Back in December, when Texas A&M and the rest of the SEC learned its 2012 football schedule, I anticipated that my alma mater would put up something along the lines of a 5-7 record--a mark that would be tolerable, given the Aggies' new conference, new head coach, and freshman quarterback.
A Surprising 7-2 Mark
I thought the potential was there for a 9-3 season, but realistically, I considered that to be an incredible longshot. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined Johnny Manziel playing ball at a level that should earn him a spot in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
I never imagined the Aggies actually playing defense in 2012--allowing 21 points per game, just a touch more than Georgia's 20.9 ppg and considerably better than Tennessee's 35.4 ppg--after getting utterly ripped week after week, game after game, in 2011.
Now that 9-3 season just might happen after all.
After throttling Mississippi State on the road by a score of 38-13, the Aggies sport an unlikely 7-2 record as they travel to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10 for the first time ever to face the buzzsaw of the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Falling a field goal short of Florida and five points shy of LSU is nothing to be ashamed of for Aggie fans. I suspect that time will run out for A&M against Alabama, but the Aggies have the tools in place to keep the game respectable.
Going from one extreme to the other, Texas A&M follows up the Alabama game with FCS opponent Sam Houston State before wrapping up the season against Missouri. Both games are at Kyle Field.
A&M shouldn't look past the 7-2 Bearkats, but Sam Houston State was hammered by Baylor, 48-23, earlier this year, so it's reasonable to expect the Aggies to prevail.
Missouri (4-5) is a little more difficult to predict at this point. The Tigers' record isn't pretty, but four of their losses have been to South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama--teams that are ranked No. 8, No. 6, No. 5, and No. 1, respectively, in the BCS. That is one murderous inaugural SEC schedule.
The Tigers have beaten Arizona State and Central Florida this year, though, so Mizzou is no pushover. This is a game that A&M can win, but it's certainly no "gimme."
The Aggies Belong in the SEC
I certainly don't think the Aggies are the cream of the SEC crop. Unlike with Missouri, the schedule-maker did A&M a big favor, pitting them against a middle-of-the-road Mississippi team and catching Arkansas and Auburn in off years. They don't have to face Georgia or South Carolina.
In fact, the Aggies' seven wins aren't nearly as encouraging at this point as is their 1-2 mark so far against some of the best of the SEC: an impressive win in Starkville and two close shortfalls against Florida and LSU.
If they can keep the game at Alabama respectable, it'll be a 1-3 mark that gives me the most hope for the future and confirms what I've suspected all along: the Aggies can compete in the SEC.
By winning two of their final three games, Texas A&M can make that improbable 9-3 record a reality. Perhaps that would earn them a trip to the Cotton Bowl against a former Big 12 foe--maybe even the Texas Longhorns.
Wouldn't that be fun?
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