Published October 22, 2013
The question gets asked a lot by Southeastern Conference fans and it goes something like this: "How would (highly ranked team) do in the SEC?"
Often it's not even a question, it's an assertion, such as: "(Highly ranked team not from the SEC) would be lucky to finish .500 if it played in the SEC."
Hypotheticals are one of the foundations of college football debates, because so much simply can't be determined with certainty. And while we'll never know for sure how Ohio State or Oregon or Florida State would do in the SEC, Missouri and Texas A&M are showing the idea that top teams from other leagues would crumble playing SEC football is more myth than reality.
The Aggies and Tigers moved into the SEC last year. Texas A&M finished 6-2 in the conference in 2012, including a victory against No. 1 Alabama. But make no mistake, those Aggies were born in the Big 12.
While the school, Aggies fans and the program's future might have received a huge boost by switching conferences, the team was basically the same one that went 7-6 the year before, with two major exceptions — new quarterback, new coach.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel came to College Station when Texas A&M was in the Big 12.
As for coach Kevin Sumlin, there's nothing to suggest he would not have taken the A&M job if the Aggies were still in the Big 12.
Missouri's first season in the SEC was a flop (5-7), but Year 2 is turning out to be a boon for the fifth-ranked Tigers (7-0, 3-0), another team that's Big 12-bred.
Missouri has signed two recruiting classes since announcing it was moving to the SEC in November 2011. The Tigers' latest depth chart lists 55 players on offense and defense. Sixteen are from the last two recruiting classes, 13 from what is turning out to be a very nice haul in 2012.
Rivals.com ranked Missouri's 2012 class 31st in the nation, and it included receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the nation's best prospects who is from Springfield, Mo. The rest of the class was mostly comprised of players from Missouri, Texas and the Midwest. Typical Missouri recruiting territory.
Missouri's 2013 recruiting class was ranked 41st by Rivals and skews a bit more toward SEC country, but not much.
Like Texas A&M, Missouri might be reaping huge rewards in other areas now and in the future because of its move to the SEC, but it's hard to find any evidence that this Missouri team would be any different if it was playing in the Big 12.
The additions of Missouri and Texas A&M have worked out great for the SEC, making the conference even better.
But if two programs that combined to win one Big 12 football title can walk into the SEC and immediately contend for championships, safe to say Ohio State and plenty of others would do just fine.
The Heisman Trophy has been won by a quarterback 11 of the last 13 seasons, and you might as well make it 12 out of 14 because a little more than halfway through the season there's nothing but QBs left in the race.
The straw polls and prognosticators have Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota out front, with Florida State's Jameis Winston making a charge.
Manziel's chance to win a second is getting dragged down by his turnovers and his team's inability to play defense. That later point might not seem fair, but such is the reality of Heisman voting.
Baylor's Bryce Petty and Alabama's AJ McCarron have back-loaded schedules that will allow them to make strong late pushes. And Oregon State's Sean Mannion is putting up numbers too good to ignore. Same goes for Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch.
Maybe Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater can get back in the mix for at least a trip to New York City. It certainly wasn't his fault Louisville lost to UCF.
Is there a non-quarterback that can crack this list? Doubtful.
The last time the Heisman finalists were all quarterbacks was 2008, when Sam Bradford beat out Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow. Before that it happened in 2001, when Eric Crouch won over Rex Grossman, Ken Dorsey and Joey Harrington.
— Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey leads the nation in rushing (161 yards per game) after going off for 236 against Utah, and is trying to become the seventh player to win the major college football rushing crown in consecutive seasons since 1970, when the NCAA started using yards per game as the criteria. The first to do it was Ed Marinaro of Cornell (1970-71). The last was Oregon's LaMichael James (2010-11).
"There's no question he's one of the best football players I've ever coached," Rich Rodriguez said of Carey.
— Has any elite player had a more frustrating season than USC WR Marqise Lee? The junior finished fourth in Heisman voting last year and seemed like a lock to be high first-round NFL draft pick in April. But nagging injuries, poor quarterback play and some inconsistency of his own have left him with a pedestrian stat line of 32 catches for 403 yards and one touchdown.
— At 5-foot-11 and 250 pounds, Wake Forest's Nikita Whitlock doesn't look like most nose guards. But he's one of the best in the country. He's fifth in the nation in sacks with seven, and was a one-man wrecking crew in a 34-10 victory against Maryland on Saturday. He had two sacks in the first quarter and was credited with three quarterback hurries.
UNDER-THE-RADAR GAME OF THE WEEK
Tulsa (2-4) at Tulane (5-2). The Golden Hurricane got a lot of hype coming into the season as the favorites to win Conference USA, but things haven't gone as expected. Same goes for Tulane, though that's a good thing. The Green Wave have been one of the surprise teams in the country, and already have surpassed their total victories the last two seasons combined.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP