The BRR Big XII countdown - No. 9

We're out of the double-digits now in our unorthodox ranking of the Big XII. And as we climb up the ladder, the teams get better. Or, depending on where they were ranked last year at this time, possibly worse. And unfortunately for our team that comes in at No. 9, that's just what happened as last year's wheels officially fell off the truck and this year I don't think they can get them all back on before getting passed on by again.

Sometimes it's good to have a sense of humor. Well, all the time in fact, but when things are so bad that it's almost surreal, rather than look back on it in dismay, you just chuckle a little and try to move on.

That's what Texas A & M head coach, Dennis Franchione tried to do during Big XII media days as he recalled how unspecial his special teams were last season. "We got to the point at the end of the year, I thought about putting two people back to catch punts." he said. "Actually, one to try and catch it and one to recover it when he dropped it."

That sense of humor no doubt helped after the games were over, but I'm sure there was little levity as Texas A&M dove into the abyss, losing 5 out of their last 6 games and in their final three, they gave up 45 points to Missouri, 46 points to Texas and a whopping 77 points to the Oklahoma Sooners.

Just to add salt to that open wound, the Aggies finished last in the conference in rushing offense, passing offense, scoring offense and in defense, they almost finished last as well. Well, not almost last in the conference, but last in the country, the Aggies ranking 96th overall.

When it gets this bad, there's no place else to go but the question is about the time. Good thing for "Fran" is that he's got plenty of time, everyone knowing that rebuilding this program wasn't going to be an overnight success. "The Aggies have been great." Franchione said of the support from the Texas A & M fan-base. "The warmth, the understanding - Aggies are great football fans. They have a great understanding of the game and where you are going and what needs to be done."

"The support has been about as good as a person could ask for since I have been there."

From most of the comments Franchione made during his back and forth with the media down in Kansas City, it was obvious that the media at least, seemed to believe that the Aggies were stuck. Stuck between trying to compete with the Sooners and Horns while not getting beat by the Cowboys and Red Raiders along the way, something they didn't manage to do last season.

It's just the way it is though in the Big XII, especially the ultra-competitive southern division. "The Big Twelve south is about as tough a conference as there is." Franchione said "Everybody has upgraded their programs. There's a fine line of separation between them, so you almost have to staircase your challenge as you upgrade and go forward. Certainly, we have work to do."

The good news for Aggie fans is that three offensive line starters are coming back. The bad news is that not many of them could apparently grasp the concept of pass-protection last year. The good news as well is that Texas A & M returns a slew of defensive starters from a year ago. The bad news, well, you've already seen that in print.

The bottom line is that the Aggies might be better, but in a plan that can't take just a couple of years to work, just how much better is the question. The schedule isn't bad though as they get Kansas State at home, Oklahoma at home and have road games against Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas.

No, getting Oklahoma and Kansas State at home probably won't help them much, but it's a bright side. One other bright side is if neither of these games are nationally televised as well. The Aggies played 7 games last season on network TV, losing all 7.

Year 2 for Mr. Franchione should be a better one. Better as in that his team won't be a walking, running, fumbling team bent on self-destruction. Chances are, that won't mean Big XII glory, but they might not get it handed to them as much as they did a year ago.

That's the up-side and it doesn't sound like much, but when you are attempting to rebuild like Franchione is right now, you'll take whatever you can get.

Steve Ryan can be reached at or 402-730-5619

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