The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

October 17, 2013

SEC newcomers holding their own after expansion

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — It looks like bigger does mean better in the competitive Southeastern Conference — not just in terms of television ratings, but on the field as well.

When Texas A&M and Missouri began SEC play a season ago, few doubted the addition of the two schools would bring more television viewers to the league's games from Texas and Midwest. Still, there were questions about whether adding a pair of Big 12 teams would dilute the quality on the field in the mighty SEC, winner of seven straight football national titles.

Apparently not.

Just last weekend, the Aggies and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, pulled out a thriller at Mississippi, while unbeaten Missouri did what No. 6 LSU could not: upended Georgia in Athens. Halfway through the 2013 season, the Aggies and the newest Tigers to join the SEC have one loss between them: A&M's one-score loss to No. 1 and two-time defending national champion Alabama.

"It made our league better," Alabama coach Nick Saban said when asked about the results of expansion on the field.

Some of those who represent the SEC's traditional powers have been a bit surprised by the quick ascension of the newcomers in the league standings.

"I'm shocked, but then again, I'm not," Tennessee running back Rajion Neal said. "Those have been some pretty good teams. I can remember times where Texas A&M were making their strides and I can remember Missouri was in the top 10."

Others saw it coming.

"It doesn't shock me at all," said Florida coach Will Muschamp, who was familiar with both former Big 12 programs from his time as a defensive coordinator at Texas.

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier said he always thought Missouri and Texas A&M had "outstanding traditions at their places."

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