Texas vs Baylor: Most Notable Storyline for Both Sides Heading into Top 25 Clash

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2013

Nov 23, 2013; Stillwater, OK, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty (14) attempts a pass against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The near-extinction of the Big 12 a couple years ago leaves the conference without a championship game, but in their understandable need to not be left out of the final-week party, the conference has two pseudo-championship games on the Week 15 schedule.

At noon, Bedlam is assured when Oklahoma State attempts to make its second BCS bowl in three seasons against rival Oklahoma. Right after that is arguably the more interesting game, however, when Texas takes a trip to Baylor. 

One of the oldest rivalries in the sport, Baylor-Texas hasn't carried much cache in the past but is quickly picking up steam. After what was pretty much a quarter-century downturn, the Bears are in their third year of renewed relevance, a time in which they've arguably supplanted the Longhorns as the most exciting team in the state.

Long the big brother of the relationship, Texas now looks directly up at Baylor in the standings. The Case McCoy-led offense has been in shambles for much of the season, with Shipley-McCoy, the sequel looking more like The Hangover 2 than, let's say, The Godfather: Part II. Meanwhile, Bryce Petty is putting up numbers that compare nicely to Robert Griffin III's in Waco, making him the Hunger Games: Catching Fire of this whole wildly underthought analogy.

OK, enough movies. Back to football. Or something like football. Specifically, storylines relating to the two teams playing football on Saturday. Let's take a look at them. Now.

Texas: Does Mack Brown's Future Hinge on This Result?

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 16:  Mike gundy, head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and Mack Brown, head coach the Texas Longhorns, meet at midfield prior to a game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  Oklahoma St
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Perhaps because I grew up in around a culture that diefied its head coach until the most unceremonious ending in college football history, I've always found coach-hate culture a little strange. Don't get me wrong, if my entire job was making fun of Jason Kidd's ineptitude, I could probably go three weeks without repeating a joke or getting bored.

But the ugly end for guys like Mack Brown has always struck me as off-putting. It's easy to forget now what a thoroughly mediocre couple decades the Longhorns went through prior to Brown's arrival. John Mackovic, anyone? David McWilliams? Yeah, let's just say Brown has done far more good for Texas football than any coach since the legendary Darrell Royal. 

At age 62 and on the precipice of perhaps a fourth straight season finishing outside the Top 25, though? Brown's days in Austin seem numbered. It seems from the moment the 2013 campaign began, Brown was coaching for his job. After the Longhorns started 1-2, his fate seemed as good as sealed—then Texas ran off seven wins in eight games (including six straight at one point) to leave everyone wondering what happens next.

Nov 30, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban reacts during the third quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

The Nick Saban-to-Texas rumors have gotten so much traction that university president Bill Powers had to shut them down on Thursday.

"I've never met Nick Saban. I've never talked to Nick Saban. We have not hired Nick Saban," Powers said, via ESPN. "Mack's our coach, and I can say flatly that the rumors we have hired or come to an agreement with Nick Saban or even talked to him are false."

Well then. That (theoretically) nullifies the Saban talk, but what about Brown? The list of great college football players who Brown didn't recruit is starting to eclipse the one that he did, and frankly there aren't many collegiate coaches in their 60s on the cutting edge of college football innovation. Texas has watched on as two red-headed stepchildren in the state (Texas A&M and Baylor) have cultivated Heisman talent and been among the nation's most exciting teams to watch.

The Longhorns, upon whom an entire conference's respect was seemingly foisted a couple years ago, have scuffled at the same period. It's likely that Powers has seen this dichotomy, doesn't love it and would like to see his school's program back where it belongs—atop the Texas collegiate hierarchy.

The answer to whether Brown will get one more chance to lead it there may come Saturday. Defeating Baylor puts Texas in the No. 2 spot in the Big 12, and gives the team a guaranteed trip to the Cotton Bowl. And should Oklahoma somehow pull off the upset over Oklahoma State, the Longhorns will suddenly find themselves in a BCS bowl. (They could go to the Cotton Bowl with a loss, too. But that's no fun.)

That's good enough for one more year. The opposite result—one that consigns Texas to another schlubby mid-tier season—may be the death knell. So...fun times!

Baylor: BCS Bowl, Pleez?

Nov 7, 2013; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears running back Lache Seastrunk (25) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Floyd Casey Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If, by some grace of the gods, Chappelle's Show returned and did a second Player Hater's Ball, I'd like to think Art Briles and the entire 2013 Baylor roster would be invited just to give their thoughts on the BCS process. You know, the one that awards Central Florida a big-money bowl berth but not the nation's highest-scoring offense and No. 9 team in the country.

It's strange that, barring some last-week surprises, the Big 12 will almost certainly have as many BCS representatives as the American Athletic Conference. The Bears would get in with a victory and an Oklahoma State loss, sure, but that still has to be frustrating to be in their position.

That said, there's some possible salvation here. And that salvation is mostly to be as unbelievably good as possible on Saturday and force the at-large committees to take one more look. 

Baylor's best shot, should everything go to plan, is a trip to either the Orange or Fiesta Bowl. The "ugh, fine, we'll take them" at-large spots are going to Central Florida, which will probably head to the Fiesta Bowl—again, assuming the higher-ranked teams win and nothing wonky happens.

That leaves the Bears essentially competing with two other teams—Oregon and Clemson—to play another at-large, likely Alabama, in the Orange Bowl or Auburn in the Sugar. All three teams have relatively similar makeups. They boast their star power on offense, play high-octane styles and present a fun contrast to the more traditional, meat-and-potatoes Crimson Tide.

The prevailing thought is that the Orange Bowl would pick Clemson first despite being the lowest-ranked of the three because of its ties to the ACC. I'm pretty sure bowls would also rather have Oregon than Baylor in a perfect world as well, giving fans the national championship that never was.

The only way Baylor wins out in this scenario is by simply leap-frogging enough in the rankings to make it blasphemous to choose anyone else. The Bears would need to hurtle their way over at least South Carolina and probably Stanford to make it happen, with both being theoretically possible. 

Beating Texas and doing so big might be enough of a statement to make the at-large thing a possibility. Or it might not be. Who knows, because the BCS is a nonsensical system that is thankfully meeting the death it deserved years ago after this season.

But Baylor's lot in life is hoping for the wonky or an Oklahoma victory. Oh, and that they win on Saturday.

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