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For Texas A&M, it could be a big finish

Mike Sherman's Aggies, who may bolt from the Big 12 to the SEC, rank No. 14 in the top 25 countdown. They return nine starters from a potent 2010 offense.

August 17, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • After a 3-3 start last season, Coach Mike Sherman and Texas A&M ran off six straight regular-seasons victories -- three of those against Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
After a 3-3 start last season, Coach Mike Sherman and Texas A&M ran off… (David J. Phillip / Associated…)

Texas A&M might have won five national titles by now if it worried half as much about itself as it does about Texas.

Texas is the spoiled-brat brother who gets everything — and it's just not fair.

The latest outrage: ESPN gave Texas its own Network!?

For years, Texas couldn't go anywhere, including the Pacific 10 Conference, without Texas A&M and the Baylor barnacle. They were a political package. The Pac-10 wanted to add Colorado and Texas two decades ago but couldn't in part because of Texas A (appendage) & M (manacle).

Now, A&M is initiating the breakup. The Aggies' threatened move to join the Southeastern Conference last year likely scuttled Larry Scott's effort to form the Pac-16.

Texas remained in a fractious Big 12 Conference, signing an exclusive ESPN deal, which included showing high school games. The rest of the league, led by Texas A&M, understandably flipped its collective gourd.

The Aggies leveraged one of their options — leaving — to help force a one-year moratorium on Texas' shameless recruiting trick. The NCAA has since nixed the Longhorn Network's high school idea, but probably not in time to stop A&M from bolting to the SEC.

And if not all of this is true, well, half of it is.

Texas A&M needs to quit seething and realize, right now, in football, it's better than Texas. It finished 9-4 last year to Bevo's 5-7 and defeated the Longhorns in Austin.

Come out from the shadows. Quit acting like "Sherman's Hermits."

Texas A&M starts ranked No. 9 in the USA Today poll, a little high in our opinion, but things are definitely on the uptick.

This wasn't the vibe a year ago, when Coach Mike Sherman walked into his third year with a 10-15 record.

Sherman was only 13-18 after a 3-3 start before the Aggies ran off six straight regular seasons victories — three of those against Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Only a Cotton Bowl loss to Louisiana State prevented a 10-win season.

"I have a lot less headaches now than I had previously, the guys kind of binding to what we're doing," Sherman said at Big 12 media day. "Certainly winning last year in the second half of the season really helped precipitate that and allowed us an opportunity to say, OK, I guess we do know what we're doing."

Why the optimism?

Texas A&M returns nine starters from an offense that averaged 441 yards a game. It's led by senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill, All-Big 12 receiver Jeff Fuller and 1,000-yard rusher Cyrus Gray.

The defense must live without pass-rush monster linebacker Von Miller, drafted No.2 overall last spring by the Denver Broncos.

"I don't think you replace a Von Miller, No. 2 pick, very easily with one player," Sherman said. "I think we have to do it collectively with a group of guys, and I think we'll be able to do that."

The first conference test comes Sept. 24, when Oklahoma State visits College Station. The last test is Nov. 24, when Texas (and its network) comes to town. It might be A&M's last game in the Big 12.

Odds of emotions spilling over: high.

The countdown so far: 25. Texas; 24. Georgia; 23. Arkansas; 22. Arizona State; 21. West Virginia; 20. Auburn; 19. Ohio State; 18. USC; 17. Michigan State; 16. Florida; 15. Virginia Tech.

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