Texas A&M Football: Which SEC Team Should Be the Aggies' Next Rival?

Jim SullivanFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

Texas A&M Football: Which SEC Team Should Be the Aggies' Next Rival?

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    Rivalries are the essence of college football.

    Where would the sport be without them? Fanbases would be less passionate and most games would mean next to nothing. It's the unending hate, respectful dislike and deadly competition that drives this sport.

    As Texas A&M enters the SEC, however, it loses its most historically viable rivalry as Texas drops the 117-year long Lone Star Showdown just to spite the Aggies. Fortunately for A&M, however, the SEC is loaded with multiple options on the rivalry front.

    While a program can't just choose its rivals, A&M will be able to focus its energy on scheduling the right teams for down the road. We take a look at seven SEC squads that present the best option for rivals in the future.

South Carolina

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    For two programs that have literally never met on the field, the idea of this matchup becoming a rivalry is more than far-fetched at the moment. However, with Arkansas forcing a cross-divisional rival switch in order for them to face Mizzou, the Aggies have been annually paired with the Gamecocks for years to come.

    The University of South Carolina sets an SEC-farthest 1,036 miles from College Station, making this matchup a "Battle of the Conference Edges." Run by the infamous Steve Spurrier, USC will at least provide fantastic games when it comes to visit Kyle Field every other season.

    Overall, don't expect anything to really happen between A&M and the Gamecocks. Over the course of time, both programs may come to dislike each other to an extent, but this isn't exactly a date I'd expect future A&M students to be circling on their calendars.

Auburn

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    The Aggies and the Tigers have faced off on the field before with the series at a break-even 1-1, but that doesn't exactly classify this matchup as anything special. The most one could say about both would be that each university was founded as a land-grant institution and boasts a top-ranked veterinary school.

    The most difficult part in forming a rivalry here, however, would be tearing Auburn away from the Iron Bowl and Alabama. As Texas A&M knows firsthand, in-state battles almost always trump anything else.

    While the Aggies' 1985 Cotton Bowl victory over Heisman winner Bo Jackson and the Tigers will never be forgotten, there isn't much ground to stand on when it comes to pulling a true rivalry out of thin air between these two programs.

Alabama

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    The Crimson Tide and the Aggies have seemed to have one large similarity over the past couple of decades: coaches. With Paul "Bear" Bryant leaving A&M for Alabama and Gene Stallings doing just the opposite, both sides have experienced gain and loss in the coaching carousel (just forget about Dennis Franchione...block it out). 

    While A&M fans shouldn't expect Nick Saban to don maroon and white anytime ever, both programs have developed a sense of mutual respect between each other. With Alabama leading all-time 3-1 over A&M, the division battle will be heated but never deadly.

    Furthermore, both fanbases have similar homes with great reputations. Kyle Field and Bryant-Denny are both considered some of the most hostile environments in the country, making the trip from College Station to Tuscaloosa and vice versa more than worth it.

Mississippi State

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    The Bulldogs and the Aggies seem to have too many things in common. Ranging from Adidas TECHFIT uniforms to coaches such as Jackie Sherrill and Emory Bellard and color schemes to emphatic fanbases, both programs own a somewhat shared history.

    No matchup, however, is more shared than the 2000 "Snow" Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA. With the Aggies falling 43-41 after allowing MSU to return a blocked extra point in overtime, this annual game certainly has the potential to form into something of a rivalry.

    Although tearing Mississippi State away from its big-time Egg Bowl showdown with Ole Miss will be impossible, the Aggies and the Bulldogs have enough history to give this matchup a life of its own. If anything else, students on both sides will be circling this game on their calendars. 

Arkansas

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    As the only member of the SEC to ever face A&M in conference play before, these two former Southwest Conference foes have a ton of history between one another. With the Razorbacks holding the series lead 41-24-3, expect the already established Southwest Classic to become just as heated as ever.

    The Hogs, however, don't seem to have much interest in making the matchup a season finale. With SEC East member Missouri entering the league just north of Fayetteville, Arkansas has already begun plans to face off with the newest Tigers as its end-of-the-year matchup.

    Between A&M and the Razorbacks, however, there will be no love lost. As the Southwest Classic leaves Cowboy Stadium in favor of a home-and-home, most nothing will stop these two programs from clashing on the football field with increased vigor.

Missouri

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    If Mizzou and A&M had truly wanted to compete against each other annually, they would have stayed put in the Big 12. However, facing off against a familiar face in a brand new conference is a luxury not many programs are afforded.

    The Aggies lead the all-time record 7-5 but have fallen the past two seasons to Missouri, both at Kyle Field. With another fluke in scheduling, the Tigers will be returning to College Station again in place of Texas with hopes of pulling off the three-peat.

    While this matchup may be somewhat intriguing due to the "Big 12" nature, no fan of either program who is enthralled by the SEC move is all too thrilled about creating a rivalry with a team such as Mizzou. The only history between the two is their former home, and with that behind both universities, expect each to move on to bigger and better rivalries.

LSU

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    Of all the possible rivalry options, the Bayou Bengals present the most solid by no contest. Sitting a mere 360 miles directly to the east of College Station, an SEC-closest, the Tigers will be "losing" their season finale with Arkansas due to the Razorbacks pairing up with Missouri. Accordingly, LSU has looked elsewhere.

    Athletic director Joe Alleva recently proclaimed that he expects longtime rival Texas A&M to emerge as the Tigers' new end-of-the-year matchup, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. The LSU-A&M clash is old-fashioned and historical as it dates back to 1899, making it the Aggies' seventh oldest collegiate rivalry.

    While the Tigers lead 27-20-3, the streaky series has been relatively even. While LSU is seemingly focused on "The Saban Bowl" for the time being, making the Aggies somewhat of an afterthought, the return of one of the best matchups in college football will soon help both programs gain extra notoriety.

    Overall, A&M is no replacement for Arkansas. The Aggies provide historical significance and fierce competition, not to mention a stadium that rivals Death Valley in Kyle Field. The rivalry has the potential to emerge as a signature Thanksgiving weekend matchup for college football.