Schlabach: Aggies ready for SEC battles

It's strange and exciting in AggieLand. Gone is seemingly everything the Texas A&M fan base used to know and in is the new world in the country's best conference.

Mark Schlabach checks in on the Aggies first preseason in the SEC:

Everything will be seemingly new at Texas A&M in 2012. The Aggies have a new coach, new quarterback and new conference home. Former Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, who guided the Cougars to a 12-0 record during the regular season in 2011, takes over for Mike Sherman, who was fired after compiling a 25-25 record in four seasons. Sumlin has to replace former Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the No. 8 choice in this year's NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, and he's installing a more up-tempo offense and a 4-3 defense.

"What are my realistic expectations this year?" Sumlin said. "My realistic expectations are to win. I said that from day one. Everybody talks to me and acts like I didn't know what I was getting into when I took the job. We had already entered into the SEC under the agreement when I took the job. I'm not a weatherman. I've been on really good teams. I've been on some bad teams. I'm not a guy that goes out and circles games on the schedule before the year happens, whether we've won every game or lost one game or lost them all. It changes."

The Aggies hope their new address will change their recent on-field results. Sumlin is Texas A&M's third coach since 2007, and the Aggies produced only two winning conference records in their final seven seasons in the Big 12. They won only one conference championship since 1996, upsetting Kansas State 36-33 in double-overtime in the 1998 Big 12 championship game. Texas A&M finished a season ranked in the final coaches' Top 25 poll only once in the past 12 seasons; it was No. 21 after a 9-4 finish in 2010.

It only figures to get tougher for the Aggies in the SEC, where they will play heavyweights like Alabama, Arkansas and LSU in the SEC West every season. They will play their first SEC game against Florida at Kyle Field on Sept. 8.

"The whole team is excited," linebacker Sean Porter said. "We feel like we're competitors. My team loves to compete and this league has some of the best players in the country. So we want to be able to gauge ourselves against those guys and compare ourselves to those guys and be on the field with them at the same time. I want to go against the best tackles in the country, the best quarterbacks and the best running backs. That's what we were looking forward to about the SEC. Now we're a part of it."

For the rest of Schlabach's story on the Aggies and Missouri Tigers' preparations, click here.