Many analysts and fans cite the loss of an "every game matters" element as a chief argument against a college football playoff system. In a 12 game season, they argue, moving to any system where the winner is truly determined on the field can dilute the importance of any other game.
Aggie baseball fans probably don't need much convincing that, despite the college football season stretching over 56 contests, every game is vitally important. Each game, and more importantly each win, has vital importance; win enough, you make the postseason. Win even more, you get better seeding or even get to host a regional. Win just a bit more than that, and you can earn a National Seed, a Top 8 ranking that essentially protects your home field all the way to Omaha.
The last two seasons have watched the Aggies reach heights either rarely or never achieved...back to back regional championships and a 16 game conference winning streak are good examples. Those two seasons have also watched A&M fall short of a national seed, and both seasons ended at Reckling Park.
A&M's primary goal for 2009 must be to move one step up the ladder and secure a National Seed. Olsen Field's atmosphere is among the most revered in college baseball, A&M has posted a historically gaudy home record (68-17 over the past two years), and quite simply "there's no place like home." Many wonder if things would've been differently had LSU or Rice visited Olsen in 2004, 2007 or 2008 - but wondering ultimately gets you no where.
Rob Childress loves playing at Olsen Field, and he'll get plenty of opportunities this year, as the Ags take the field 37 times at home. The roughly 2:1 home-to-away schedule doesn't exactly make for an easy schedule though; the Aggies play 31 games against teams in last year's postseason field, and 13 against clubs ranked in Baseball America's preseason Top 10. Not included in those 13 are six games with Oklahoma State and Nebraska, which many analysts have found to be underrated in preseason polls.
It's hard to truly state what specific record it takes to secure a Top 8 seed; after all, the very phrase "Top 8" shows you just how dynamic the whole thing can be. Typically, winning the Big 12 Championship and having 42 regular season wins with a Top 10 RPI would get you there, but the '08 squad proved that a late season swoon can undo all of those things.
With taking no regards to the field, Aggie fans really need to see three or four of the five following items (probably in order of importance): Top 8 RPI, Big 12 regular season title, 43 wins, Big 12 tournament championship, winning overall records against highly ranked "local teams" (Rice, Texas, Baylor).
A&M will need to get a big chunk of those 43 wins at Olsen, which will put them well on the way to the Top 8 RPI. Realistically, the Ags need at least a 31-6 home record, which allows for a relatively pedestrian 12-7 record on the road. On the RPI side, bonus points are awarded for non-conference home wins against higher RPI opponents, and A&M will have three opportunities here; against Rice and Houston at Minute Maid Park (the NCAA considered these road games in 2007), and another against Rice at Reckling Park. A&M really needs to win 2 of those three contests. Though considered a neutral game, a win over a likely Top 10 Cal-Irvine also helps the resume.
Winning a second consecutive Big 12 title will be a challenge, if the schedule has anything to say about it. A&M will play just 12 home contests in league play, compared to 15 on the road. Four other Big 12 teams made Baseball America's preseason Top 25, and A&M will play 9 of the 12 contests against those teams on the road.
The "winning over local teams" factor usually doesn't come into play when thinking about National Seeds, but 2009 has the potential to be no ordinary year. Texas A&M, Texas, Rice, and Baylor are all ranked in Baseball America's Top 8...and short of stacking up 1-4 in the final RPI, it's hard to see the NCAA giving National Seeds to each team from a travel or partiy perspective. The Aggies play 8 games against those three, and even a 5-3 mark would be clearly acceptable to national seed desires.
Aggie Baseball 2009: Schedule
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