Angry emails? Check.
Endless debates that clog Twitter timelines? Check.
Irrelevant lobbying of Associated Press pollsters whose votes do not impact the College Football Playoff rankings? Check.
In most areas, fans from TCU and Baylor are showing a strong grasp of what it takes to be followers of teams that sit at college football’s big-boy table. Likewise, their teams have shown the proper on-field focus to keep No. 5 TCU (9-1) and No. 7 Baylor (8-1) in the thick of the national championship chase until late November.
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By doing so, two schools that have combined for zero national championships since 1938 remain at the emotional epicenter of discussions about which one is more deserving to be part of a four-team playoff field that will crown the 2014 champ.
Baylor coach Art Briles even flashed some political savvy during this week’s Big 12 conference call by defusing a question related to the significance of head-to-head results in the polling process. Asked about his vote in the final 2008 coaches poll (Oklahoma at No. 1, Texas at No. 5 despite a Longhorns’ victory in the Oct. 11 game), Briles confessed that he passed the ballot to a fellow staffer, who filled it out under his name.
“That’s the truth,” Briles said, shedding light on an all-too-common practice among coaches poll participants.
The point of the Briles story is not to remind readers about the dubious credibility of the coaches poll. It’s to marvel at how he cleanly distanced himself from a vote that disregarded a key head-to-head result in breaking down the nation’s top teams in 2008.
Expect references to 2008 to surface frequently in the coming weeks. In many ways, this Big 12 football season is linked at the hip to 2008, when Oklahoma (11-1), Texas (11-1) and Texas Tech (11-1) shared the South Division championship. Each finished 1-1 in round-robin play with fellow co-champs, creating a heated debate about properly identifying the Big 12’s best team. (Sound familiar?)
BCS tiebreakers, which included teams’ placement in the final coaches poll, gave the nod to Oklahoma. But not before individuals with ties to the respective schools took lobbying efforts to uncharted levels.
In terms of 2008 intensity, TCU and Baylor have just begun to scratch the surface when compared to that three-way catfight. In efforts to help both groups raise their games, here are some lobbying ideas from yesteryear, along with fresh suggestions for 2014:
Stadium flyovers: The defining images of 2008 involved charter planes circling stadiums, pulling banners in support of one co-champ above a venue filled with fans from a rival. Imagine the Dec. 6 opportunities when Baylor and TCU close their seasons with home games: A purple banner buzzes McLane Stadium with the words “Play SOMEBODY,” in reference to the Bears’ soft non-conference schedule that has drawn criticism from CFP officials. Meanwhile, a green banner cuts through the air space above Amon G. Carter Stadium with the digits “61-58.” That is the score from Baylor’s victory over TCU on Oct. 11.
Billboard messages: I’m noticing way too many blank billboards along I-35 between Fort Worth and Waco. Just guessing, but I’d bet the owners would rent those things on a monthly basis. (Hint, hint).
T-shirt testimonies: Nothing cuts your rival down to size, or exalts your team and its message, like a clever T-shirt slogan. Examples: “TCU: The ranking power in Texas.” Or, “Baylor: 61 reasons we’re better than TCU.” You probably can top both of those. Go for it.
Viral videos: Millions of viewers regularly access YouTube in search of stimulating content. Created in 2005, the site was in its infancy in 2008. Today, the right pro-TCU or pro-Baylor video could travel around the world, generating millions of hits and putting that other school in its proper place.
Shameless scoring sprees: It is worth noting that Oklahoma, the team that won the 2008 tiebreaker, topped the 60-point mark in its last five games before its bowl appearance. Included were a 65-21 rout of Tech, a fellow co-champ, and a 62-21 pasting of Mizzou in the Big 12 championship game. Also noteworthy: The Sooners never topped the 60-point barrier in any game until Nov. 1, when OU was No. 4 in the BCS standings. Yet OU never failed to hang 60 on any remaining Big 12 opponent, overtaking Texas in the BCS standings the night after defeating Oklahoma State, 61-41, to close its regular season. Memo to coaches: Lopsided scores matter, even to decision-makers who swear they should not. Bob Stoops proved that six years ago.
