The 2014 UT football season, by some metrics, could be defined as a relative success. The 2014 Texas A&M football season, by most metrics can not. The Longhorns opened the season unranked in the AP poll, and unranked they remain. The Aggies, meanwhile, opened the season at #21, rocketed up to #9 after thumping South Carolina in week one, and rose as high as #6 before a three-game losing streak to SEC opponents left the team in the same position as their rebuilding former rivals: unranked and unheralded. At the very least, the expectations for the Longhorns were low, and the 6-5 team has met them. The Aggies had realistic hopes of being competitive, and they failed to materialize against good teams, leaving them 7-4.
The end result of all of this is that the two teams, whose rivalry ended in 2011 after nearly a century, are roughly on the same level at this point, after years of A&M being the more prominent team. All of which has led to speculation that the two teams could meet again—this time in a bowl game.
That speculation has led to reports that that, while UT would be thrilled to encounter their old rivals in a bowl game, A&M would prefer not to meet the Longhorns. Those reports originated from HornsReport.com, and UT fans have taken heart in them in a season that hasn’t had a lot to celebrate besides “building blocks” and “hope for the future.”
[I]t’s apparently the Aggies – or perhaps the SEC on the Aggies’ behalf – making sure there will be no postseason matchup of two of college football’s most bitter divorcees.
Two sources close to the situation told HornsDigest.com SEC officials have indicated to bowls with SEC and Big 12 tie-ins that the SEC won’t support a Texas vs Texas A&M postseason matchup. In short, A&M has too much to lose from a potential loss.
Right now, the Aggies and Kevin Sumlin are seen as the school to beat in the Lone Star State in recruiting. Why risk diminishing that status with just more than two months until National Signing Day?
Because of the low expectations that the Longhorns have faced all season, a matchup with A&M is essentially the team playing with house money—if they lose, there might be some sad walks to the parking lot for fans in orange, but otherwise no one’s opinion of the UT program changes a whole lot. The Aggies, meanwhile, would cap off a disappointing season with a crippling defeat, should the Longhorns pull off the upset—while a win would just cement that they’re better than a team that no one thinks is very good.
UT fans obviously love the idea that A&M is afraid of their team. But according to A&M athletic director Eric Hyman, “afraid” ain’t got nothing to do with it. As MySA.com reports:
“Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference,” said Hyman […] “The configuration is so different than it’s been in the past. They ask us to rank the bowls, and they ask the bowls to rank us. The (SEC) then ranks all the different teams from that, and that’s how the selection will be made.
“It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control. … Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play.”
Hyman, who owns a reputation as a straight shooter, said the notion the Aggies are trying to get out of playing the Longhorns, for whatever reason or reasons, is absolutely unfounded.
“It goes back to what the league does, and how the bowl selection has changed dramatically from the past,” Hyman said. “You don’t really have a lot of say, the conference office picks who they want. And they try to match them up.”
“Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play” isn’t quite the “Anytime, anywhere” that A&M President R. Bowen Loftin declared in 2011—one of them sounds like the program is actively champing at the bit for Longhorn blood, the other one sounds like grudging acceptance that they won’t hang out at the local Whataburger instead of coming to the stadium—so we’ll assume that, at the very least, all of the “it’s out of our hands” talk means that A&M isn’t going to directly lobby the SEC for the chance to take on UT.
Of course, even if A&M is ducking UT (and we wouldn’t go so far as to make that claim), it’s hardly the first time that either of the schools failed to back up its tough talk about a potential reunion on the field.
(Cal Sport Media via AP Images)