Texas Football and the Big 12: A Legacy in Decline

This is the schedule for the University of Texas’ football team during the 2013 season:

(Home games in bold caps; all times TBA)

Sept. 7: at BYU
Oct. 3 or 5: at Iowa State*
Oct. 12: vs. Oklahoma* (Dallas)
Oct. 26: at TCU*
Nov. 9: at West Virginia*
Dec. 7: at Baylor*

*is a conference game

Take a look at that slate.  Other than the Oklahoma game is there another game that anyone other than Texas fans and the fans of whomever they are going to play will care about?  In other words, are there any games on that schedule that will have national significance?  I don’t see one.  I don’t seen one that’s even close to being relevant.

Now, check out the home games Texas fans get to see this year.  Two teams from Kansas…OSU…New Mexico State…Tech…anything get you all fired up?  Any of those games something you’re really looking forward to seeing?  Any of those a game you’ve just got to be at DKR Stadium to watch?

Alabama visits Kyle Field on September 14, 2013 to open the SEC Conference slate.  That game will be bigger than any game that Texas has played at home as long as I can remember.

Those two things exemplify what is currently happening in college football: the encroaching irrelevance of the Big 12 and the power of the SEC.  We can throw in the rise of Texas A&M for good measure too.

When talks about the Longhorn Network, conference expansion, and A&M moving to the SEC began there were basically two camps.  Die-hard Aggies who think that everything the A&M administration does is right and just, and then others, like myself, who are what I like to call “realistic” Aggies, along with the rest of the sports world.  The die-hard Aggies all believed the move to the SEC would be great.  A&M would improve recruiting, they’d increase their national footprint, they would get out from underneath the shadow of Texas, and while it might take some time, ultimately A&M would be successful.  The “realistic” Aggies, and everyone else, thought it was a terrible move.  A&M would still get out-recruited by Texas, they would get dominated in the SEC, so any benefit they would get in recruiting would be washed by the fact that even if you’re in the best conference, top recruits still want to play for winners.  A .500 Aggie team, that might or might not make a bowl game, would have a tough time recruiting, even if they were in the SEC, because they wouldn’t be able to compete in the conference.

At the same time, many people were arguing that A&M could not survive without Texas.  The only thing keeping A&M relevant was membership in the Big 12 and their yearly rivalry with UT.  The Aggies were little brother and they would not be able to make it in that big bad SEC conference without their big brother to protect them.

At this point, it’s clear that one side was mostly correct and the other side was just absolutely wrong.  The only thing that the die-hards didn’t get right is the idea that it would take a while for A&M to compete in the SEC.  A&M finished the 2012 season as arguably the BEST team in the SEC, being the only team to defeat the current and former national champions, finishing 11-2, setting numerous individual and team conference records, placing a red-shirt freshman as the Heisman winner, and literally taking the college football world by storm.  A&M IMMEDIATELY competed in the SEC, and with their top 10 recruiting class, are set to continue to be discussed as one of the best teams in, not just the SEC, but all of college football for several seasons to come.

On the other hand, the doubters got everything wrong.

First, the Longhorn Network has been a complete failure.  Does anyone watch the LHN?  Does anyone even have the LHN?  Longhorn fans don’t watch the Network and many of them don’t have it because cable and satellite providers understand that it is not a money making option.  Even Texas football coaches are now complaining that the network gives their OPPONENTS an unfair advantage.  Isn’t that rich?  Texas Football thought the LHN would set the standard for the rest of college football.  A premier team, from a premier state, could create a stand alone network and be successful.

Second, the move to the SEC vastly improved A&M’s recruiting and now A&M is out-recruiting Texas.  The Aggie’s 2013 class is considered a top 10 class and outranks the closest Big 12 school by six spots in most rankings.  And their class is considerably better than the one Texas was able to pull together.  In the Athlon rankings linked to here they outrank Texas by 11 spots and OU by 6.

Third, the Aggies do not need Texas to be relevant.  In fact, the college football landscape is quickly suggesting it may be the other way around.  First, just from my own experience this season, I found that as the season progressed, I thought less and less about Texas.  In fact, towards the end of the season, I really could have cared less about losing the Thanksgiving Day rivalry game.  It surprised me as to how unimportant it became.  When sportswriters began discussing the possibility of A&M playing Texas in the Cotton Bowl, I was hoping it wouldn’t happen because that would mean that A&M would end up in a lesser bowl game than I thought they deserved.  In the end, they got the Cotton Bowl, but they at least got a more competitive opponent.  One who had beaten Texas 63-21. Second, take a look at that 2013 Longhorn schedule again and read the points I made about it.  Other than the OU game there isn’t a game on that schedule that stands out.  Not one game that really draws attention.  And frankly, the A&M/Alabama game on September 14 will be much more important to the 2013 college football season than any game that Texas plays.   If the season plays out similar to 2012, that Nov. 23 game where A&M visits Baton Rouge may be equally as important.  Recruits come to play in Big games, on Big TV networks, against Big teams.  The Longhorns have nothing to offer in 2013.  The Aggies have it all.

Not only that, but the Big 12 doesn’t have much to offer either.  It was shocking to see the Aggies dismantle Bob Stoops and the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.  The Aggies finished 3rd in their SEC division and were 4 touchdowns better than OU, while Kansas State, the best Big 12 team, was easily beaten by Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.  Stoops, arguably one of the best coaches in college football, had more than a month to prepare for the Aggies, and he and his brother stood on the sidelines looking befuddled as both the Aggie offense and defense tore down what appeared to be a respectable season for the Sooners.

Once out of the Big 12 and shadow of Texas, the Aggies dramatically increased their national footprint.  They played several nationally televised games, they had consistently high ratings for their SEC matchups, they won the Heisman and were able to plaster his face all over the country.  You’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard about Johnny Football.   The Aggies will have at least 2 first-round draft picks, and based on some analyses,  (also here and here), possibly the #1 pick overall in Luke Joeckel.  Also, take a look at Chris Burke’s big draft board I linked to there.  Anything stand out?  Did you notice that 18 of the 40 players in that list are from SEC teams?  Almost half of the top picks in the country come from the Aggies’ new conference, and the Aggies have two in the top 5.  You’ve got to scroll all the way down to #17 to find a Big 12 or Texas player.  And, there are only 5 players from the Big 12 mentioned.

I’m afraid the tables have turned.  Myself, the “realistic” Aggies, and the rest of the sports world were wrong.  It appears Texas A&M made a brilliant decision to leave the Big 12 when they did.  And if the 2012 season is any indicator, the Big 12 and the Longhorns have begun a steady decline into irrelevancy.

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One Response to Texas Football and the Big 12: A Legacy in Decline

  1. BJ says:

    Got on the blog today for some exciting “its almost baseball season” stuff and was disappointed. I guess I have to find a new blog about the Rangers…this one has way too heavy a dose of SEC superiority doucheness. Obviously the “anything else we care to talk about” allows for, we’ll anything, but I get enough SEC love from ESPN.

    p.s. Duff, this is written tongue in cheek so start untwisting your knickers. Can’t wait for the season to start…mainly so the TAMU love will subside for a few months!

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