Wed Sep 28 12:04pm EDT
THE TIDE IS TURNING TOWARDS A&M? UMM, SURE ...
So, A&M is gone. It is finally official, right?
Ho-hum. This week's announcement that the SEC was officially welcoming the Aggies as the conference's 13th member generated some discussion within the state for a few hours, but it was hardly the national headline-maker that A&M fans thought it would be. Sorry Aggies, you're not nearly as relevant outside of the state as you think you are. You're just not. In fact, you're not as relevant within the Lone Star State as you think you are.
With the Aggies' departure, the question immediately shifts to what the future holds for A&M? Can the Aggies hold their own in the most competitive league in top to bottom, and will a jump to the SEC help A&M's recruiting efforts? The answer to question number one will dictate the results of the second question.
Delusional Aggies (that is to say, most of them) seem to think that switching conferences will suddenly make A&M a more attractive option for high school prospects. News flash - it doesn't. We've asked a number of the state's top 2013 prospects if A&M's conference affiliation (or UT's, or OU's, etc) will impact their decision. Only one player, Jake Raulerson, said he'd even given it much thought at all. To a man, at least 15 other top prospects have said conference affiliation will have zero impact on their decision, and a few players actually had no idea that Texas A&M was even leaving.
The A&M fan base wants to believe that playing in the fire-pit that is the SEC will automatically increase its team's exposure, reputation and recruiting success, thus allowing it to actually compete with Texas in battles to sign the state's top talent. It won't.
Recruiting, 99 percent of the time, comes down to consistently winning, playing for a team with a tradition of success and having dynamic coaches who can sit in a living room and sell a family on the virtues of his school. A&M has none of the above. And things are only going to get worse for the Aggies once they start getting their head kicked in on a weekly basis in the SEC.
A&M is coming off a successful 9-4 campaign in 2010. Decent enough, although the team did get stomped by LSU in the bowl game, but far from great. Perhaps it's a result of being so bad for so long, but you'd think A&M was coming off a 2010 national championship run the way the Aggie fans talk. One year of moderate success does not make a shift in the trend of dominance in the Lone Star State, and it's going to take more than one season of slightly better than mediocre to turn the recruiting tides. A&M had high hopes for 2011, but the team could be a few days away from starting the year off at 2-2, with several tough games still on the schedule.
Aggie fans need to take a step back and evaluate things with a shred of reality. Impossible request, I know. Coming off it's best season in the last decade, the Aggies have been unable to capitalize in the 2012 recruiting class. Sure, A&M has recruited some decent talent overall, but Mike Sherman and company have once again been dominated by Mack Brown and the Longhorn staff. And this coming off one of the worst years in the history of Texas Longhorn football. Texas ranks No. 1 in the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings. A&M checks in at No. 6 bolstered by the fact that it's taking a larger class than several other schools that have actually recruited better. A more accurate picture, Texas ranks No. 4 in average star rating of its commitments. A&M is No. 14. Texas has not lost a single head-to-head recruiting battle with A&M this year, and a few of the Aggies' commitments were practically begging for a UT offer before Texas targeted other prospects at their position.
To be fair, A&M is receiving an early boost with some of the top junior players in the state, having already reeled in commitments from blue-chip WR Jamar Gibson and QB Kohl Stewart. But it's going to take a sustained recruiting effort over the long haul to overtake Texas' dominance in the state, and moving to the SEC is going to make that difficult for a team who has been a bottom-feeder in the Big 12 for the last decade and figures to be the same, or worse, in its new conference.
A&M can argue that playing in the SEC is best for its programs and its student athletes, but this move was nothing more than getting out of UT's shadow. If you can't consistently beat 'em, join another conference. Time will tell how the move will work out, but it could very well separate the programs even further and drive A&M below the depths of mediocrity that the football team has enjoyed in recent years.
SOME EARLY THOUGHTS ON IOWA STATE
The Longhorns and the Cyclones both enter this game with perfect 3-0 records. Iowa State has a "big" win over in-state rival Iowa (which has shown itself to be a very average team this year). There's talk of the Cyclones giving Texas problems in Ames, but I'm just not seeing it.
The Longhorns actually enter this game as 9 point favorites, a bigger betting line than any game on the schedule so far this year except for Rice. Yes, ISU took it to Texas in Austin last year, but this is a different UT team, and more importantly, this is not a very good Cyclones team.
I'm still not completely sure what to make of this year's Longhorns, but they should be more than capable of beating Iowa State on the road. ISU has upgraded its talent in the past few years but it doesn't have the playmakers across the board that will allow it to keep up with Texas for a full four quarters. A two-score win sounds about right with the Longhorns moving to 4-0.
The real measuring stick for Texas, of course, comes in the games following ISU - Oklahoma in Dallas and Oklahoma State in Austin. If Texas can come out of the next three games with only one loss, Longhorn fans will have to feel pretty good about their team's play through the first six weeks. A win over ISU but loses to OU and OSU are certainly possible, and justifiable. A loss this week to the Cyclones could put Texas in a spot for a potential three-game losing streak, and that just can't happen.
Maybe this week's contest is more important than I first realized. Huge game in Ames? Who woulda thunk it?
AND NOW FOR YOUR FAVORITE ... OUR BIRTHDAY WISHES!
Happy 24th birthday to native Houstonian Hilary Duff.
And who can forget this classic shot of Mira Sorvino, who turns 44 today?