Part of what makes college football the greatest game on earth are the long-standing historical rivalries between teams. They have annual battle-royales over quirky inanimate objects made into trophies such as bells, boots, buckets, milk cans, and axes. A win over your rival even in the most dismal of seasons gives your team and fan-base a glimmer of hope and a bit of respite for that season.
Unfortunately, TCU is sorely lacking in the rivalry department. Sure, we have the Battle for the Iron Skillet every year with SMU, but let's just say the iron skillet has lost some of its luster. After all, it's hard to convince your fan base that a true rivalry exists when you have won nine of the last ten meetings by a combined score of 312 to 64.
TCU's lack of traditional rivals can be attributed to the destruction of the Southwest Conference in 1996, which led to the creation of the Big 12. After being proud members of the storied SWC since 1923 the Horned Frogs were now left out in the cold; forced to become conference vagabonds. The Frogs drifted in and out of the WAC and C-USA before finally landing in the MWC, which due to geography offers no regional rivalries to speak of. The teams that deserted the SWC (Arkansas, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor) dropped TCU from their schedules like a bad-habit and never looked back.
Thanks in large part to Coach Gary Patterson's recent resurrection of the football program, TCU has gotten Texas Tech and Baylor back on the schedule having recently concluded a home-and-home series with each team between 2004-2007 and another is slated to begin with both in the next two years. This Saturday's game will mark the third time the Bears and Frogs have played since their SWC days and in that time both fan-bases have worked up a healthy distaste for one another, thus resurrecting one of college football's oldest rivalries.
Baylor and TCU's "holy war" is one of the most-played college football rivalries in history with 105 contests played between the two schools. Baylor vs. TCU began in 1899 as a cross-town rivalry in Waco, TX, their close proximity enabled the two small private schools to play multiple times a year. But thanks to a "mysterious" TCU on-campus fire in 1910 and some wealthy and influential Fort Worth businessmen TCU packed-up and moved 85 miles north to Fort Worth, which only enhanced each school's animosity towards the other. After TCU joined up with Baylor in the SWC in 1923 the rivalry looked like it would last forever. Then in the early 90's the SWC began to crumble with teams bolting the SWC to join the Big 8 thus forming the Big 12. When the Big 12 musical chairs stopped TCU was on the outside looking in with Baylor swooping in at the eleventh-hour to claim the last seat thanks in large part to it's political clout, which included then Texas Gov. and Baylor graduate Ann Richards.
The majority of TCU fans are still bitter about being left out of the Big 12 in favor of Baylor back in 1996, which was evidenced by the multitude of purple "Kick Baylor Out of the Big 12" t-shirts I witnessed during my time as a student in Fort Worth between 2001 and 2005. Surprisingly, TCU being left out of the Big 12 may have been the best thing that ever happened to the Frogs; while Baylor joining the Big 12 has seemed to have the opposite effect on the Bears. Despite the large checks they cash thanks to their conference affiliation they have not qualified for a bowl game since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996. Meanwhile, TCU got to work, made a new commitment to athletics, and took the necessary steps to build it's football program to where it stands today, a top 5 in the national rankings.
Baylor fans are mostly delusional and have the general attitude of "excellence by association," believing that they are athletically superior to TCU for the sole reason they are in the almighty Big 12 and TCU isn't. As if the "greatness" of the Sooners and Longhorns will somehow rub off on their sorry team while they are being taken to the woodshed every year. Baylor's opinion of the Frogs generally centers around the thinking of: TCU plays nobody, Baylor would go 12-0 if they played TCU's schedule, and TCU would be last place in the Big 12. This train of thought made it that much sweeter for Frog fans when Baylor finally agreed to play TCU in a real football game in 2006, instead of a hypothetical pissing match.
In their first series since 1995 TCU claimed victories both at Waco in 2006 (17-7) and in Fort Worth in 2007 (27-0), but that was not enough to convince the Baylor fans of TCU's worth so this Saturday begins round 2 of Baylor's "Football Awareness Training" Thanks to speedy Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and a 2-0 record the Bears are heading to Fort Worth with inflated expectations, delusions of grandeur and visions of bowl games dancing in their heads. Baylor is anxious to prove that not only is TCU not worthy of a top 5 ranking, but they aren't even good enough to share the same field with a vaunted Big 12 team like the mighty Baylor Bears.
Despite being favored by 22 points don't expect the Frogs to sleep on this game. This is one of few regional match-ups that TCU gets each year and you better believe the players are going to be jacked up to play a nationally televised game in front of a sold-out crowd against familiar faces from Friday nights past. On top of that, Baylor and TCU are often competing for the same high school players and Gary Patterson knows a game like this can be a statement maker impacting recruiting for years to come.
Most importantly this historic rivalry currently sits at a dead-heat of 49-49-7, so Saturday's contest is a rubber match of sorts that could tip the scales forever in favor of the Frogs.