Photo by Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

Around the Table: An introduction to the SEC family

July 16, 2012

HOOVER, Ala. — You’ve bought the T-shirts, you’ve raised the flag and you’ve chanted “S-E-C, S-E-C.” So far, Texas A&M, your move to the Southeastern Conference has been all handshakes and hugs.

It’s like marrying into a new family – in this case, the Corleone family. You’ve had a veritable lovefest with your SEC brethren. You’ve been welcomed. You’ve been given a seat at the family table. You’ll share in the enormous wealth to come.

You’ve got some powerful new brothers-in-law. But surely you remember what happened to Carlo, the Corleone’s brother-in-law.

The hugs and handshakes end when you venture into SEC stadiums. Then, you’re Carlo sliding in the car’s front seat, while Alabama, LSU, Florida, etc. are lurking and waiting to choke the life out of you.

TexAgs The media days in Hoover will be A&M's first real introduction to its new home, one known for chewing up the unworthy. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"medium","Caption":"The media days in Hoover will be A&M\u0027s first real introduction to its new home, one known for chewing up the unworthy.","MediaItemID":10979}
You know that, of course. You’re ready for it. At least, you think you are.

You’ll get your first real taste of the passion, pride and unadulterated lunacy of the Southeastern Conference at this week’s circus that is SEC media days. The throng of reporters there is almost Super Bowlesque and autograph-seeking fans hover in the Wynfrey Hotel lobby like a flock of buzzards waiting for the body to stop twitching.

I know this because I’ve lived in SEC territory for the past five years. That familiarity also qualifies me to act as your host. I’ll take your around the lobby, formally introduce you to your new kin and suggest what former Big 12 programs may most resemble each of your new SEC rivals.

Here we go:

•    First off, the one that is desperately — and perhaps futilely — seeking a place at the head table is Missouri. You already know them well, so let’s move on.

•    The apparent introvert in the corner is Kentucky, but don’t be fooled. Wildcats fans won’t make much noise now, but from November to March they become insufferable and obnoxious. The Wildcats aren’t a threat in football, but from time to time they’re capable of pulling off a surprise or two, especially in rare seasons when they have an elite quarterback, like Andre Woodson. They’re a lot like Kansas. They take their lumps in the fall and then get revenge in basketball season. You’ll get along fine with the folks up in Lexington. After all, you can share a mutual disdain for Billy Gillispie.

•    That guy over there who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room … that’s Vanderbilt. And he IS the smartest guy in the room. It’s a private school with a stadium and fair-weather fan base that doesn’t really seem to fit in the SEC. They’re similar to Baylor. Last year’s hiring of coach James Franklin created an air of excitement for Vandy, much like the hiring of Art Briles did in Waco. The Commodores have been respectable in seasons when they’ve had an NFL caliber quarterback (Jay Cutler) just like Baylor was (Robert Griffin). Typically, Vandy isn’t a threat in football, but is very good in basketball, baseball and women’s sports. Much like Baylor.

•    See those two skinny guys who sound like Foghorn Leghorn that are arguing in the corner? That’s Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The tailgating at Ole Miss is spectacular, but the on-field product is typically mediocre. Sometimes they’re good enough to reach bowl games and their quarterback play is often pretty sound — sometimes even very good. Still, even in their best years they’re not good enough be counted among the conference elite. They may not ever get there, though delusional fans won’t ever accept that. And whenever they have a coach that has a measure of success (David Cutcliffe, for example) they inexplicably fire him. They’re a lot like Texas Tech, but they won’t trash your team buses.

Now, Mississippi State’s football history is modest, at best. However, the Bulldogs have made significant strides in three seasons under coach Dan Mullen, much like Iowa State has done in three seasons under Paul Rhoads. They’ve pulled off remarkable upsets (over Florida and Georgia in 2010) just as Iowa State has (Texas in 2010, Oklahoma State in 2011). They’ve produced solid running backs and at times have played respectable defense. But their passing game is unreliable and the quarterback situation has been uncertain.

•    Next is South Carolina. It’s a lot like Kansas State. For most of their respective histories their football programs reeked. However, thanks to coaches who are old enough to collect social security retirement benefits (Steve Spurrier and Bill Snyder) their fortunes have improved dramatically. Both posted double digit win totals last season. They were both among the nation’s top 30 in rushing offense in 2011 and were strong in run defense. And they’re both considered contenders in their conferences. But nobody really expects them to win championships. Also, when their coaches finally do retire, both programs are quite likely to slip back into mediocrity.

TexAgs The old, recently rekindled rivalry with the Razorbacks — the OSU of the SEC — will be enhanced by the programs' new status as conferencemates.
•    That familiar face is Arkansas. You have history with them — even recent history. But Arkansas will also remind you a lot of Oklahoma State. They both throw the football like they’re playing seven-on-seven. They both ranked among the nation’s top 15 in scoring offense last season. Yet, neither is particularly strong on defense.

They’ve risen to national power status largely because of sugar daddies (the Sam Walton family/T. Boone Pickens).  Oh yeah, they’ve both shown the propensity to rally from double-digit deficits and pull out victories in the fourth quarter. Uhh … sorry for bringing up bad memories.

•    This is Tennessee. You’ll like him. By calling him “UT” you can take an indirect swipe at you know who. Tennessee must recruit out-of-state to build a competitive roster and that’s been difficult of late. The Volunteers won a national championship in the ‘90s and were strong contenders to win their division in the first part of the 2000s. Tennessee often has had strong running backs, but last season the running game faltered terribly and it’s a big question this year, too. Also, the quarterback play has been inconsistent of late.