Shameless coaching pleas: This actually goes back to 2004, when former Texas coach Mack Brown appealed to poll voters to “help us” with their ballots in quest of a BCS berth following a season-ending victory over Texas A&M. The move bothered peers but Texas played in the Rose Bowl after passing California in the final BCS standings.
Late-night infomercials: Some television time slots can be purchased in 30-minute increments. Consult a network or TV station in your neighborhood for more details.
Newspaper advertisements: A timeless approach with endless upside. Just make sure you include my name as the “commissioned advertising sales representative” when placing your order.
Now, get out there, put those other guys in their place and prepare to party like it’s … 2008, all over again.
Kansas State’s rebound
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder will carry an open mind into Thursday’s game against West Virginia about areas where the 12th-ranked Wildcats (7-2, 5-1 in Big 12) can improve in efforts to claim a league title.
K-State dropped a 41-20 decision to No. 5 TCU (9-1, 6-1) in its last outing and must beat West Virginia (6-4, 4-3) to keep pace with TCU and No. 7 Baylor (8-1, 5-1) in the league standings. Snyder said he is glad the Wildcats have had extra time, because of last week’s bye, to prepare for the contest in Morgantown, W.Va. (6 p.m., FS1).
“We are in the process of correcting some of the mistakes we made against TCU, and there was a plethora of those,” Snyder said. “That is the agenda. What we put on the field was not always the best thing to put out there.”
In their last game, the Wildcats fell to TCU on Nov. 8, suffering their first loss of the season to a Big 12 opponent. Having 12 days to prepare for the Mountaineers has been key, Snyder said, in efforts to rebound.
“A loss can linger,” Snyder said. “If you genuinely care, if it’s really important to you, then there is disappointment. That eventually turns into anger. In my way of thinking, that serves as motivation to move forward. That is the process that most people in our program would go through.”
Texas Bowl potential: Texas (6-5) is bowl-eligible under first-year coach Charlie Strong but has no contest against rival and SEC member Texas A&M (7-4) on its future schedules. That could change Dec. 29 in the Texas Bowl. The contest in Houston matches a Big 12 team against an SEC opponent. Bowl officials have acknowledged a Longhorns-Aggies showdown seems like a logical selection for their game if given the opportunity to pick both teams.
Getting offensive: Among teams in FBS conferences, Big 12 members rank second nationally in total offense (444.8 yards per game) and passing offense (272.7 yards per game). Five of the league’s 10 teams rank among the top 22 nationally in total offense and rank among the top 33 in scoring (34 points per game).
November nightmares: This is the time of year when history reminds Big 12 frontrunners to brace themselves against potential disaster. In each of the last three seasons, the league’s highest-ranked team suffered a November upset that crushed its national title hopes: Baylor fell to Oklahoma State, 49-17 (Nov. 23, 2013); Kansas State fell to Baylor, 52-24 (Nov. 17, 2012) and Oklahoma State fell to Iowa State, 37-31 (Nov. 18, 2011).
No. 7 Baylor 59, Oklahoma State 14 (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., KDFW/Ch. 4): Bears continue building momentum in quest of CFP berth, Cowboys extend four-game losing streak that threatens their bowl hopes.
West Virginia 34, No. 12 Kansas State 28 (Thursday, 6 p.m., FS1): The league’s toughest road trip (anywhere to West Virginia) claims another Big 12 title contender on national TV.
No. 21 Oklahoma 41, Kansas 20 (Saturday, 11 a.m., FS1): Sooners regain their footing in the Top 25, lay a lopsided beating on Jayhawks.
Iowa State 35, Texas Tech 33 (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.): The Cyclones avoid a solo stay in the Big 12 basement by winning a home game after an open date.
Last week: 3-0