Mac Engel

TCU vs. Baylor becoming a wonderfully nasty rivalry

Sans Aggies v. Horns, in the great state a Texas, the Baptists vs. the Disciples of Christ has the monopoly on sports hate.

Something thought never to be uttered in any lifetime: TCU at Baylor is the best the game of the year inside our borders, certainly more relevant than Texas-OU at the Cotton Bowl a few hours before.

To the people at ESPN’s College GameDay, who skipped this game on Saturday in favor of a trip to Starkville, Miss., you blew it. This is the game you should be attending rather than Auburn at Mississippi State. Kirk, Desmond, Corso and Fowler could have hit Vitek’s, Health Camp and George’s before the best game of the day. Do not believe the 10-point line Vegas has installed for Baylor; this will be close.

Thanks to so many good people at TCU and Baylor, and some deep pockets, a game that was once garbage in the Southwest Conference is now for first place in the Big 12 with national implications.

Regardless of your feelings for either team, No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor is a major win for the state of Texas football.

Both of these teams have been through hell to get here, but in the past five years have become national names with star players, a Heisman Trophy winner, a Rose Bowl trophy, BCS games, as well as the prerequisite dirt that comes with any premier program.

Beyond two top 10 teams, however, are the wonderful storylines that make this the type of rivalry where both sides truly hate the other. And do not believe any attempt to believe otherwise.

This has become a game that leaves a mark.

I asked Baylor coach Art Briles if he felt this rivalry has teeth to it now.

“I don’t feel it,” he said. “If it is, somebody needs to tell me and remind me.”

If you insist.

The latest chapter is Gary Patterson’s rant after his team lost by three points in the regular-season finale last season. Gary took aim at Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon, a player with a reputation, who had been penalized for targeting then-TCU wide receiver Trevone Boykin.

“That’s the problem I have,” GP said after that game on Nov. 30, 2013. “They didn’t correct it a long time ago.”

Gary was not the first coach to tire of Dixon, a seventh-round draft pick who was cut by the Cowboys after the preseason, partly because of his attitude. BTW: Dixon has since caught on with the Chicago Bears. Patterson was the first to call out Dixon, but indirectly his shot landed on Briles.

I asked Gary if that whole thing is done and done, but if something like this unintentionally adds to this rivalry.

“I had seen what I saw during the game, obviously frustrated by the season and everything else,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Much the same way the TCU people were upset when Robert Griffin III made an unintentional passing shot at that team years ago, the Baylor people were equally incensed over this rant. If there is one thing people love more than supporting their alma mater, it’s having their feelings hurt over nothing.

GP’s rant was one more reason for the Baylor-ites to dislike a coach who is 4-2 in his career against the Bears. The two losses are by a combined five points.

There has been considerable speculation that Gary and Briles can’t stand each other, and while they may not be fishing buddies, don’t buy it — there is mutual respect. Over the summer, it was Patterson who challenged Briles to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which was accepted.

If anybody is going to understand the challenges of their jobs, it is these two. Gary had revolutionary concepts on defense whereas Art made a similar impression with offense.

“As I person, I like him and I love his wife; they are great people. I love his family,” Patterson said. “When I’m not cheering for TCU, I want people to do well.”

Believe Gary on that.

Also believe that the bad blood between these two programs beyond the Gary-Art Era is real. It stems from Baylor’s inclusion in the Big 12 in ’94, which the TCUers will insist was the result of political backdoor dealings of the late Gov. Ann Richards, herself a Baylor alum. TCU didn’t make the cut.

When the Big 12 was “breaking apart” a few years ago, and TCU was in the Mountain West, there were many powerful people wearing purple who insisted they would go to great lengths to prevent Baylor from being admitted to the MWC if it came to that.

Of course, when OU realized it did not have an invite to the Pac-12 and A&M fled to the SEC, the door opened for TCU to go to the Big 12, and the true renewal of this regional rivalry between two private, religiously affiliated schools.

The record in this series is 51-51-7, and while there have been decades of dog games between these two, Saturday figures to be one of the biggest in the history of what is a genuine rivalry.

This is quality sports hate, and for one season TCU-Baylor is the best game in our great state.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.

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