This week will be a little history lesson for some because the teams I’ll be featuring haven’t had the national success recently that they had in years past. And, granted, I’m elevating this game because of where I live and where I went to school, but also because these are the types of games that folks really care about. Michigan versus Notre Dame was big last week, but only because those teams are storied programs. If the rivalry was so significant, why was it canceled yesterday? I loved the Auburn versus LSU game, but ESPN tells me that ever SEC game ever is the most monumental clash in the history of the universe with teams hand picked by God himself, so why would any single one game stick out?
I’m talking about rivalry games. Honest to goodness, “we can’t stand you because you went to that other place” rivalry games. Games that silly trophies like the a bronze pig or a milk can the are handed out. Games with names like “Clean, Old Fashioned Hate” and simply the “Big Game“. These are games that make grown men cry and can determine if the head football coach has a job the following year. How many times has it been said “we can go 1-10, as long as that one is against [insert rival team here]“? I also love that rivalries can be based on so many factors: history between the schools, religious differences, perceived slights and, in one case, an actual war.
SMU and TCU encompass almost all of these characteristics. They are in close geographic proximity (about 40 miles from campus to campus). They have played almost every year since 1915. The matchup is competitive (TCU has 44 wins, SMU has 40 and there have been 7 ties). Both student populations feel somewhat superior to the other (purple is ugly and frogs are stupid while mustangs are majestic). Even the cities, Dallas and Fort Worth have some animosity.
SMU and TCU were both members of the Southwest Conference from 1923 until its demise in 1996. Then they both joined the Western Athletic Conference. TCU left the WAC for Conference USA 2001, then left C-USA for the Mountain West Conference in 2005. They declared their intention to leave the MWC for the Big East after the 2011 season, but changed their mind and left for the Big XII instead. SMU had almost the same amount of conference jumping, leaving the WAC four years after the Horned Frogs for Conference USA in 2005. SMU now plans on leaving Conference USA next year to join the Big East. Despite all of the movement, both teams plan on continuing the rivalry.
Why should people outside of the metroplex care? Because both programs have significant history. SMU claims three national championships, which is one more than A&M had until recently. SMU has five NFL Hall of Famers, perhaps the greatest college running back ever, was the first major team in the South to have an African-American scholarship player and has 10 current NFL players. They also were the only team in major college sports to get the Death Penalty. TCU claims two national championships (also more than Texas A&M had on August 1st, I kid, I kid). TCU has two (about to be three) NFL Hall of Famers, one of the greatest college quarterbacks ever and 18 current NFL players. TCU also has seen a revitalization of their team on a national level with four top 10 finishes and two BCS bowl appearances since 2005.
These are the games that bring communities together. These are the games that bring office bragging rights for the following 364 days. These are the games that involve silly bets with family members or, at worse, silence for a few days after it’s over. These are the games that matter more because it isn’t for a title or championship. These are games that are must wins. This is the game for the Iron Skillet. And this is the Game of the Week.
Other Games I’ll Be Watching:
Baylor at West Virginia: West Virginia will host a tough, high scoring Baylor team in the Mountaineers first ever Big XII conference game.
Wisconsin at Nebraska: Both teams started the season with high expectations, but after unexpected losses, they are still primed to make a run at the Big 10 title.
Oregon at Washington State: Mike Leach is awesome. Even so, he has to look at this Oregon team and think wistfully about what he had at Texas Tech and what he’s trying to build at Wazzou.
Arkansas at Texas A&M: Arkansas has had a rough season so far losing to Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama and Rutgers, but they’ve owned the Aggies in their last several matchups. Will A&M get their first ever SEC win?
Texas Tech at Iowa State: A matchup of two undefeated Big XII teams. Are either one for real?
* These opinions belong to Dustin and do not reflect the opinions of Gameday Cloth. Gameday Cloth is neutral. Go sports.