No. 2: Texas A&M, Missouri Shake Up the SEC in Debut Seasons

Mike Zarrilli

Very little about Missouri and Texas A&M's first year in the conference turned out as most of us expected it to. In a way, that makes them perfect additions

It was a little bit odd in Hoover this year, at least to this blogger, when Missouri got more of the "why are you here?" questions than Texas A&M. After all, the Tigers finished the season with a better overall record than the Aggies in each of the five seasons before their move to the SEC. Even accounting for the fact that Missouri played in the Big 12 North and A&M competed in the more rugged Big 12 South, it seemed like Mizzou had passed TAMU over the last several seasons. Oh, and Texas A&M was bringing on a new coach and a new offensive system as they made the same new-to-the-SEC adjustments that Missouri had to make.

Like most of the things we thought about the Aggies and the Tigers this year, that assumption turned out to be wrong. Hit by injuries and other ills, Missouri failed to even make a bowl game this year; A&M, meanwhile, knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation and saw a freshman quarterback carry home one of the most iconic awards in sports. Missouri got buried behind Georgia, Florida and South Carolina in the SEC East while Texas A&M fought its way to third in the SEC West.

By far the most surprising thing about A&M's 2012 season wasn't all that surprising when it finally happened: Johnny Manziel, a player who was not even certain to be the starting quarterback for the Aggies this year, ended up winning the Heisman Trophy in a blowout. Just weeks before, most people (rightfully) cast the A&M signal-caller as a longshot behind players like Collin Klein and Manti Te'o, who were after all playing for national title contenders.

But it was still pretty surprising when, in early November, A&M upset Alabama and very nearly ended the SEC's national title streak before the championship game could even be played. Which might not be the best way to endear yourselves to your new conference mates, but is a pretty good way to earn their respect.

As for Missouri? Well, basketball season has gone much better for the Tigers so far -- they remain the highest-ranked SEC team in both hoops polls and the only conference team other than Florida to make both surveys. (Kentucky is No. 23 among the coaches.) And Gary Pinkel has probably earned one down year, even if happened to be the worst possible way to make a first impression on the league. If Missouri doesn't bounce back at least a little bit next year -- now, that might be the biggest surprise of them all.

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