the fact that the SEC has played in – and won– the BCS National Championship game each of the past six seasons. Ironically, it has taken an SEC team to put a likely end to that streak.

If Texas A&M continues to play the way they have been playing, teams in the SEC are going to have to formulate an entirely different game plan to be able to compete against the Aggies. Texas A&M beat Alabama simply by playing their style of football and not following the SEC template.

The SEC admitted Texas A&M into their conference because of their great tradition, ties to SEC teams and competitiveness of their athletic program. In doing so, the SEC may have also created an identity crisis.

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Tags: Football

  • Derek Haysom

    It understates A&M’s competitiveness in the SEC to merely conclude that “the win over Alabama confirmed that Texas A&M can play in the SEC.” Bad analysis. Had A&M not confirmed this already over the course of trouncing Arkansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State, edging out Ole Miss, and losing respectably to FLA and LSU only for a combined deficit of 8???

    Instead, this win proves that A&M, when playing at its highest level, is the best team in the SEC. That’s a big difference. I don’t know why you and other writers so blatantly downplay A&M’s record this year.

    Also – anyone else find it a little unnerving for the SEC’s sake that a formerly mediocre Big 12 team can make this kind of impact during its inaugural season in SEC country? Heaven forbid, have I dare intimated that the SEC may have become, perhaps… (gasp!) overrated???

    The Big 12′s under-performers, i.e., Kansas, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State, and Texas, are considerably better than that of the SEC, i.e., Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. It’s time to rethink the status quo of SEC dominance. Though ‘Bama is still consistently, in my mind, the best team in the country, its conference, from top-to-bottom, is a far cry away from the competitiveness it has shown in recent years.

    • BamaHammer

      I think that in the SEC (before this year’s expansion) there’s Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida, and then a bunch of also-rans. Of the rookies clearly A&M has put themselves on par with the elites, while Missouri has not lived up to the hype.

      Alabama should offer no excuses; Texas A&M came to Tuscaloosa and beat them. I do wonder how the game would have played out had Alabama not had to slug it out with LSU last week, but you play the schedule you have.

      Does this mean the SEC is overrated? Not when the last 6 BCS champs are from the conference. Ironically, it seems the only thing that can keep the SEC out of the title game is the SEC itself.

      The addition of A&M continues to improve the strength of the conference, and continues to ensure that an undefeated SEC West champ is almost certainly getting a shot at the national championship.

      • Kevin Myers

        “Ironically, it seems the only thing that can keep the SEC out of the title game is the SEC itself.”- Perfect analysis.

      • Guest

        When you are trying to quantify the strength of a conference, you have to examine it in the aggregate, i.e. look at ALL the teams belonging to that said conference, not merely its two or three top performers. I never disputed the SEC’s record of producing the single best team for the previous 6 BCS championships, but I am arguing that the overall strength of the SEC is not what it has been. The rise of Florida and Georgia does not compensate for the devastating seasons experienced by Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennessee. Coupling these teams’ losses with the strong likelihood that the SEC will have to part ways with its championship streak, I think it’s more than safe to say that the conference has seen a better past few years (=overrated).

    • shd1963

      Being an Aggie myself, I am not certain if Derek is a Big 12 troller. The SEC is still as dominant if not more dominant with the addition of A&M. A&M was as Derek calls ‘mediocre’ in the Big 12 because of other program’s commercial interests which influenced their recruiting. The day A&M announced it’s move to the SEC the recruiting game changed.
      A&M as a whole has not been the best team this year. Alabama and LSU have. A&M is still in the building phase and will be for the next year or two. This year, Sumlin had seniors that he did not recruit who bought into Sumlin’s new system and they brought their A-game out of pride. Sumlin took risks that no other coach in college football would take with Manziel (who was scouted as mediocre as a quarterback and was thought to be a defensive safety).
      Yes, A&M will be an elite power now that it is out of the financial cloud of a certain Big 12 team. We are now in a conference where we are treated as an equal partner. And that will make all the difference in making the SEC an even greater conference.

      • Derek Haysom

        I am not a Big 12 troller. I am actually an A&M fan, though not an alum myself.

        Without diving into statistics, and for reasons I posted above, I think it’s hard to prove that the SEC is a stronger conference this season. But there is no doubt that A&M has strengthened the SEC, especially in light of the meltdowns experienced by the other teams in the West.

        Also, I don’t think you should attribute A&M’s mediocrity in the Big 12 to the single fact that they suffered as a result of “other program’s commercial interests which influenced their recruiting.” Sherman was a very effective recruiter, and Sumlin has reaped the reward, There are a lot of reasons why A&M football has not been successful, and your grossly oversimplified conclusion doesn’t help to dispel the fictional narrative alleging how A&M spent its entire history in the shadow of UT until this season.

        • Gary Lasseter

          I give A&M a lot of credit for coming into T-town and putting it to my boys BUT to say they are better than any other team in the SEC is just ludicrous. They were only 6 yards away and 4 straight running plays from having their third loss of the season, doesn’t sound like the best team to me. Congratulations on your GREAT win in T-town, you made a powerful enemy and you have to remember Elephants never forget. I hope that slippery little bastard wins the Heisman for you guys further proving how great Alabama is. Oh and btw, since this article was published, the SEC is back in the National Title race and so is Alabama. Roll Tide!!!

  • Kevin Myers

    Sad that I have to go to the Bamahammer to get a fair assessment of TAMU. I’m an Ag. Bama is great (indeed the class level of fans in the SEC as a whole has been vastly better than the kinds of vandals and miscreants in the Big XII), and Texas A&M is getting better. We still lack the depth on Defense to compete consistently in the SEC, but we are fixing that. Also- if our kicker had made an extra 3 field goals, and a few more PAT’s, we would be playing for the National Championship- 9 points, all kicking. Florida beat us, but the team that played Bama was a far sight better than the team that stepped onto the field in early September. The NFL will be taking a lot from us in the spring, so no telling where we shake out. I just appreciate good analysis and this article finally pointed out that when A&M beats Bama- it isn’t because Bama sucks, it is because A&M isn’t the A&M Mike Sieve admitted to the conference back in July.

    • BamaHammer

      We try to be objective, even when talking about the objectively bad Auburn team. There’s no doubt; A&M didn’t steal a win from Alabama, they took it to the Crimson Tide, and Alabama couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities to win late in the game. A&M and Alabama share a long history, and it’s good to finally have both in the same conference.