by | CBSSports.com

Friday Follies: College Station is talk of college football nation

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Texas A&M has an all-time record of 53-72-4 against the current six members of the SEC West. (Getty Images)  
Texas A&M has an all-time record of 53-72-4 against the current six members of the SEC West. (Getty Images)  

It appears that college football's long, hot summer of discontent has the potential for a final, explosive twist. There have been rumblings all week about Texas A&M potentially joining the SEC and the fallout that would come with it.

Some say it's a done deal. But of course those same folks said things like the Pac-16 was a done deal LAST summer.

The problem with a story like this is that you can be 100 percent right at breakfast and then 100 percent wrong by dinner. Still, permit your humble servant to offer these observations as we celebrate the Friday Follies:

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1. Yep, there is a lot of smoke. But right now all of it is coming out of College Station. I'll admit that the possibility of Texas A&M joining the SEC appears greater this Friday than it did last Friday. A week ago I just thought it was a rumor at best and at worst some saber rattling on the part of the Aggies.

Well, this is more than just a rumor and the fact that the SEC is in total lockdown mode on this subject is very interesting.

But let's remember that all the real chatter is coming out of College Station instead of Birmingham. That doesn't mean it will not happen and it doesn't mean that the SEC is not interested.

I've heard from a number of Aggies who have had it up to here with Texas. Can't tell you how stunned I was to hear that.

They were sick of the fact that Texas has all of these advantages because, well, they are "By God Texas." Again, another shocker. THE state university always has built-in advantages. Always has. Always will.

Sorry, Aggies. That is not a good enough reason to leave.

2. Does Texas A&M really, REALLY want to do this? One big issue that A&M has with Texas was taken off the table Thursday when the NCAA ruled that recruiting regulations already in place will keep The Longhorn Network from televising high school games. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne believes that because of its contractual relationship with Texas, ESPN has become a representative of the Longhorns' athletic interests. And just like a school's in-house magazine cannot write glowing reviews of high school recruits, Byrne believes ESPN should not be allowed to show high school games on The Longhorn Network. There is still some discussion to be had, but it looks like this will be resolved in the Aggies' favor.

But I've been told by more than one person that Texas A&M's issues, and the thing that might drive the Aggies into the arms of the SEC, are much, much bigger than showing a few high school games on The Longhorn Network.

I got that. Still, not a good enough reason to leave.

3. With all due respect to the Big 12, it ain't the SEC West.

Let me put this in perspective: Last season Mississippi State finished 9-4 and beat Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.

It was the second time in 30 years that Mississippi State had won nine or more games in a season. The Gator Bowl appearance was only the fourth time in the history of the school that it had played on New Year's Day. It was a landmark season for the folks in Starkville.

Mississippi State finished FIFTH in the SEC West.

In the preseason coaches poll there are two SEC West teams in the top four (Alabama, LSU). Five of the division's six teams were in the top 20.

"Every game in this division is a war," said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

Just in case you're wondering, Texas A&M has an all-time record of 53-72-4 against the current six members of the SEC West. The Aggies are 24-40-3 against Arkansas, 20-26-1 against LSU, 1-3 against Alabama, 2-0 against Auburn, 4-0 against Mississippi and 2-3 against Mississippi State.

4. No matter what happens, Mike Slive will have Plan A, B, C and D. As he was in the summer of 2010, the SEC commissioner is not talking. There is a reason for this. He calls himself "a recovering lawyer" but his days as an attorney and a district court judge serve him well in his current job.

He has always made it clear to me that expansion is not something he would set out to do. In 2010 he had no interest in expanding the SEC because, last time I checked, that conference had won five straight national championships in football and had 13 years left on a 15-year contract with CBS and ESPN. Things are going pretty well in the SEC.

But the lawyer in Slive tells him to have a plan for every possible contingency and if the landscape changes and the market forces say move, the SEC will be ready to move. This will make the anti-SEC folks crazy, but this league doesn't react. It has a plan and when the market is right, the SEC executes the plan.

Trust me when I tell you this: A year ago when nothing happened on the SEC expansion front, the happiest guy in the world was Mike Slive. I still think the best option for the SEC is not to expand but the conference won't be afraid of it.

5. If Texas A&M bolts, does Texas stay? And if Texas stays, does the Big 12 survive at nine teams? The answers are yes and yes.

There must be times when commissioner Dan Beebe thinks he's herding cats. When Nebraska and Colorado left last summer the league was ready to fall apart and a lot of the blame would have been (unfairly) laid at the feet of Beebe. He will have another challenge holding this conference together if Texas A&M leaves, but the challenge won't be as great if Texas stays.

Sure, the Pac-12 will make another run at Texas because commissioner Larry Scott is a smart guy. But Texas stays because of this reality: If Texas A&M leaves, the Big 12 is still viable. If Texas leaves, it is not. The Big 12 still has an automatic bid to a BCS game and the rest of the conference, including Oklahoma, knows that. If you're Oklahoma, you only make the move to the SEC when the market forces you to do it. If Texas stays, Oklahoma doesn't have to move.

One other thing: Some have written that if the SEC takes Texas A&M, it might play as a 13-team league until it gets the team it wants. I can't see that. The SEC only moves when all of the details have been resolved.

Happy Friday, folks. Like I said, this could all be moot by dinnertime. It has been that kind of summer in college football.

The Tony Barnhart Show returns on Aug. 31 on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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