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Texas A & M, The SEC, and The Tyranny Of The Undefeated

Good times, my friends.  Good times.
Good times, my friends. Good times.

In the 2010 mayoral election Oakland used a new type of election process called ranked-choice voting. Here, instead of just voting for 1 person, voters ranked all of the people in order. This was designed to better gauge the wishes of the electorate and avoid the need for a costly run off election. This totally changed the rules of the game, because now 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place votes had value. And when Oakland used ranked-choice voting for the 2010 mayoral campaign, it turned out poorly for favorite Don Perata. Although he ended up with the most first place votes, once the third place votes were redistributed, Jean Quan ended up with the most votes, catapulting her to victory. Perata had this to say:

Perata never told supporters whom they should list second and third. As he pulled ahead on the strength of first-place votes on election night, he was asked by a KTVU-TV reporter what he thought would happen next.

"It's a good question," he said. "I don't understand how ranked-choice voting works."

Perata lost, because he didn't play the game. Politics and college football have a lot in common. Not only does perception equal reality, but also players get ahead pretty much solely by playing the game. All the great intentions in the world mean nothing if you don't know the rules. Perata didn't know the rules. He thought he had won, but he actually was losing.

As anybody with even the most glancing perusal of the college football landscape knows, Texas A & M is flirting with the SEC. They are doing a delicate do-si-do, keeping in rhythm yet never quite touching. TAMU wants more than anything to become one of the "big boys" in the SEC. They think they are winning, but in my view they are going down the path of losing.

But in doing so, they are forgetting the most important rule in college football. Don't Lose. Period. Not losing is even more important than winning in college football. It doesn't matter who you beat and when. Whatever you do, do not lose. To anybody. Ever. The tyranny of the undefeated is still strong in college football.

This is a very simple rule that a lot of people forget. A lot of people think it is about having the best victories. Or putting up a spirited fight in a loss. Or even having great academics and never forgetting the athlete in student-athlete. We call those people Cal fans. We also call them "Those Who Have Not Seen The Rose Bowl Since The Eisenhower Administration." And look I love Ike as much as the next guy, but that was a long time ago.

Now, yes, it is depressing to say this. We want to look down our noses at those teams that schedule cupcakes and rack up easy victories. We want to say that we're better, because we seek out tough competition. But these teams we mock are laughing all the way to the BCS and its lucrative pay outs. Because they play by the real rules.

The rules of college football mean that dominating a weak conference is infinitely better than doing OK in a strong conference. Beating up on cupcakes is worth more than getting a huge September OOC victory. How many times has Florida crushed Florida Southwest A+M State in late November without anybody batting an eye? Sure, some people may clutch their tongues and stroke their beards and say "What's to be done with this cupcake victory?"

All the haughtiness in the world by "enlightened fans" doesn't stop teams stuffed with cupcake victories from accepting bowl bids. You've never heard an ACC team say "No, I'm not sure we really deserve this BCS game."

And now, Texas A & M has a chance to really play the game. The new Big XII is not going to be a good conference. Texas, the heaviest heavy, had the exact same record as our beloved Golden Bears last year. The only difference, of course, was that we beat UCLA (BOOOM!). TAMU is now ensured games each year against Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri. Some of those teams have had blips of success in various years, but overall they don't have a strong football tradition. That could be 5 wins right there easy. Throw in a few OOC cupcakes and you have a potential 7-8 win floor for TAMU each year.

Now, sure, these would be empty calories, but, like I said previous, the only thing more important than winning in college football is not losing. Given the strong bowl tie ins for the Big XII (their #3 plays our #2, so again they have an advantage over the supposedly stronger Pac-12), TAMU could easily find itself in prestigious bowl games year in and year out.

Being Top 3 in a conference with only a handful of decent teams is much easier than what TAMU might face in the SEC. I don't need to remind you how strong the SEC is. Yes, we like to make fun of them, but 3 of the teams in the SEC West (where presumably TAMU would end up) have won national championships in the last 5 years. The last 5 National Championships have come from the SEC. The last 2 have come from the SEC West itself (i.e the state of Alabama)!

And sure TAMU might have a fighting spirit. They might look like Cal in the 2010 Cal-Oregon game. They even might win some games against some of the dregs of the SEC. But their road is far more uphill. I don't think TAMU is going to be a SEC bottom feeder, but I think they'll be closer to Kentucky and MSU than Florida and Alabama. Now, of course, the 4th best SEC team plays the 2nd best BigXII team. But I feel that it is likelier that TAMU would be the 2nd best Big XII team than the 4th best SEC team. Feel free to disagree with me.

By making this move (and it looks like it'll happen at some point in the future), TAMU is claiming that they will make more money and show their skills on the big stage. Maybe they will make more under the SEC contract than the Big XII contract. Although if they do have to pay a 30 million exit fee as rumored that would certainly take a big bite out of any SEC payouts. I think it is more likely that they want to get out of Texas' shadow.

I've never set foot in the state of Texas (and given their proclivity to executing innocent people, I'll probably steer clear). I've never even met a TAMU fan. But from everything I read they have a massive inferiority complex compared to Texas. I'm not incredibly knowledgeable as to how it came into being or how it expresses itself these days. I hear that their fight song isn't as much about extolling TAMU, but more about tearing down Texas.

Either way, I think whole plan is because they are tired of Texas calling the shots. They don't like Texas' power in the new BigXII. They don't like the LHN Network. Hell, I don't entirely blame them. I've got no love for Texas. They killed the Pac-16. They ruined the greatest Cal football season since god knows when. And they get to enjoy SXSW each year without any major travel costs! But still, TAMU, don't let some petty jealousy block your path to easy BCS games. If you really want to show up Texas, beat them on the field and block their path to a BCS game. If you really want to show up, Texas, do it on the field. Don't abandon them to be a middle of the road SEC team struggling to make the Gator Bowl each year.

If you play the game in college football, all other sins are absolved. Don't lose and you are in. It's that simple. TAMU might feel like it is sticking it to Texas, but it's just shooting itself in the foot.

But, hey, maybe this is a short-sighted view. Maybe realignment is inevitable, the BigXII is doomed and TAMU wants to make sure it gets off that sinking ship before the SEC can snag other non-TAMU teams. Tell me why I'm wrong in the comments. In Larry Scott and the Pac-12 we trust! GO BEARS!