- David Ubben, College Football
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Texas A&M, by letter of the law, owed the Big 12 about $27 million when it packed its bags and went to play with its new friends in the swamp and down on the bayou in the SEC.
Thanks to less than bulletproof Big 12 bylaws, it lost only $12.41 million in exit fees, a little less than half of what the league hoped it would owe.
The other $14 million plus isn't coming any time soon, but the debt may have seemed as though it was paid in full in Manhattan and across Big 12 country after Saturday. The Aggies knocked off No. 1 Alabama to put the SEC's string of six consecutive national titles in peril. The conference probably will require two total losses down the stretch from Oregon, Notre Dame or new No. 1 Kansas State to give the championship streak a chance to reach seven seasons.
Are the Aggies Big 12 secret agents sent to destroy the SEC from the inside out? Maybe. They're doing a bang-up job to this point, you've got to give them that.
Humor aside, the gut reaction might be to claim Big 12 superiority. Texas A&M, seventh-place finishers in the Big 12 a year ago, have morphed into a top-10 team in the SEC, owning an 8-2 record and a road win over the team many thought was invincible earlier in the season.
Not so fast, my friends.
These are not your father's Aggies. Second-half leads lost against LSU and Florida offer faint remnants of last year's team, but this is a whole different squad and I can guarantee you they'd finish a whole lot higher than seventh in the Big 12 this season. They probably would have finished between second and fourth at season's end.
They've got a new coaching staff with a whole new attitude and a confidence unlike anything the old staff had. Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury believe in this team, and that's not always what you sensed with the talented, but fatally flawed, Aggies squad from a year ago. Add in a solid defensive coordinator in Mark Snyder and cover the whole thing in an attractive aura of "cool," and you've got the new Aggies.
Oh, and there's that Johnny Football guy running around making crazy plays.
"No moment is too big for him," Sumlin said of redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who injected himself into the Heisman conversation.
Last year, no moment was too big for Ryan Tannehill to toss an interception, including a crucial turnover in the Aggies' heartbreaking loss to Texas. Tannehill tied for the league lead with 15 picks a year ago.
Texas A&M's win Saturday against The SEC-est Defense Of Them All was a win for spread offenses everywhere, a notch in the win column for the Big 12's endless "offense versus defense" debate with the SEC.
The Big 12's reputation as a whole shouldn't get a boost with the Aggies' win, but it will get a boost in the BCS race. For Kansas State, that's all it needed.
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