Tennessee also fired the head coach (Phil Fulmer) who led them to championships and has largely floundered behind the two ensuing head coaches. All that also seems describe former Big 12 member Colorado, which ranked 106th in the nation in rushing offense last year (Tennessee was 116th). Colorado won the North Division four times in five seasons under Gary Barnett. Since Barnett was fired the Buffaloes have struggled under Dan Hawkins and now Jon Embree.

•    And there is Auburn, which may remind you of Nebraska. Auburn usually is tough defensively and historically has a powerful running game and productive running backs. Nebraska, too. Give them a dynamic quarterback like Cameron Newton and they can win a national championship, just like Nebraska did back in the day with Tommie Frazier.

•    The smug one in the corner is Florida. Its fan base has a quite reputation for arrogance and for treating visitors rudely. Florida thinks it’s better than you because … well, because it’s Florida. It has a built-in advantage because of the number of top prospects that the state annually produces. Respect is warranted because it has had great success in the past, but it has under-performed the last two seasons primarily because of subpar quarterback play. Every year its fans believe a national championship is possible despite obvious limitations the team might have. Does that remind you of anyone in particular?

Despite failing to become an elite program, A&M and UGA have great resources and potential with their recruiting bases, fan support and facilities. Rivals will always view both with a certain uneasiness, knowing that if/when they put it all together these programs could be dominant. {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"left","Quote":"Despite failing to become an elite program, A&M and UGA have great resources and potential with their recruiting bases, fan support and facilities. Rivals will always view both with a certain uneasiness, knowing that if/when they put it all together these programs could be dominant.","Author":""}
•    That’s Georgia, which frankly is a lot like you, Aggies, and not just because you both hold a canine mascot in high regard. The on-field style of play is different, but the results have been somewhat similar. Both Georgia and A&M have had great periods of success in their history, but overall haven’t been as dominant as some casual observers think. Both have had tremendous disappointment in recent years. For example, Georgia opened the ’08 season ranked No. 1 in the nation but finished 13th. Of course, A&M opened last season ranked eighth and finished out of the top 25.

Despite its great reputation, Georgia has won just two conference championships since the SEC split into two divisions in 1992. And I don’t need to remind you the Aggies won just one Big 12 championship. Yet, despite failing to become an elite program, both have great resources and potential with their recruiting bases, fan support and facilities. Rivals will always view both with a certain uneasiness, knowing that if/when they put it all together these programs could be dominant.

•    Finally, the two hulking figures arm wrestling in the middle of the room are LSU and Alabama. From a style of play standpoint they may remind you most of Texas because they a strong defensively and their quarterback play has been largely mediocre in recent years. However, they have much stronger running games than the Longhorns did. However, they do tend to have multiple playmakers and very good coaching, though LSU’s Les Miles is unorthodox.

What really matters is these teams have both won two national championships in just the last 10 years and are always a threat to win the SEC title. They ‘ve combined for three conference championships in the last five years, which is pretty impressive considering the strength of the league. They will most remind you of Oklahoma, the dominant program in the Big 12 with four conference championships in the last six years and seven in the last 12 seasons.

So there you are, Aggies. Now as you step into the SEC, you’ll know what to expect. Which is more than could have been said for Carlo.
Discussion from...

Around the Table: An introduction to the SEC family

Good read. Seems like we need a strong defense, solid running game, and a very good QB and we be competitive.
Disdain for BCG? Not here.

God Bless Billy Clyde.
Billy Clyde can burn in Lubbock (AKA hell).
Disdain for BCG? Not here.
I still love the guy!
Thankful for the relevance he brought us...but not for the way he left us.
good article.

He said we are most like Georgia, from a football perspective. Maybe, but I think A&M has more in common with Auburn as a university.

Auburn and A&M are both Morrill Land Grant schools, strong in Engineering and Ag. We both have an evil in-state rival is our cultural opposite (bama and tu).

I'm looking forward to getting to know all our new SEC brethren-it's going to be a great ride.
Is this the new contributor that was being promoted last week? I don't intend to be rude, but I wonder how much Texags is paying that guy for an article like that. I could have found a generic article comparing SEC programs to Big XII programs on any number of blogs. In years gone by I probably could have found this same comparison on the Aggie Football board (not so much anymore).

Seems weak compared to the stuff that we usually get from other contributors.
Seems like we need a strong defense, solid running game, and a very good QB and we be competitive

Kind of like any other year...
lame ... equating teams in the big 10+??? to the SEC. Great start olin f'off
I can understand comparing vanderbilt to baylor but I actually have respect for vanderbilt.

To 1,000,000 touchdowns ...and beyond
I could have found a generic article comparing SEC programs to Big XII programs on any number of blogs.

You should go do that.
what a dumbass on so many levels.
Oh well ... you can't please all the people all the time.
I am a tough critic because I write for a living. After reading the reviews above, I did not expect much. But this article was fine. It has no obvious spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. He supported each of his points with facts. You may disagree with a few of his comparisons of football programs, but I don't see anyone posting better comparisons of football programs. (Edit: I note that one poster says that Auburn is more similar to A&M as a university, but the writer was not comparing universities.)

The amount of negativity on this board is simply amazing. I want to see the haters try their hands at writing an article for TexAgs. ;-)

[This message has been edited by William_C_G (edited 7/19/2012 1:30p).]
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