Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
We’re used to Baylor being good. We’re used to TCU being good. We’re just not used to TCU and Baylor being good at the same time—let alone providing Texas college football fans with the state’s biggest game on Saturday in Waco. (Right: UT and Oklahoma also have a little contest up the road. And Texas A&M hosts Mississippi, a big game that is also very much “what-might’ve-been.”) Not only is it the first time in 110 meetings that both schools are ranked, but also, they are both in the Top 10. Baylor is at #3 in the coach’s poll and #5 in the AP poll: beating Texas in Austin was no help to the Bears, as both Mississippi, which beat Alabama, and Mississippi State, which took down the Aggies, leapfrogged them. Conversely, TCU, which upset Oklahoma last week, is ninth in the AP poll, and three spots lower in the coach’s rankings. It’s the first time two Top 10 in-state teams have played each other since #7 Texas Tech upset #1 Texas in 2008, and as with that one, control of the Big 12 race is at stake (also as with that one: for now). It’s also only the second time there’s ever been a match-up between two Top 10 teams in Waco. But Baylor and TCU have always had a rivalry, and the break-up of the Southwest Conference didn’t change that (on the contrary…). Starting in 2006, they even played four times as non-conference opponents. Then, of course, the Horned Frogs came into the Big 12 after Texas A&M’s departure. “I think both teams kind of circle each other on the schedule as soon as it comes out,” Bears quarterback Bryce Petty said this week.
For the non-TCU, non-Baylor, just casual college football fans, here’s seven other reasons why that’s so: 1. It’s the oldest rivalry in the state. So long as Texas A&M and UT don’t get back together, Baylor and TCU can make this claim. The two schools first met in 1899, five years after the first Longhorns-Aggies game, and the same year as the first Baylor-A&M game (which is also kaput, obviously). Even SMU-TCU did not start until 1915, what with there not being an SMU until that year. 2. They used to be next-door neighbors. Another mythical historic notch in TCU-Baylor’s belt: the first recorded homecoming game, in 1909. Which is weird, because in 1909, both schools were at home. Once known as AddRan Christian University (after founders Addison and Randolph Clark), TCU was located in Waco from 1895 until 1910, when a fire forced its move to Fort Worth. Between that and the fact that both are private, Protestant schools, it’s practically a sibling rivalry! 3. Ann Richards and Bob Bullock and the SWC Even if you don’t know anything else about TCU except Dan Jenkins went there, and nothing about Baylor besides dancing jokes, you still know about the break-up of the Southwest Conference, in which Baylor was the only private school invited to the Big 12, purportedly due to the influence of Baylor alum Ann Richards, who was governor of Texas at the time. That gave TCU an extra reason to resent the Baptists for two decades, even (especially!) when they had the better program. 4. Academics Forget the football rivalry. The best Baylor-TCU trash talk on the Internet came last November, from TCU dean of admissions Ray Brown. Alluding to the fact that Baylor is a few notches ahead of TCU in the vaunted US News and World Report rankings, Brown said that “there isn’t a week that goes by… that I don’t get a phone call from a parent who says, ‘what do you mean my kid didn’t get into TCU? He got a scholarship at Baylor.’” 5. 2010-2012 TCU thrashed Baylor, 45-10 in 2010, part of the Horned Frogs’ storybook, 13-0, Rose Bowl-winning season. One year later, Baylor won a crazy 50-48 game that helped start Robert Griffin III’s Heisman campaign and ended a 25-game winning streak for Frogs, which struggled in its first two Big 12 seasons (but still beat the Bear again in 2012). For the Big 12 to be an automatic player in the College Football Playoff, with possible, SEC-like consideration for a second team, it needs all four Texas schools to be high quality. So have TCU back in the mix is an important start (the rest is up to Charlie Strong and Kliff Kingsbury). 6. 2013 Gary Patterson’s post-game press conference speaks for itself, though both he and Art Briles downplayed the emotion of it this week (but Briles, less so). 7. 51-51-7 The all-time series record, including two wins for each team in the last four seasons. Too bad there aren’t ties in college football anymore. Now, I can’t really agree with Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram, who wrote that ESPN Game Day should be in Waco instead of Starkville, where AP #2 Auburn takes on #3 Mississippi State at the same time that TCU and Baylor play. But there’s no doubt this is the game of the year in Texas (or at least, the intra-state game of the year). Even A&M fans may want to flip away from CBS for a few quarters.