Bowen R. Loftin was not shy in explaining that the #1 reason Texas A&M moved to the SEC was to gain more exposure. The League of Champions plays on national TV more than any other conference in College Football and we are now starting to receive those dividends. For example, College Gameday showed up during week 2 for a nationally televised ESPN 2:30 PM slot (and that was when Florida was still ranked in the 20's). Talk about imediate exposure! Gameday is great, but the true value will continue to be seen consistently throughout the season.
Next in line were two regional broadcasts on FSN against SMU and SC State and a regional broadcast on the SEC Network against Arkansas. At face value, that seems mediocre, but all three of those games were carried by the A&M brand onto TV. In past years, at least two of those three games would not have made TV. For the record, I understand Arkansas was an odd situation this year compared to usual, but we had a severely downgraded TV slot because of their freefall out of the preseason top 10.
We then followed that up with THREE national TV slots; two primetime ESPNU games against Ol Miss and La Tech; and an 11:00 AM ESPN game against LSU. For those who were unhappy with the 11:00 AM kick-off for the LSU game, you have every right to be. Still, those games are behind us, so we'll take a look at what we have coming up. Before we do that though, let me break down the usual selection process in the SEC. Note the picks are made on Sundays, two weeks in advance, with the exception of two six-day options which I will explain later.
1. CBS 2:30 PM - Week in and week out, this will be where the best SEC match-up is aired. There are exceptions, as I'll note below, but you can usually expect the best game here.
2. ESPN 6:00 PM - ESPN ownes the next four picks so they may play some funny games (see LSU @ A&M above), but this will more than likely be the second most enticing SEC game of the week.
3. ESPN 11:00 AM - The third pick is last one to make the top echelon of exposure. Sure the ESPNU games are available nationally, but CBS and ESPN are staples on basic cable. There is a significant drop-off in exposure after this pick.
4. ESPNU 6:00 PM or 8:00 PM - Available nationally, assuming you have the right sports package. Great exposure when considering traditional sports fans, but much less exposure to the general public when compared to the CBS and ESPN games.
5. ESPNU 11:00 AM - Same as above but with a terrible kick-off time.
6-8. SEC Network/FSN/CSS - Pick order doesn't matter much to the majority of fans as these will be regional broadcasts. If you live in the area, you have a good shot of seeing the game. Aggies are well versed on the quality of FSN broadcasts, but even regional TV is TV.
Week 9 Texas A&M @ Auburn (Oct. 27th)
This game gets another nationally televised 6:00 PM ESPNU slot. Auburn is having a disasterous season so the fact this game is still available nationally is something the Aggies can be quite happy about. True, it won't be the featured game of the evening this Saturday, but it will be a channel surfer game for the average fan to check in on between the Ohio State/Penn State game at 4:30 PM and the Oklahoma/Notre Dame game 7:00 PM.
Week 10 Texas A&M @ Mississippi St. (Nov. 3rd)
This Sunday, CBS decided to exercise their second, and final, six-day option for this week. The option allows CBS to defer their 2:30 PM pick for a week, allowing them to gain a better idea of how the teams will be ranked by waiting to see how week 9 shakes out. Also in play this week is CBS's Double Header feature exercised to put the Alabama @ LSU game on CBS at 7:00 PM and nullifies ESPN's 6:30 PM pick. That part is complicated and pointless to us Aggies, so long story short, if we beat Auburn and Ol Miss loses to Arkansas this week, we should get the 2:30 PM CBS spot. If both of those don't happen, then we most likely get an 11:00 AM ESPN game.
Week 11 Texas A&M @ Alabama (Nov. 10th)
No picks have been made, but the only competition for the 2:30 PM CBS slot this week will be Miss St @ LSU. CBS has assigned their Double Header feature for this week as well, with the 2:30 PM CBS slot and an 11:00 AM CBS, but the 11:00 AM CBS slot gets 4th pick and won't affect us. Ideally, CBS would want to know who wins between LSU/Bama and A&M/Miss St, but they have already used their two options so they will have to make this selection before week 10 games happen. My suspicions have CBS picking this game based on the winner of the Bama/Miss St game. Barring Miss St upsetting Alabama; both A&M and Alabama will be favored going into their respective week 10 games, so I think the edge would go to A&M @ Alabama to get the 2:30 PM CBS game, leaving Miss St @ LSU with the 6:00 PM ESPN game.
Week 12 Sam Houston State @ Texas A&M (Nov. 17th)
This weekend is marked by 8 SEC teams playing out-of-conference home games, meaning a total of 11 games to choose from. Even this far in advance, I don't expect to see this game picked up by any TV, but if we are, look for it to be an 11:00 AM SEC Network/FSN/CSS game.
Week 13 Missouri @ Texas A&M (Nov. 24th)
Rivalry Week pits many teams against their big rivals; resulting in Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt playing OOC and not at home. The Iron Bowl (Auburn @ Alabama) would be the expected 2:30 PM CBS game. That leaves us fighting with Georgia Tech @ Georgia, Miss St @ Ole Miss, and Kentucky @ Tennessee. Assuming Mizzou finally wins a few conference games, we have a long shot at getting that 6:00 PM ESPN night game, but I don't see us falling past the 11:00 AM ESPN third pick.
We're heading into the make-or-break part of our season with more than our fair share of the national spotlight pointed on Aggieland. Lack of exposure is no longer an excuse.