Texas A&M will begin its baseball season Thursday night against Illinois-Chicago as a consensus Top 10 team in national polls and a heavy favorite to win the nine-team Big 12 (Iowa State doesn't field a baseball team), setting them up for another run in Omaha. But will the Aggies enjoy the same success next season when they join the SEC?
The short answer is no, at least not by virtue of such a cushy path. Entering 2012, A&M is the highest ranked Big 12 team (No. 7) in Baseball America's preseason Top 25, with only Texas (No. 13) and Oklahoma (No. 19) as the other conference representatives. Meanwhile, the Aggies' new SEC neighbors absolutely dominate the national scene, with seven schools in the Top 25, five in the Top 10, and three in the Top 5.
SEC blog Team Speed Kills takes a look at the Aggies' 2013 prospects on the SEC diamond, and the good news for A&M fans is that unlike basketball, the league will keep its division structure for a 14-team schedule, and isn't expected to increase its 30 game conference schedule. 30 games equals ten, three-game series, one apiece for division opponents and a rotation four opponents from the seven teams in the opposite division.
That means the Aggies (heading to the SEC West) will play the SEC East less often, avoiding series with conference powers like No. 1 ranked Florida, defending College World Series Champion South Carolina (No. 3), Vanderbilt (No. 10) and Georgia (No. 11). Depending on the luck of the order, the Aggies could miss all four ranked SEC East teams next year.
But let's not coronate A&M just yet: Much like any divisional structure in college sports, power has a way of shifting throughout the years, and even with the East as the dominant division, the SEC West still boasts No. 4 ranked Arkansas, No. 8 LSU and No. 22 Ole Miss. The brutal reality for A&M and fellow newcomer Missouri is that regardless of what division they're in, any SEC newcomer will face nationally ranked teams far more often than in another conference. And since the Aggies are no slouch of a program, things just got that much worse (again) for Speed Country.