We're taking a look back at what we thought the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team were in August, and how it shook out now that February has arrived.
Best case: 11-1, with a loss to Texas in Austin or Oklahoma in College Station and a possible Big 12 South title and BCS berth. "All eight of their games to kick off the season are winnable, but it really gets tough once they get to November."
Worst case: 5-7 with wins over Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Florida International and Kansas. "After breezing through their early games, the Aggies could very easily hit a three-game losing streak that would put them at 0-2 in Big 12 play."
Reality: Texas A&M did start 3-3, but ran the table with wins over Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas to finish 9-3 in the regular season and a tie for the Big 12 South title. They finished 9-4 after losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl.
Analysis: No team made as sharp a U-turn during its season than Texas A&M. The Aggies were staring 5-7 in the face after they did exactly what I thought was possible: lose three games in a row to fall to 3-3 and 0-2 in conference play. That was capped by an embarassing 30-9 home loss to Missouri that sent the Kyle Field fans to the exits early. By the end of the season, they were riled up enough to produce the best atmosphere of the season in the Big 12 and the biggest student section ever to see a college game -- more than 30,000. A six-game winning streak closed the regular season, which included wins over Nebraska and Oklahoma, two top-10 opponents, as well as rival Texas.
The most obvious difference between the first half and second half Aggies was the quarterback. Jerrod Johnson struggled and was eventually replaced by Ryan Tannehill. Was it the right timing? At the time, I can't say I would have done it earlier. But reconsidering when the truth about Johnson's health emerged after the season, he clearly should have been benched earlier when it became obvious that his arm strength wasn't coming back. There's no telling what would have happened against Arkansas or Missouri, but it's reasonable to believe the result of the game against Oklahoma State might have been different, and if it had been, the Aggies would be Big 12 South champions.
Even though that didn't happen, the quarterback position wasn't the only reason why the Aggies didn't win the title, or even the biggest. The offensive line with two freshman starters, jelled and helped Cyrus Gray rush for 100 yards in seven consecutive games after the headliner in the Aggies backfield, Christine Michael, went down for the season with a broken leg. Additonally, the return of the Wrecking Crew highlighted the second half, most notably stuffing Oklahoma three times on the goal line in their win over the Sooners, leaving the field to chants of "Wrecking Crew" for the first time in a long while.
The Aggies will try to build off that finish next year and shrug off a disappointing loss to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and should be right back in the Big 12 South race next year.