I hate to give Texas credit for anything because the state already takes credit for everything. However, of all the supposed football-obsessed hubs, the Lone Star State tops them all. Mostly because of how unhealthy the population’s dedication to the sport is — I’m sure there are Texans who got where Coach Kilmer from Varsity Blues was coming from — but that’s beside the point.
Or actually, that kind of is my point. There’s no better spite-viewing than watching the biggest brands from Austin and College Station underperform and falter. Coming into this college football season, the Aggies were No. 6 in the AP Poll, Baylor was No. 10, and there were the annual rumors of the Longhorns’ being back.
TCU, currently sitting at No. 4 in the College Football Playoff standings, was No. 72. After a 5-7 season in 2021, they fired longtime coach Gary Patterson, brought in Sonny Dykes from SMU, and haven’t lost a game all year. The Horned Frogs have five wins over ranked opponents, including a four-week span of victories over top 25 teams.
Max Duggan, a four-year QB out of Council Bluffs, Iowa, has played as mistake free as it gets, with a 25-2 TD-INT ratio and a completion percentage of 65 percent. Running back Kendre Miller has over 1,100 yards on the ground, and was seen a week ago dusting burnt orange defenders for a 75-yard sprint that went a long way toward the Frog’s win in Austin. Miller was a two-star recruit out of Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Leading receiver Quentin Johnston has flashed big-play ability in big moments all season long. He and Duggan were four-star prospects, so it’s not like these guys are a bunch of upstarts coming out of nowhere. Yet, none of them were recruited by Dykes.
A few of the coach’s transfer portal guys have paid off. Linebacker Johnny Hodges is the team’s leading tackler after coming over from Navy. Center Alan Ali followed his coach from SMU, as well. The secondary has a bevy of new faces, but that unit is 84th in the country in yards allowed per outing.
The majority of the starters, though, are from, you guessed it, Texas. That’s what gets me. There is clearly more than enough talent in the state to compete for conference crowns and national championships every season.
Dykes has grown as a coach since his stint at Cal where he helped make Jared Goff the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He had a couple of 10-win seasons with the Mustangs — their first since 1984 — and is doing much of the same thing at TCU.
That said, like Tom Herman when he went from Houston to Austin, I have no idea if Dykes’ success would translate to whichever of the state’s most storied programs opens up first. Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies are 3-7, and even though they play in the SEC, it shouldn’t be this bad. The Longhorns always have a depth chart littered with five stars, and Baylor has had the better decade of the two Big 12 schools.
You can find the impact of Texas’ talent all across college football without having to look that hard. It could be a team like Herman’s Cougars squad that went 13-1, or the fact that Mike Leach consistently gave everyone (including his own players) headaches while in Lubbock. I mentioned Baylor already, but TCU came one second away from possibly spoiling the BCS when they were in the Mountain West and the Longhorns were still contending for titles under Mack Brown.
Outside of Vince Young and Co. in 2005, A&M and Texas don’t have a national championship since 19-fucking-70. I know the Longhorns ran the Southwest Conference for decades, but you have to find those titles on Wikipedia because that conference no longer exists.
It’s objectively untrue to say the state of Texas doesn’t matter to college football. Yet, so is saying the media’s coverage of the Longhorns and Aggies is outsized when juxtaposed with the year-in, year-out production. One also could surmise that less outside pressure and fear of failing to meet expectations do wonders.
Hell, this piece was supposed to focus on the team that’s three wins away from being the Big 12’s first non-Oklahoma participant in the College Football Playoff — and the state’s first in general. And yet, here I am, wasting words on UT and A&M.
If Las Vegas gave out odds prior to the first season of the playoff in 2014 for which Texas program would get to the CFP first, do you know how far down the list would the Horned Frogs have been?
Not that far at all, and definitely in front of Texas and Texas A&M. They had just come off a 12-1 season, a Big 12 title, and a No. 3 finish in the AP. That one blemish? A 61-58 loss to Baylor.
And who do they play Saturday on the precipice of making Texas college football history? You should know it’s not the Longhorns because I mentioned TCU beat them last week. Yup, it’s the Baylor Bears of Waco.
I lied earlier when I said there’s no better spite-viewing than watching the Longhorns and Aggies repeatedly vomit all over themselves. It does get better, and that’s when you mix their misery with the joy of the other Texas schools showing them how it’s done.