Dallas Colleges: Evan Boehm
Stop for a second and read that paragraph again. Think about what all the talk was two years ago when both programs decided to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. Some critics thought it would take years for the programs to become competitive in the league, which is known for producing BCS national champions (it claims the last seven) but in just its second year, Missouri is in position to compete for a championship and Texas A&M has had solid success of its own.
For the No. 5 Tigers (10-1), it's simple. Win and they go to Atlanta. Lose and South Carolina goes, by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker. Missouri controls its own destiny, as it has since the Tigers vaulted to the top of the SEC East.
"It's all about us," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel told reporters Monday. "That has kind of been the theme we've had this whole year."
Each team has had different fortunes in its first two seasons. Missouri, which some thought might have the quicker success, struggled in its first SEC campaign. The Tigers were riddled with injuries and finished 5-7 (2-6 in league play), and it appeared that the road ahead might be a hard one.
Meanwhile the Aggies experienced smashing success, going 11-2 led by the most captivating player in college football, quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy. Quite a dichotomy for the two SEC newbies.
But something interesting happened this year for the Tigers. Though they have been banged up some, it hasn't been nearly as much as it was a year ago. Missouri breezed through its nonconference schedule, which wasn't exactly taxing, and as the Tigers got into conference play, outsiders wondered how good they really were.
Each week, Missouri added an SEC victory. Then came the qualifiers. They beat then-No. 7 Georgia in Athens, but the Bulldogs were depleted by injuries. They beat then-No. 22 Florida, but the Gators had even more injuries than Georgia.
South Carolina's come-from-behind 27-24 overtime win in Columbia, Mo., made some wonder if the Tigers would slip, but instead, they've responded with three straight wins and put themselves in position to achieve something special.
"We don't like anything given to us," sophomore center Evan Boehm said Monday. "We knew coming into this year nothing was going to be given to us. All the other teams this year had injuries like we had last year. They counted us out, but we are coming out right now and we are focused on what is in front of us and that is Texas A&M."
The chance the Tigers earned is one some believed the Aggies might just have a chance to coming into the 2013 season -- playing for a chance to win their division championship. But an early loss to No. 1 Alabama hindered the Aggies' chances at SEC West title contention, and later a loss to Auburn virtually eliminated it. The No. 21 Aggies (8-3) are now mathematically out of the picture, and out of the picture for a BCS bowl as well, something they still had hopes of sneaking into before Saturday's loss to LSU.
Youth and inexperience on a struggling defense have been the roots of the Aggies' struggles in losses -- and even some wins -- but Saturday everything looked rough. Texas A&M's hope is to close out the season on a winning note while spoiling the Tigers' championship chances. And though Manziel could enter the NFL draft after this season, the foundation appears to be solid for future success in the league for Texas A&M.
Either way, both programs have made waves and a significant impact on the SEC in their first two seasons, much faster than most anticipated. It all illustrates how quickly fortunes can change, even in the league of champions.
Today, we're looking at those players. It's easy to talk quarterbacks being the most important people on a team, so we decided to look at the most indispensable players on each SEC school who aren't lining up under center.
Here's our complete list for the 2013 season:
Jake Matthews, OT, Sr.
When looking at non-quarterbacks, the guy who protects the quarterback's blind side is of utmost importance. Last season, Luke Joeckel had a stellar season in that role while Matthews was anchoring the right side of the line. This year, Matthews, son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, slides to left tackle. There's no reason to believe Matthews will miss a beat and he has the look of a high first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Kevin Sumlin calls Matthews a classic "low maintenance, great player." -- Sam Khan, GigEmNation
Time to update.
Signing Day is less than two months away, and here's where each Big 12 team sits as we hit the recruiting home stretch before the big day in February.
All commit totals, rankings and stars via ESPN Recruiting, which updated its national recruiting rankings this week.
1. Texas Longhorns
National ranking: No. 1
Total commits: 25
ESPNU 150 commits: 10
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Class notes: Four of Texas' top five commits are skill position players, a huge need for the Longhorns. They're one of a handful of schools still chasing one of the nation's top recruits, too, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Gray will come to Texas as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Texas also has two juco transfers coming next year, OT Donald Hawkins and DT Brandon Moore, a rarity for the Longhorns.
