One of the more surprising aspects of the conference realignment mess that engulfed the first half of the 2011 season was the timing of the whole thing, specifically regarding Texas A&M. The Aggies were ranked in the top ten of both the preseason polls and were set to make a run not only the Big 12 title but a national championship, as well, following their strong finish to the 2010 season.
By mid-July this past summer, there were rumblings they were looking hard at the SEC. On August 31st, five days before A&M was to open the season against SMU, the school officially announced it was leaving the Big 12. One month later, they were officially announced as a member of the SEC. All this leading up to a season in which Texas A&M was about to put themselves back on the college football map if they weren't already there.
While it's not possible to gauge exactly how much of a distraction the move to the SEC caused, it certainly didn't help matters. Whatever the case, the Aggies final season in the Big 12 wasn't one to remember.
After Thursday night's loss to Texas, the Aggies finished the year at 6-6 and have to be considered one of the candidates for the most disappointing team of the year award if there were such a thing.
They are still eligible for a bowl game but at 6-6, nothing is guaranteed with the Big 12 having only seven spots available with eight teams eligible. This whole reality is certainly far from what anyone expected in College Station three months ago.
After quieting the discussions of Mike Sherman being on the hot seat with last year's strong finish, Sherman now finds his name right back in the line of fire among the Aggies' fan base. He is 25-25 in his four years, but has stabilized the program considering the mess he inherited. Either way, questions once again surround a program whose schedule won't be getting an easier in the years to come.
Saturday night's loss to instate rival Texas was a perfect snapshot of their season. A 10 point first quarter lead and a nine point halftime lead turned into two interceptions and four punts on their first six possessions of the second half allowing Texas to get back in the game and kick the game winning field goal as time ran out.
Now they're off to the SEC where Texas will no longer be their rival, but they will have to carry with them losing their last game against the Longhorns. Not to mention, dealing with a season once filled with high expectations that came to a crashing end. It's not exactly the way the Aggies would have preferred to script their entrance into a new conference.
“This is a devastating loss for our team,” Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said after the season ending loss to Texas. Yes, devastating no doubt, but it also could have been expected based on the previous 11 games. The Aggies likely will have some fond memories of the Big 12, but this year won't be one of them.