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:
@djcdod A&M may cause an SEC identity crisis, its hard to learn to defend muscle and speed offenses
— Jay Morris (@AUChemEMD) November 11, 2012
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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