By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer
At the top of USA Today’s most recent revenue rankings for college athletic departments are Texas and Texas A&M.
Both had revenues of more than $200 million for the 2018-19 school year. Ohio State was the only other school to crack the $200 million mark.
The Longhorns and Aggies seemingly have it all, revenue, resources and location. No state produces more major college football players than Texas.
Texas and Texas A&M have everything you need to put out national championship-level football program. Right?
Apparently not. The erstwhile rivals remain stuck in a cycle of disappointment. The Aggies and Longhorns refuse to play each other, but combine to form an Axis of Underachievers in the Lone Star State.
The latest failures came Saturday.
First, No. 9 Texas was upset at home by TCU — though at this point calling Frogs over ‘Horns an upset is to ignore recent history. Since coach Gary Patterson and TCU joined the Big 12 — with the blessing of Texas — the Frogs are 7-2 against the Longhorns.
That includes 3-1 since Texas hired Tom Herman to make the Longhorns great again. Herman has done better than his predecessor, Charlie Strong, but no better than the raggedy end of Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas. The Longhorns are still routinely losing to Big 12 competitors who operate on half the revenue and stock their rosters with far fewer recruiting stars.
Texas has had three straight top-10 recruiting classes under Herman, according to 247 Sports. TCU’s best showing in the last three years nationally is No. 24.
Neither the Horned Frogs nor Longhorns distinguished themselves Saturday. The teams combined for 26 penalties in a game that was at times unwatchable. Fittingly, it came down to which team made the final critical mistake and Texas would not be denied — fumbling away a chance to take a late lead about a foot from the goal line.
“That’s on me to get them ready and find a way to make sure that we don’t beat ourselves,” Herman said.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Texas has six losses as a ranked team against unranked opponents since 2017, Herman’s first season. That’s the most in FBS.
Texas A&M fans are experiencing a different kind of pain.
The Aggies once again were nothing more than a speed bump to No. 2 Alabama. A&M lured Jimbo Fisher to College Station from Florida State with a 10-year contract and a guaranteed $75 million to challenge the Crimson Tide. But you know that. How could you forget?
The school’s president gave Fisher a national championship plaque with the date left blank when he arrived at A&M to make clear the expectations.
In three games against Alabama under Fisher, the Aggies are 0-3 by a combined score of 144-75. Beating is Alabama is hard. Just ask LSU. It doesn’t happen very often and when it does it’s a momentous event.
The last time Texas A&M did it was 2012 and it turned quarterback Johnny Manziel into a national celebrity. It remains the highlight of Texas A&M’s otherwise uninspiring tenure in the Southeastern Conference.
The Aggies escaped the Big 12 to be rid of Texas and moved to the toughest neighborhood in college football — the SEC West — to take up residence in the middle of the pack.
This is Year 3 of Fisher’s tenure. With that contract, he should have plenty more opportunities to beat his old boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban. Fisher is 0-4 against Saban, who improved to 20-0 versus his former assistants.
Maybe this 10-game all-SEC season turns into a breakthrough of sorts for Fisher’s Aggies. It won’t get any tougher than Saturday in Tuscaloosa, futilely chasing Alabama star Jaylen Waddle.
Maybe Herman’s Longhorns rebound to win a Big 12 that looks very winnable. No. 17 Oklahoma State is currently the conference’s only unbeaten team, and Texas faces No. 18 Oklahoma next week.
For now, though, Texas and Texas A&M continue to prove the old adage that money can’t buy happiness.
ONE AND DONE
The Trey Lance showcase game worked out OK for North Dakota State and the possible first-round NFL draft pick.
The powerhouse Bison will compete for yet another FCS national championship in the spring, but there is a good chance that will be without Lance. The school decided to play one game this fall to give him a platform to show his stuff to scouts. Central Arkansas, America’s opponent during this pandemic-altered season, was the opponent.
Notre Dakota State rallied behind Lance and extended its winning streak to 38 games. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback had a so-so passing day, going 15 of 30 for 149 yards, and a great day on the ground, running for 143 yards and two scores. He also threw his first collegiate interception.
After the game Lance remained noncommittal about his future, but it’s hard to imagine why the third-year sophomore would play another game for the school that also produced Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
He’s no Trevor Lawrence as a prospect, but maybe Lance can challenge Ohio State’s Justin Fields to be the second quarterback selected.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: North Carolina State has been the hardest team to figure out so far. The Wolfpack have won a wild-high scoring game against Wake Forest, been crushed by a short-handed Virginia Tech team and then knocked off No. 24 Pitt for its first road victory against a ranked team since 2017. … Mississippi has a chance to be the country’s most entertaining team. Coach Lane Kiffin got his first victory with Ole Miss, knocking off Kentucky in overtime. Kiffin’s offense is potent, but a week after allowing more than 400 yards passing to Florida, the Rebels gave up 408 rushing to the Wildcats. … The result vs. SMU wasn’t what No. 25 Memphis wanted but after being out of action for nearly a month because of a COVID-19 outbreak, the effort was pretty good. … South Carolina might be the school most likely to figure out a way to buy out its coach during a pandemic. The Gamecocks are 0-2 after losing to No. 3 Florida and coach Will Muschamp is 26-27 in his fifth season.
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