The SEC welcomes both schools into the league this coming football season, and consider this our introduction to the Aggies on the SEC blog. We get an assist from Big 12 blogger David Ubben.
Let's get right to it.
Chris Low: It wasn't a big secret that the SEC wanted to get into the state of Texas, and there were rumblings that the SEC had an offer on the table for both Texas A&M and Oklahoma two summers ago. Did you think it was a foregone conclusion that Texas A&M was going to join the SEC at some point?
David Ubben: I don't know if I'd call it a foregone conclusion, but nobody in the league was more tired of the often Texas-driven nature of the Big 12 than the Aggies. The SEC, from its perspective, was a way to surpass the Longhorns, too. Although I think Missouri's move was more about leaving the Big 12, I think the Aggies really wanted to be in the SEC as much as they wanted to leave the Big 12. If Mizzou had its way, it would probably be in the Big Ten right now. For A&M, there's been an SEC lust for decades. Now, it's happening. The Aggies couldn't be happier. We'll see whether that happiness sticks around on game Saturdays in the fall.
CL: David, my take on this round of expansion for the SEC is that Texas A&M fits culturally a lot better than Missouri. Maybe that's just me, but Texas A&M has the feel of an SEC school with its passion for football. That said, I'm probably one of those rare people who's been to a Texas A&M basketball game in College Station but never to a football game at Kyle Field. It was back when Bernard King (the other one) was playing for the Aggies, and it was the night before Dennis Franchione left Alabama to take the Texas A&M head football job. I'm sure this will shock you, but nobody was out on press row during the basketball game. Instead, all the Texas A&M-based media members were on their phones back in the media work room trying to track down the Franchione story. I can assure you that something like that would never happen in the SEC during a hoops game. Well, at least not at Kentucky.
The Corps of Cadets made Texas A&M's Kyle Field one of the Big 12's most impressive venues.
DU: That sounds about right. And you're definitely in the minority on that one. Kyle Field was the best game atmosphere in the Big 12 by far, and it'll be missed. In that sense, it definitely fits in the SEC. I'd agree with you on the cultural aspect. We'll see how the SEC takes to the Aggies' Yell Leaders aka lack of cheerleaders. It's an old joke in the Big 12, but I guarantee a few SEC fans will be in for a rude awakening next season after failing to do their homework before game day. Unlike Mizzou, the Aggies don't have to deal with a big shift in recruiting strategy. They'll have more access to Louisiana, I think. They also play a physical brand of football, unlike Mizzou. What's the biggest challenge facing the Aggies as they leave for a new league?
CL: Just managing the grind of the SEC and going through those three- and four-game stretches when you're playing Alabama one week, Florida the next, then Auburn and then Arkansas. The Western Division is stronger than it's ever been. You're talking about three teams from one division that finished in the top five nationally this past season in the final polls. You can be a pretty decent football team in that division and struggle to win six games. Just ask Mississippi State. Especially with a new head coach and putting in new systems on both sides of the ball, I wonder whether this first season for the Aggies will be rough. Simply making a bowl game may be an accomplishment. What would be your prediction, David, for the Aggies in Year 1 in the SEC?
DU: Agreed on that front. I felt bad for Arkansas this year. The Razorbacks were a heck of a lot more than a decent football team but finished third in the division, getting boxed out of the BCS thanks to arbitrary rules. I predict a rough start for the Aggies. I'll give them a break and say 6-6 with a spot safely in the bottom half of the SEC West.