Last week, after Texas-Baylor basketball sparked mass ejections, Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wondered whether the Longhorns and Bears could supplant Texas-Texas A&M’s as one of the Big 12’s primary rivalries.
With apologies to Bohls (one of America’s best sports columnists, by the way) and to the Longhorns, the Bears already have their primary rival.
It’s up the way on Interstate 35, not down it. And well on its way to taking the place of Texas-Texas A&M in the Big 12's pantheon of rivalry games.
Two rounds of conference realignment not only damaged the Big 12’s national reputation, it gutted some of the league’s most storied and intense rivalries.
And Texas-Texas A&M.
But among its few silver linings, realignment blessed us with the "Revivalry."
Since reconnecting as conference foes two seasons ago, the reincarnation of the Baylor-TCU game has unleashed a combination of high stakes, high drama, and high acrimony on both sides that has rapidly elevated it to the forefront of the Big 12’s most anticipated annual showdowns, along with the Red River and Bedlam clashes.
The acrimony itself between the old Southwest Conference adversaries has generated plenty of headlines.
Two years ago, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for targeting TCU’s Trevone Boykin with a hit to the head. Dixon didn’t immediately leave the field, then laughed while doing so, prompting an icy midfield handshake between TCU coach Gary Patterson and Baylor coach Art Briles. After the game, Patterson called out Briles and Dixon in his postgame news conference. This past season's meeting led to yet another dustup, as Patterson accused Baylor safety Orion Stewart of threatening him on the field, which Baylor defensive coordinator later Phil Bennett denied.
Acrimony can be fun. But acrimony alone does not a big-time rivalry make.
Yet unlike Baylor-Texas, resulting in easy Baylor wins in recent seasons, the Revivalry has produced a pair of dramatic finishes, notably Baylor’s thrilling 61-58 comeback victory this past season, which might have been the game of the year in college football.
Unlike Bedlam, one of the most historically lopsided instate rivalries despite Oklahoma State’s win in Norman last season, the Revivalry is among the most hotly contested, with Baylor owning a single game advantage in 110 all-time meetings.
And unlike the Red River Showdown, which hasn’t carried major Big 12 title implications in years, the Revivalry pitted the league’s two-best teams against one another last season.
Next season, with TCU and Baylor set to open in the top 10 of the preseason polls, the stakes could be even higher, with a possible playoff appearance at stake.
Bohls suggested that Texas, which used to face the Aggies every Thanksgiving night, should replace the TCU-Texas Tech alternating combo with Baylor as its annual Thanksgiving game.
That’s a nice suggestion.
Except Baylor has a bigger contest against a bigger rival slated for the following day next season.
Capitalizing on the heat the Revivalry has generated, the Big 12 has pulled out the Baylor-TCU game and scheduled it for Black Friday in a game that figures to put the conference on the national stage again.
Baylor and TCU fans can’t agree on anything, especially on who was more deserving of advancing to the playoff last season.
But if Twitter is any indication, they agree on this: The Bears' biggest rival has become TCU. And the Horned Frogs' most hated opponent has become Baylor.
Texas might still be searching to fill the rivalry void that Texas A&M left. But the Big 12 has found its replacement.