Published August 8, 2012 - 4:12pm
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That collective yawn you heard throughout college football last November was the Southeastern Conference adding Texas A&M and Missouri. I’ve seen 46 lbs Chinese Olympic divers make bigger splashes. The SEC, the most powerful and successful conference in college football, definitely got bigger, but not better.
Respect won’t come easy for SEC newcomers, and it’s not just because they are coming over from the Big 12, but that does play a part. The Big 12 is a fine conference, possibly the second best in college football. But everyone knows the Big 12 is only good because of Texas and Oklahoma, not because of Colorado, Texas Tech, A&M or Mizzou. Nobody says Ocean’s Eleven is a cool movie because Elliot Gould and Casey Affleck are in it.
This expansion rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning because it felt like expansion for expansion sake. A blatant cash grab in a sport that doesn’t pay its players. Texas A&M is added because they are in a huge state and Missouri brings… ah…. the St. Louis television market? Sure, let’s go with that. It feels cheap and lazy. We whiffed on Texas and Oklahoma and Florida and South Carolina are blocking the additions of Florida State and Clemson so that leaves the two nonathletic kids in the corner.
Texas A&M is the Johnny Drama of college football. They are the University of Texas’ less talented, less interesting brother. It feels like they are always hovering around the 23 to “also receiving votes” spot in the rankings and that’s mainly because they are consistently overrated. I say they are overrated because they have only won 3 of their last 12 bowl games, and I wouldn’t brag about wins in the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the Galleyfurniture.com Bowl. They’ve had 1 Top 25 finish this millennium (2010 – 19 and 21, disrespectfully). In my lifetime they are known mainly for novelty acts like The 12th Man, Bonfires and Asian Linebackers.
Last season A&M had flashes where they felt like a top 15 team leading Oklahoma State and Arkansas, 2 of the top 8 teams in football last year, by double digits, but they blew both games. They were not ready for prime time, yet, that is where they find themselves.
But, hey, at least they have an image, which is more than I can say for Missouri. Missouri Football is usually only mentioned in the sentence, “Didn’t Chase Daniel play at Missouri?” And that sentence is only said 4 times a year, at most, by people like me who pay way too much attention to college football. Their addition to the SEC reminds me of the running gag on Arrested Development, where Michael Bluth never remembers his son’s boring girlfriend. “Her? What, is she funny, or something?”
I did an experiment with three people where I named a college football program and ask them to say the first thing that comes to mind. I said Florida and they all said, “Tebow!” I say Alabama and they all said, “Bear Bryant!” All three times the questions ended at Missouri after the person goes into a blank stare and eventually drifts into a Terri Schiavo-like drooling state. Eventually I decided I should probably stop the experiment. Missouri was literally boring people to death.
It’s not like the SEC is impervious to mediocrity. Kentucky and the states of Tennessee and Mississippi are getting pretty good at being average, but don’t think it’s easy to be an also-ran in the conference that has won the last 6 BCS National Championships.
Vanderbilt’s journey to the middle of the SEC East is the stuff Disney Movies are made of. If Missouri and Texas A&M want to come in and just blend in like they did in the Big 12 they are going to need to step up their play. Missouri appears to at least be heading in the right direction after signing Dorial Green-Beckham, the mega recruit who looks like a hybrid of Andre Johnson and Lebron James. It’s a start.
It’s going to be a tough season for the SEC newcomers, there is no way around it. The worst part is nobody in Texas will care and nobody in St. Louis will watch.