Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Texas A&M now represents Texas football culture in the nation's most powerful football conference and so far they have represented it well. How do the Longhorns respond?
The state of Texas has a history for being early adopters to offensive innovation.
In 1847, the state provided a boon for a young businessman named Samuel Colt when the Texas Rangers ordered 1,000 of his newest revolvers for usage in the war with Mexico. Samuel Colt had been laboring unsuccessfully as an arms manufacturer for some time already when his innovations met opportunity in the hands of a band of Texans.
Capt. Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers had gotten a hold of some of Colt's early revolvers and by utilizing the revolver's quick firing abilities along with 14 other Texans, had defeated a band of 70 Comanches. Previously, the weapons of the west had found themselves unable to match the possibilities of well mounted guerrillas filling settlers with arrows while they reloaded their rifles. The revolver proved to tip the scales back to the white man.
Aftewards, Capt. Walker found Mr. Colt in New York, made a few recommendations about the firing capacity and caliber of the weapon, and made his 1,000 order for usage by the Texas Rangers. At times in early Texas history, as few as 40-50 Rangers were responsible for policing the Texas frontier against Cherokee, Mexicans, and the dreaded Comanche. A massive task accomplished largely through the explosive firepower provided by the early revolvers that defined the unit.
Basically, imagine the early Galactic Republic policing the universe with Jedi Knights and replace the gentle, peace-loving Jedi and lightsaber with an aggressive, rough, early Texan armed with a revolver and you are most of the way there. That's the kind of personality that a statement like "We're Texas" invokes for much of the state.
That self-assured and aggressive element of Texas culture remains to this day and often has the opportunity to shine brightest through the state's high school football culture. The modern football equivalent to the Colt revolver, the no-huddle/shotgun spread, has many of its origins with Texas High Schools dating back to 1985 when Art Briles transformed his Veer offense with spread formations.
However, most of us Longhorn fans looked down on the Aggies of Texas A&M when they made their move to the SEC and installed Sumlin's system.
"Have fun losing every other game!" was a common perception of what they were facing in their desperate attempt to get out of UT's shadow. Surely a 7-5 Big 12 team with a new coach was going to fall hard in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Not so, apparently.
Instead, Longhorns must confront the following facts:
Texas A&M is currently the major representation of Texas football culture within the sport's premier conference, the SEC. They have fully embraced Texas' offensive innovations and are demonstrating the superiority of the rapid firing Walker-Colt offense over the Napoleonic charges that often define SEC offensive style. Their braggadocio upon approaching SEC country may not have matched the calmer Longhorn style but it absolutely reflects the proud and boastful spirit of the greater Texas culture. Thus far, they have had success.
Obviously we all recall the glorious victory of Texas football over the budding USC dynasty in 2005 which led Mack Brown to claim victory for the greater state of Texas and it's high school programs. The upstart West Coast program was dispatched and the way seemed paved for Texas ascendancy.
Since then the SEC has won seven consecutive BCS Titles, for those who haven't been updated by ESPN recently. They dominate college football both in public perception and in on-field results. The Notre Dame team that was just washed away by Saban's Crimson Tide had defeated some of the stronger programs from the Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12 en route to that matchup.
Peering at the talent pool that major programs are drawing from you get a sense of how monumental a task it will be to unseat the SEC from their perch. A ranking of the nation's ten most talent rich states reveals a map that resembles the Mason-Dixon line in your old high school history book.
On the outside of the map, there is a limited number of programs geographically positioned with the resources to challenge SEC hegemony.
-California supplies more than enough premier recruits to field an elite team but the state only has one major program and the rest of its players are leeched by tradition-rich programs that aren't as conveniently located in football meccas.
-The Midwest still has talent, largely focused on Ohio, but it would have to be marshaled and focused within a few select programs to produce teams with the same kind of talent as the SEC champions are producing. Urban Meyer has a chance here.
-Florida is arguably the nation's most talent-rich state and much of that talent is ending up in the SEC playing for Florida or the other major programs. Florida State and Miami have floundered for years and opened the gate for the SEC to come pillage their backyards.
-Texas is still king. There is enough talent in Texas to stock multiple Tier-1 rosters and provide even a couple more teams with elite quarterbacks and skill players to headline their program.
Texas A&M realized the size and scope of the major power vacuum in college football and how they could take advantage of it. There was a Texas-sized hole that Mack Brown left when he slowly moved Texas away from the no-huddle/shotgun spread and begin to fail to take advantage of the state's premier talents.
Deloss Dodds has been very concerned with building and protecting the Texas brand. "We're Texas!" we've insisted while building our own network and reaping the tremendous rewards of having one of the world's most recognized logos. In the meantime, we seem to have lost a sense of what Texas is in what we've represented to the rest of the country.
Texas is currently often defined by entitlement, an attempt to buy championships, mentally and physically soft teams, and under achievement on the field. None of these are the traits of Texas culture, football or otherwise, but are more indicative of the some of the traits within the nation at large that Texans despise.
As a run of the mill Texan who loves football and isn't necessarily an alumni of one of the major programs, which football program would you more closely identify with?
The team with tons of resources that lacks real confidence on the field, brings in non-Texan staff and input (carpet baggers!), and is frequently blown out by Okies?
Or the program that challenges new frontiers with unseemly arrogance, embraces Texas innovations and attitude, and beats the hell out of Oklahoma before forcing them to head back across the river on foot after burning their silly wagons?
Of course it's not too late for the University of Texas to maintain their status as the state's flagship program. The school still holds numerous advantages over most every other program in football. However, Dodds has ensured that they cannot knock the Aggies down to size by refusing to play them and removed Texas' ability to directly impact the narrative as A&M serves as Texas' sole representative in the SEC.
It used to be that the Aggies' bizarre culture and traditions disqualified them from ever reaching elite levels as a program. Now, the defining perception of the Aggy program is of the Texas school that's taking the state's rightful place amongst the game's elite. The Texas Longhorns need to think long and hard about how they want their program to be defined in the next decade or A&M success on the state's behalf will do it for them.