Year One: Texas A&M Goes 10-2 First Year in SEC

27 Nov

What a year for Texas A&M football. Taking leave of the Big 12 little pond into the SEC big pond was seen by many sports commentators as a huge risk for the program. The football program at the University of Texas was seen as “power house” of the Big 12 and Texas A&M was almost always seen as second best. But here it was, going to play with the “big boys” of the SEC and forced, by UT’s choosing, to at least temporarily, end a 100+ year rivalry. What was A&M thinking, many talking heads on TV and radio asked.

Turns out A&M was thinking long term but most Aggie fans and alumni were conceding to an average, at best, first year in the SEC. Maybe, just maybe, they would get 6 wins and go to a “who cares” bowl. It wouldn’t be too bad of a start and a good foundation to build on the program for future generations.

A&M’s debut in the SEC has been much more than most could have dreamed. Going 10-2 in what is arguably the toughest conference in college football shell shocked fans and sports commentators each in a different way. The fans are eating it up and loving every minute of it. The commentators are feasting on a well baked humble pie.

The Aggies new coach, Kevin Sumlin, came in with a group of guys he did not recruit, for the most part. He had to convince them to buy into a new system and way of doing things. He spent extra time meeting with the team to get them on board. The players did get on board and did get behind their new coach.

The next step was finding the heir to Ryan Tannehill, whom had been drafted in the first round of the NFL draft to the Miami Dolphins. At the beginning there were three possibilities: Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel and Matt Joeckel. In the end Johnny Manziel stood out enough to get the starting job. It turns out Coach Sumlin made the right call.

Unfortunately Manziel would not get a “warm up” game against Louisiana Tech to start the season. Hurricane Isaac rolled into Lousiana and caused the game to get postponed until October. The opener for Texas A&M would end up being the Florida Gators at home at Kyle Field. Though the game would be hard fought, it would go down as a loss and many people were thinking this is how it would be all season for the Aggies. Fighting hard but coming up short.

Manziel was a bright spot though and gave fans something to grab as potential for the coming years. Then things began to get rolling for A&M. The team went on a five game winning streak beating SMU, South Carolina State, old South West Conference rival Arkansas, Ole Miss and the rescheduled game with Louisiana Tech. Fans knew of the remaining games the Aggies could win one and get to a bowl again. Things seemed rather bright.

Then A&M faced a tough LSU team and ended up beating themselves in the 24-19 loss. The team didn’t stay down long as they made a convincing win against Auburn which put them bowl eligible. The light was getting brighter. The next game against Mississippi State wasn’t close as A&M dominated the now #15 ranked team.

Up next would be the biggest challenge of the year, the number one ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Most A&M fans I talk with didn’t expect to win but did expect to give Alabama a good run for its money. They would have to earn the win against the Aggies. What happened was the biggest upset in college football for the year. The Aggies played their hardest and Manziel had a game which made the nation take notice. In a game which came down to the last possession by Alabama, A&M pulled of the unlikely victory and knocked the king off of the mountain.

The win propelled A&M into the top 10, where it would stay for the remainder of the season. Texas A&M would go on to close out the season with wins against Sam Houston state and former Big 12 opponent, now fellow SEC member Missouri. The win over Missouri took them out of bowl contention, the first time in seven years.

Now the Aggies and their fans watch and wait to see which bowl they will be invited to play. For all the accomplishments in its freshman year in the SEC, one expects the invitation to come from the big BCS bowls. But one thing the fans of Texas A&M have learned this year, nothing is certain in the world of college football.

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