Frogs and Bears suddenly trump Longhorns and Sooners in the American ecosystem, and people sit around in late August salivating for late November in Fort Worth much more than early October in Dallas.
For the latter on Oct. 10, Texas will play Oklahoma in their annual Red River rivalry game, and that’s fine as far as it goes. But for the former, oh boy, the former, that mastodon Baylor will visit that other mastodon TCU, their pre-season national rankings at Nos. 4 and 2, their loss total by Nov. 27 standing perhaps at zero.
The Big 12, the national order and reality have gone upturned.
“It’s not an easy answer; it’s a complicated answer,” said Dennis Franchione, the former coach at TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M, and the current coach at Texas State. “There are a lot of things that go into this happening. TCU, Baylor, they have great coaches. They have continuity. They got known for very dynamic, imaginative offenses, Baylor before and TCU last year, with lots of points and high tempo, and when Texas and Oklahoma slipped a little bit, it started opening some doors.”
Texas has slipped more than Oklahoma, enduring a 36-28 half-decade in front of a fan base not enamored of 36-28 half-decades. Oklahoma just finished one clunky 8-5 season with a 40-6 bowl loss and Coach Bob Stoops saying, at Big 12 Media Days, “It’s not up to our standards and expectations as a program for sure.”
TCU, that Big 12 novice in but its fourth Big 12 season, beat Oklahoma 37-33 and Texas 48-10 last year to upgrade its lifetime records against the two to 5-9 and 22-62-1. For some numbers that tell some history, Baylor’s 4-1 record against Texas this decade has improved it to 26-74-4 in that annual strife, while its 3-2 record against Oklahoma has lifted Baylor to a poignant 3-21. It sounded like some entitled old snoot last year when Texas receiver John Harris huffed, “They’re still Baylor,” and also huffed, “We’re still Texas.”
Still Baylor has routed Still Texas by a combined 58-17 the last two seasons which, in Texas’ defense, does look preferable to the aggregate 89-26 mauling Oklahoma has taken. Proletariat Texas is amid a coaching change, from the oft-alleged complacency of Mack Brown to the oft-praised charisma of Charlie Strong, who referred with respect this summer to “the Baylors and the TCUs,” the very way people used to say “the Oklahomas and the Texases.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said David Beaty, the new coach at very-struggling Kansas, 12-48 this decade. “What two great examples are out there for a program like us.”
From his rare vantage point having coached three Texas universities including TCU, and having recruited that rich state every which way, Franchione can pinpoint a familiar culprit: television. It long since abandoned being the province of the few. “I don’t know if I’d have ever left the TV set (during childhood) if there were as many games on as there are now,” he said. With so many televised games, he said, “Kids are much more worldly about all the programs.” Recalling the days when there would come a “game of the week” or slightly more, he said, “Now we have a Game of the Hour, almost.”
Can a guy become a nationally recognized brand via Baylor?
Sure, an RGIII can. Robert Griffin III — as Baylor’s former QB is also known — was buoyed to national stardom by way of the Heisman Trophy and the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.
That didn’t seem all that plausible on Nov. 28, 2007, when Baylor followed 12 straight losing seasons by announcing Briles as its new coach. Even though the old quarterback from Rule (Texas) High and receiver at the University of Houston did know his way around Texas, and even though he had brought four state championships to title-barren Stephenville (Texas) High in a rarefied coaching feat, it might have sounded loony when he said, “We’re going to win the Big 12 championship, and then we’ll take it from there. Lip service is easy, but we do have a plan.”
He did err in that forecast, omitting the word “twice” (2013, 2014). By now, he would appear to have the kind of stature that can withstand a very grim, self-created scandal involving a sexual assault conviction for one of this players. That’s the kind of fiasco weathered 20 years ago by Nebraska, just to name one example.
Per American custom, college football fans of many hues figure to go rapt come Nov. 27, when Briles takes to Fort Worth a spread offense so lavishly good that it looks ready to handle a transition from a mainstay quarterback — Bryce Petty, now of the New York Jets — to a talented and green successor, Seth Russell. There, they’ll find the revered defensive mind of TCU Coach Gary Patterson, averaging 9.4 wins across 14 seasons in three conferences since he took the reins from Franchione in December 2000 and said, “I’ve trained my whole life to be a head coach.” To vault from 4-8 in 2013 to 12-1 in 2014, Patterson one-upped himself, showing the rare lack of insecurity necessary to bring in two new offensive coordinators (Sonny Cumbie, Doug Meacham) to hyper up the offense behind the thrilling quarterback Trevone Boykin.
“It’s not shocking,” Franchione said. “I’ve lived the TCU thing, and I’ve watched it and followed it closely. I think good coaches are getting good things done. And you know, everything surrounding the two programs, to be successful, it takes the whole village, I always say.”
Come 2015, the villages of Waco and Fort Worth double as kingdoms.