If you think constant bombardment about SEC greatness is ridiculous, this article is for you. I’m personally of a mind that they are the best conference, but not by nearly as much as people think. And I’m saying the conferences that are close are the Big 12 and Pac 12, not the B1G, for the record. This could be the year where the postseason isn’t kind to the SEC, methinks. At any rate, this is solid.
How Texas A&M Has Controlled the 2014 College Football Season
For better or worse, Texas A&M is dictating the 2014 college football season in the eyes of the AP voters.
Way back on Thursday, August 28th, the South Carolina Gamecocks were getting ready to kick off the 2014 campaign by hosting Texas A&M. It was a Top 25 matchup, but realistically, it was supposed to be a showcase of South Carolina’s power against a formidable opponent.
Four quarters later, the Gamecocks were picking pieces of themselves off the turf, while college football had a new IT team: The Texas A&M Aggies.
In the days that followed, the AP polls had the Gamecocks and Aggies flipped in the rankings. The Aggies shot from No. 21 to No. 9, while the Gamecocks fell from No. 9 to No. 21. In doing so, Texas A&M leapfrogged nine other teams who had also recorded wins during the opening weekend. Apparently, the win at South Carolina was strong enough to merit such a jump.
The following week, Texas A&M jumped two spots in the poll to No. 7. Sure, they beat Lamar 73-3, but it was losses by Michigan State and Ohio State that allowed the Aggies to move up again. Now all of a sudden, Texas A&M went from being a Top 25 team on SEC West schedules to a firmly entrenched Top 10 opponent, essentially bolstering the perceived strength of schedule for every SEC West team.
Sound wins over Rice and Southern Methodist (the two teams are 3-9 combined on the season thus far) allowed the Aggies to move up to No. 6 in the AP Poll. An overtime win over fellow SEC West foe Arkansas was enough for the Aggies to maintain that No. 6 ranking, setting up a highly anticipated contest between them and Mississippi State — the No. 12 team in the nation.
Heading into the contest, Texas A&M was averaging over 51 points per game against a slate of teams with a combined record of 9-13. Three of those nine wins belonged to FCS Lamar, coming by way of wins over Grambling State, Texas College and Mississippi College. It didn’t matter. All anyone saw was the number next to Texas A&M’s name on the television screen: 6. This was the No. 6 team in the country according to the Associated Press, and in their eyes, that’s all you needed to know.
Four quarters later, Mississippi State became the proud owners of a 48-31 beatdown of the Aggies — a team many thought was the best in the nation — and their quarterback rocketed to the top of the Heisman discussion. Again, that’s all you need to know.
The following week, the AP vaulted Mississippi State to No. 3 in the polls, jumping over three teams who won games (Notre Dame, Michigan State and Baylor) and drawing even with in-state rival Ole Miss. Apparently, Ole Miss’s win over then No. 3 Alabama wasn’t quite as strong over Mississippi State’s win over the sixth-ranked Aggies.
Texas A&M was in action again the following week, this time against Ole Miss. The Aggies were now No. 14 in the AP poll. Ole Miss soundly defeated them in College Station and maintained their No. 3 ranking. Ironically, the Ole Miss Rebels created more separation between themselves and the No. 4 team at the time — Baylor — with the “strength” of the win over A&M. This despite Baylor knocking off then No. 9 Texas Christian.
Fast forward to this past weekend. The Alabama Crimson Tide headed into their home contest against the reeling Aggies ranked No. 7 in the AP poll. As we all saw, that game was over by the end of the first quarter, as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 59-0 win. In the eyes of the AP voters, that beatdown of a team that looks to have given up on the season was enough to shoot Alabama back into the Top 5, leapfrogging idle in-state rival Auburn. That Alabama blowout finally knocked Texas A&M out of the Top 25 and nearly out of the “Others receiving votes” section. When I say nearly, I mean it. Texas A&M got ONE vote in the AP Poll. Drew Sharp, a Michigan beat writer for the Detroit Free-Press, still feels like the Aggies are a Top 25 team. On a side note, he also has Michigan State as the 12th best team in the country, but that’s a story for another day.
What we now have is an AP Top 4 consisting of three teams who either got there or got to stay there by beating a team that is no longer ranked. The team on the outside looking in — No. 5 Auburn — has not had the luxury of a schedule strength-boosting matchup with Texas A&M. Unfortunately for the Auburn Tigers, they won’t play the Aggies until November 8th. Texas A&M is not likely to be ranked then, thus probably eliminating any chance Auburn has of leapfrogging Alabama, who as I mentioned, jumped over Auburn by doing the same. Instead, Auburn will be in danger of being jumped again — this time by Michigan State — who will square off with Ohio State on the same day.
I’m going to assume most AP writers will value a Michigan State win over Ohio State more than Auburn’s win over an unranked Texas A&M squad. In the end, Texas A&M, for better or worse, will continue to dictate the 2014 college football season. Here’s hoping the College Football Playoff committee takes notice and acts accordingly.
Oh, and as for South Carolina, the team really started this mess? The AP hasn’t had them ranked in over a month.