Aggies' 2012 Season Proves Big 12's Relevance, Gives Oklahoma Quality Bowl Matchup

Texas A&M won six of its eight conference games in the Aggies' first season as an SEC team.

College football fans in the south will gladly remind you that "success" can't be spelled without the letters S-E-C.

For the second year in a row, we're also reminded of how top-heavy the league is by seeing a 10-win team finish in third place -- in just their own division. The surprise factor to the southeastern football elitists was which team did it.

The Texas A&M Aggies finished 10-2 in their first season as a member of the SEC. That record included wins in 6 of their 8 conference games. And unless the team out of South Bend, Indiana pulls an upset, the Aggies will be the only team to have beaten defending national champ Alabama this season.

Perhaps the Big 12's style of play isn't as "inferior" as previously perceived.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops feels the SEC has the best defensive talent, but the Big 12's defenses are often exploited by the best offensive units.

"The offenses are tougher to deal with in our league, and then defensively, we need to play better," said Stoops during Tuesday's media press conference in Norman. "They're having a hard time in the SEC dealing with their offense too."

But Texas A&M's spread offense still reflects the majority of teams' offensive philosophy in the Big 12. So the OU players admit this Cotton Bowl matchup feels like a regularly scheduled conference game.

"In my mind, it still seems like a Big 12 game because they're only a year removed," senior quarterback Landry Jones explained. "Now if this was 20 years down the line, I'm sure it'd be a whole different game and different feel to it because I'm sure these future Oklahoma teams won't play Texas A&M every year."

Clearly conference pride won't be the strongest motivator in this matchup.

But even for 11th ranked OU to be systematically left out of a BCS bowl, the Sooners still get a quality matchup: #9 Texas A&M on January 4. And by facing reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, OU will have played all three Heisman finalists in the 2012-13 season.

"A lot of people were upset we didn't get the Sugar Bowl bid, but it happens," said OU senior defensive end David King.

"The whole national media is scrutinizing our defense about how we can't stop the run. We're underdogs in this game, so we've got a lot to prove. On January 4, we'll be ready to play."