2. Texas A&M Aggies
National ranking: No. 8
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 4
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, QB Matt Davis
Class notes: Texas A&M's class is being spearheaded by Davis, who's spreading the "Agg Swagg Movement" via social media, and Texas A&M will enter the SEC with one of its best classes in recent history. It's a deep class, too. Eleven of the 22 commits earned four-star status on ESPN.
3. Oklahoma Sooners
National ranking: No. 9
Total commits: 17
ESPNU 150 commits: 5
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington
Class notes: The Sooners are after DGB, too, but may have a sudden big need at running back after a handful of transfers over the past few months. ESPNU 150 signee from 2010 Trey Metoyer, a receiver, is expected to be in Norman next year after spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy. He'll offer some nice help, but will Landry Jones be throwing him the ball?
4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
National ranking: No. 17
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, QB Clayton Nicholas
Class notes: The Red Raiders added five commits since our last update, but Davis, Wheeler and Starts should all be nice pickups and additions to an offense that lacked a big-play threat this year when Darrin Moore was battling injuries. Tech is also adding five juco transfers, including two more receivers and a pair of pass-rushers.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Total commits: 16
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, QB Wes Lunt
Class notes: Texas swiped CB Kendall Sanders with a late recruiting push, following a few high-profile former OSU commits to go elsewhere. This year's class won't make many headlines, but it'll be interesting to see if the 2011 Big 12 title pays off in the 2013 recruiting class. OSU knows definitively now that it can be better than OU and Texas. Lunt, an Illinois native, is an uber-productive dual-threat. Former blue-chipper Calvin Barnett, a DT from Tulsa, spurned OSU for Arkansas on Signing Day 2010, but he's committed this year via junior college.
6. Baylor Bears
Total commits: 19
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, OT Kyle Fuller, CB Terrell Burt, WR Kiante' Griffin
Class notes: Baylor added a handful of recruits just before the season to reach 18 commits, and added just one commit over the course of the season. Baylor's grabbed big-time recruits like Ahmad Dixon and Kendall Wright in the past that have been productive, but there's no big name in this class just yet.
7. Missouri Tigers
Total commits: 15
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: DT Donald Hopkins, QB Maty Mauk, ILB Donavin Newsom
Class notes: Missouri is chasing DGB too, but the story this season has been class attrition for the Tigers. They were in the top 20 but lost ESPNU 150 commit Evan Boehm, who decommitted. The Tigers fell out of the top 25 and fell behind Oklahoma State and Baylor. Running back Jonathan Williams took his four stars to Arkansas and OT Germain Ifedi moved to fellow future SEC member Texas A&M. Mauk, Hopkins and Newsom are the only remaining four-star recruits in the class.
8. Iowa State Cyclones
Total commits: 20
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OT Daniel Burton WR P.J. Harris, WR Quan West, QB Grant Rohach
Class notes: The Cyclones added 11 commits since our last update. Three of the Cyclones top four commits are offensive skill position players, but Burton is the class' top commit. He committed on Sept. 29. A second QB, Luke Knott, committed way back in April. His older brother, Jake Knott, is a star linebacker for the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads' 10-year contract extension could help on the recruiting trail next year, too, offering parents some security that he'll still be coaching their sons for their whole careers. ISU has no four-star commits, but eight three-stars.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
Total commits: 11
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, RB Jarvis Leverett, QB Tavarius Bender
Class notes: Kansas State added four commits since our preseason update. Seven of the commits are three-stars and just one is committed via junior college. Two commits are unranked.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Total commits: 8
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: QB Seth Russell, TE Jordan Smith, OG Brian Beckmann
Class notes: ATH Bilal Marshall and DE De'Jon Wilson are no longer committed and new Kansas coach Charlie Weis has his work cut out for him. He says he doesn't want to be under scholarship numbers, but he doesn't want to offer guys just to fill scholarships with bodies. It'll be a tough balance. He's got catching up to do. WR Tre Parmalee and DT Keon Stowers are Weis' first two commits.
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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.
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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.