Texas A&M and Missouri switch SEC paths
In a year that was supposed to be a fine welcome for the Tigers and a rude awakening for the Aggies, both programs have switched roles as they prepare for Saturday's matchup against each other.
But these new kids on the block aren't putting out many hits in their first year in the SEC.
Instead, No. 9 Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2) is a national darling and is equipped with a Heisman frontrunner in quarterback Johnny Manziel. Even with a brand new coaching staff, brand new offense, brand new defense and a brand new quarterback, the Aggies are in line for a BCS bowl. They even took down No. 1 Alabama ... in Tuscaloosa.
Roles really have reversed here. Missouri's James Franklin, who broke out onto the college football scene last year with his 2,865 passing yards and 981 rushing yards, was supposed to be the SEC's top dual-threat QB. But he's been held together by bandages this season and won't come close to his 2011 numbers, as he's averaging 1.4 yards per carry this season.
Johnny Football, who has become the first freshman and fifth NCAA FBS player to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, now owns Franklin's old title, as he looks to extend his eight-game streak of having 300 or more total yards of offense.
The offenses flipped as well. Missouri returned so much experience and speed. The offensive line had good experience and the wide receivers were supposed to make Dave Yost's spread offense a challenge for SEC defenses.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, injuries piled up on the offensive line. All five preseason starters have gone down -- some for the season. Add inconsistency at wide receiver, and Mizzou's offense has gone in reverse, averaging just 316 yards in SEC games (12th in the conference).
Coach Gary Pinkel said he expected the SEC to be tough, but he never thought Mizzou would limp through the season like this. You have to wonder if the physicality of this league really has affected the Tigers.
Remember how the Aggies lost their starting quarterback and were completely changing the offense? Well, A&M leads the SEC in total offense (543.7 yards per game) rushing (234.9) and scoring (43.5). A&M is also second in passing (308.8). Kevin Sumlin has done a phenomenal job in his first year and many hats have to go off to offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury for the job he's done with Manziel and that offense.
Having receivers like Ryan Swope, who could have left for the NFL this spring, and Mike Evans combine for 124 catches, 1,681 yards and 10 touchdowns helps, but it's also nice to have a stout offensive line with two future first-rounder at the tackle spots in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
Both defenses have played well, but the Aggies were expected to struggle mightily with a brand new secondary. Instead, the Aggies have done enough to be about even with Tigers in pass defense.
Overall, these two teams just aren't what we expected. A&M has swag, Missouri has bruises.
Sumlin kept his guys working out for two extra weeks before spring practice and it has obviously helped with endurance and health. This team hasn't slowed down, even though it hasn't had a bye week, and that extra work is a major reason why.
Texas A&M is clearly on the rise, and this season should only help recruiting, where the Aggies will really be able to hit Texas -- and the southeast -- even harder with their success and popularity.
Sumlin has already been cleaning up with his 12th-ranked recruiting class that has four ESPN 150 members and seven ESPN 300 members. Missouri has 17 commits with one ESPN 300 member.
It's too early to tell what impact this season will have in the long run in recruiting, but it's clear that 2012 has really helped A&M, and the Aggies are leaving Mizzou behind. They've done it on the football field and if they do it in recruiting, these roles won't change.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.