University of Texas fans are understandably tired of hearing about Texas A&M’s first season in the Southeastern Conference–from the Alabama upset to Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy to the Cotton Bowl. Hey, now they know how Aggies felt for most of the last 40 years.
But portions of the Longhorns fan base, as well as Texas sports pundits who still hate the UT/A&M divorce, have settled on an unconvincing trope to make the case that A&M should not have left the Big 12 for the SEC. Instead of simply pointing out that any program which considers a third-place conference finish to be one of its all-time memorable seasons does still have a ways to go (even if that ignores the fact that sports are about narrative as much as won-lost records), the most popular attempt at trash-talk has been something along the lines of:
”Hey Aggie, the joke’s on you (like it always is), because if you stayed in the Big 12, you would have won it!”
So if Aggies had stayed in the Big 12, they would’ve/could’ve run the table…and we’ve seen what they can do against Alabama.
— Derek Ryan (@longhornderek) January 8, 2013
— Jerome Solomon (@JeromeSolomon) January 8, 2013
In other words: “If you hadn’t joined the SEC, you would have beat our seriously disappointing Longhorns team, and all the other ones as well. Na-na-na-na-na!”
But as anyone who’s ever seen a movie–let’s say Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure–knows, this is totally fallacious. If you change one thing that happened in the past, you potentially change everything. There’s no way we can know what really would have happened had the Aggies stayed–though such thinking is understandable coming from a constituency that is still 100% sure UT wins the 2009 BCS championship game against Alabama if Colt McCoy does not get hurt.
Baseball fans are also quite fond of this optimistic logic: nobody ever says, “if the ump doesn’t blow that call at first, the runner would have been out on a double play next batter!” But alternate realties are not that simple.
So here’s what I think might have happened if the Aggies hadn’t joined the SEC. It’s ridiculous, but no less so than assuming that they would have met up against ‘Bama in the BCS.
THE SHERMAN EFFECT
First off, these woulda-shouldas are completely based on the idea that the very same Kevin Sumlin-coached Texas A&M team that we saw in the SEC would have been in the Big 12. But there’s little reason to believe that would have been the case, which changes everything. Here are some scenarios:
1. Mike Sherman keeps his job because the 2011 team goes 9-4 instead of 7-6.
We all know football teams are not supposed to look ahead to next week. But arguably, Sherman’s 2011 A&M squad, which began the season ranked #9 by the Associated Press, was looking