1 of 3
Matt Strasen, Associated Press
In this photo taken Monday, July 25, 2011, Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman addresses the media during the Big 12 Conference NCAA college football media days in Dallas. Texas A&M dealt a blow to the Big 12 Conference on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011, saying it plans to leave by July 2012 if it is accepted by the SEC or another league.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M enters the season with what could be its best team in more than a decade.

Comment on this story

The No. 8 Aggies are hoping to put the focus on those hopes in their opener Sunday against SMU, instead of the school's decision to leave the Big 12.

Texas A&M has its highest preseason ranking since 1999, returning 18 starters from last year's 9-4 team.

Leading that group is a trio of offensive weapons in quarterback Ryan Tannehill, receiver Jeff Fuller and running back Cyrus Gray, who gained more than 1,000 yards apiece last season.

The Aggies face an SMU team led by quarterback Kyle Padron, who threw for 3,828 yards last year, to help the Mustangs to their second straight bowl appearance.