Texas: So how do you look at this 8-2 Longhorn team that has suddenly peaked? Did Mack finally right the ship? Was Dallas just a huge fluke a month ago? Or, is this a long-term nightmare for the program? For those fans hoping to see a new head coach in 2013, this is almost a worst case scenario. Texas goes 9-3, ends the season with tons of momentum, maybe even a Alamo Bowl trophy, with Ash and all 3 RBs returning. Nevermind the 60+ points surrendered to OU or the fact that the Horns weren't even close to sniffing a Big XII title, because next year is the year. Except it won't be, because a Mack Brown Texas team will do the exact same thing. At least that's the ultimate fear, right? He'll do the same thing because he's always done it. Lose to OU, no conference title, 10-2 record and a bowl win. Whether you praise, defend, lament, or vilify him, here's the reality check: Mack Brown ain't going anywhere. And wherever Mack goes, so goes the Longhorns. Whether that's Pasadena (again) in 2013, the playoffs in 2014, or bowl-less in both years remains to be seen. But the reality is that Mack is the UT coach until he doesn't want to be.
A&M: Texas A&M played unbelievably awesome against the Tide yesterday. The big story that much of the media will talk about is how Bama lost, was there a post-LSU hangover, and/or how a one-loss Bama can edge into the BCS title game with a few breaks. But make absolutely no mistake, A&M played like a championship caliber team in Tuscaloosa. A&M beat Alabama, pure and simple. Jumping to a 20-0 lead by the 1st quarter against a defending national champion led by Nick Saban on their home turf is absolutely, ridiculously amazing. It should also be painstakingly agonizing for Texas A&M. Yes, they proved they "belong" in the SEC, as every sports writer with a computer and internet connection was quick to ingeniously point out around 8pm central yesterday. Yes, they knocked off the absolute best team in the SEC and (until now) the unquestioned #1 team in the country. Yes, they've proved that Sumlin was a smart hire, and yes they now have a Heisman contender on their hands who is only a freshman. That's the good news for the Aggies. Here's the bad:
When A&M moved to the SEC, unbiased analysts argued that they would be able to compete for the SEC title every now and then, but monumental success would elude them as it always had. Their Big XII milestones were 1) winning it in '98 2) beating OU in '03 3) knocking off UT in '06. Looking at this year's Aggie squad looks like more of the same, a team that is capable of knocking a Goliath team out of a title race, but coming up short elsewhere. Let's not forget this is an Aggie team that lost to a confusing Florida team and LSU both at home, while barely escaping Ole Miss and La Tech on the road. Additionally, A&M will almost certainly finish 3rd in the SEC West, despite their gigantic win yesterday. All Bama needs to do is beat Auburn and they'll play Georgia for the SEC title. And Bama beating Auburn will certainly happen. LSU beating Ole Miss and then Arkansas to finish out their season will almost certainly happen too. That leaves Johnny Football & his Aggies finishing 3rd in the SEC West race. This Aggie team would be competing only with KSU for the top spot if they had stayed in the Big XII. Instead, they'll most likely finish behind Bama, Florida, Georgia, and LSU. Fifth in the SEC stadnings, and this is a "down" year in the SEC.
Sure, you'll hear a lot of "next year is the year" coming out of College Station, and rightly so for this young team. But "next year is the year" is getting old for the Aggies. Like 15+ years old. So here's the reality check for A&M: beating Bama seems like the top of the world, but it's more of the same mediocrity. Come back down to Earth, quick. Watch out for Mizzou on Turkey Day.
Disclaimer: I have my own opinions on Mack Brown's coaching status, which I won't reveal in this post. But I want to make this clear: the way he reintegrated Darrell Royal back into the program after '96 was one of his greatest achievements as a coach. Mack didn't have to do it, but it was the right thing to do, both for Royal himself and for the university. To be honest, being more involved with UT in the last 15 years probably extended Royal's life by a few years. Say what you want about Brown, he'll always deserve respect for the way he has conducted himself on the field and off, and he has constantly attempted to live by Royal's standards of fairness and excellence.