Baylor and TCU first met in 1899, and have played 108 times since. The series is split 51-51-7. That’s how a rivalry is built.
Most of those 109 games were as members of the Southwest Conference, occupying the same space as small, private schools 100 miles apart, living in the shadow of Texas and Texas A&M and Arkansas. That’s how a rivalry is grown.
In 1996, Baylor joined the Big 12 Conference, while TCU was banished to the Western Athletic Conference. The Horned Frogs spent the next decade and a half winning their way to Conference USA, then to the Mountain West, then briefly to the Big East, and then finally to the Big 12, while Baylor spent the majority of that time in the basement of the Big 12 South. TCU and Baylor played four times while in separate conferences; the Horned Frogs won the first three by a combined score of 89-17. That’s how a rivalry is sustained.
And then, under the leadership of Art Briles and football ballet of Robert Griffin III, for the first time in more than a century, Baylor and TCU were good at the same time. That’s how a rivalry is inflamed.
It started in 2010, when Griffin referred to TCU’s 45-10 defeat of Baylor earlier that season as “a fluke.” Griffin backed that claim up in the 2011 opener, kickstarting his Heisman Trophy campaign by accounting for 411 yards and five touchdowns in a 50-49 shootout win, Baylor’s first win over TCU since 1995.
I don’t know who Art Briles was staring at as the game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights, but I don’t think it would take more than two guesses to find out:
TCU returned to Waco a year later and Boykin did to Baylor’s defense what Griffin did to TCU’s the year before, posting 317 yards and five touchdowns in his second career start as the Horned Frogs mashed the Bears 49-21.
Tensions rose to a boil in last year’s 41-38 Baylor win in Waco after Bears safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for hitting Boykin in the head and was then seen laughing on the Baylor bench. “I’ve got coaches up in the box saying he’s laughing on TV underneath his towel,” Patterson said after the game. “Well, I didn’t think it was that funny. [Briles] can go correct his player because nobody said anything to him. I watched. I had to get the official to go get him because they let him stand on the sideline. If I didn’t say anything, they would have let him stand there the whole time. That isn’t cool.
“If that’s what class is, I don’t want to be it.”
The two had a tense midfield exchange after the final whistle, closing the book on a disappointing 4-8 season for TCU.
See for yourself in this grainy TV copy below:
“I didn’t say anything. He said, ‘Leave it on the field.’ I said not. You come across the field at me and later you want me to leave it on the field? No. He comes across the field at me?” Nuh-uh. I didn’t build this program to back down to anybody, and I’m not going to do it to him. Not in recruiting or in anything we do.”
In the end, Patterson – who has a history of letting his temper do the talking for him after contested rivalry games go against TCU (see: the time he said he’d stop working with June Jones after SMU beat TCU in Fort Worth and celebrated their rare Iron Skillet victory on the Amon Carter Stadium field a little too vigorously for Patterson’s liking) – challenged Briles to a fight, or something. “The bottom line is, we’re not going to do that. Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. If he’s got a problem with me, here’s where I live.”
Briles, in a move straight from the top of page one of Steve Spurrier’s industry best-seller Trolling for Dummies, refused to acknowledge he was aware Patterson had said anything. “I hadn’t really heard anything or paid attention to anything,” Briles said later that week. “As soon as the game was over, I started moving on to Texas. That’s just what I’ve always done. I learned a long time ago you can’t really control what other people say about you or think about you. All you can do is do what you think is right for your situation and that’s what we’ve always done here at Baylor.”
And that brings us to Saturday, where No. 9 TCU visits No. 5 Baylor. In the 110 scheduled meetings between these two, this is the first where both clubs are ranked.
While a win doesn’t guarantee anything, the winner becomes the undisputed favorite in the Big 12, and a safe bet to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. Baylor has three games remaining after Saturday against ranked foes, two at home and one in Norman, where the Bears have never won.
TCU’s slate after Saturday is even easier, with only three road games – one of which is at Kansas – and both games against ranked opponents in Fort Worth:
Baylor-TCU has always been a fascinating chess pitting two of the game’s best tacticians against each other, and this year’s game is ripped straight from the Briles vs. Patterson vintage. Baylor leads the nation in scoring offense and ranks 18th in yards per play, while TCU ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense in yards per play allowed.
What pushes this game into the stratosphere, however, is how each team is performing on the other side of the ball.
Baylor ranks one spot behind TCU in yards per play allowed (fourth at 3.91 per pop) against, admittedly, poor competition – No. 127 SMU, No. 54 Buffalo and No. 118 Texas, plus FCS Northwestern State – and two spots ahead of the Frogs in scoring defense at 12.4 points per game. It’s hard to write this fast start off, though, because this is largely the same group that was .03 yards per play away from fielding the Big 12’s best defense in conference play.
For TCU, Boykin looks like the same player that torched Baylor the last time he was in Waco, ranking eighth nationally in total offense while accounting for 13 touchdowns (10 passing, two rushing) with only two interceptions. The same group that placed 105th in yards per play and 88th in scoring a year ago has leaped to 40th in yards per play and 12th in scoring. TCU dropped 30 on a 4-1 Minnesota team that held Michigan to 14, and hit Oklahoma for 37 points and 469 total yards nearly a year to the day after managing only 210 yards and 17 points in Norman.
Both teams, it appears, are for real.
I don’t have a prediction, although if I did it’d be hard to go against the Bears while playing in the fortress that is Waco (23-1 since the start of the 2011 season), but the one loss was the four-touchdown mashing by TCU. What I do know is that, for my money, this is the juiciest matchup of the weekend – regardless of what’s happening in Starkville.
This is how a rivalry explodes.