Unrivaled is all about looking for TCU's great rival, someone who will go 50-50 with the frogs and provide moments of joy in triumph and agony in defeat. In the SWC (and even WAC) we had several of these rivalries, but as TCU has hopped from conference to conference scheduling any one of our former rivals with regularity has become a difficult proposition- save one. TCU's trophy game (and a trophy with a story behind it, not a glorified bowling trophy or corporate designed trash) with our crosstown rival SMU Mustangs. In recent years the series has become so lopsided (TCU is 10-1 in the last eleven games) and the games have often been so uncompetitive (average score for these games: TCU 33, SMU 10) that many TCU fans don't consider the Methodist Mustangs to be a worthy archrival. Indeed, the hatred for Baylor is all-encompassing, TCU fans consider Tech a more prestigious rival (who means more to beat), so what role is left for the crossmetroplex CUSA colts? Join me after the jump.
My disclaimer: rushing the field when we beat SMU to both rob the ponies of a bowl bid and ensure we didn't go winless is one of the great sports memories of my life, which has only recently been topped by the Mavericks winning the NBA championship. So it's with a heavy heart that I say that barring a disastrous turn in conference realignment SMU just isn't going to be a year-in, year-out threat if we get into BCS conference. We've seen this trending for the past decade-plus, with SMU always being a step behind TCU as we've conference climbed- but now as we reach a new plateau we've come to one that the Mustangs will likely never reach: BCS Auto-Qualifier. Assuming we don't immediately collapse in on ourselves in our new conference (Big East or Big 12) ala Baylor, we'll have taken a position of power over our rival university that is almost unheard of in college football. The only similar "rivalries" between BCS and non-BCS school that are ongoing involve two of our likely future conference mates Marshall-West Virginia and USF-UCF- and what distinguishing features do they share? The BCS level school hates playing the non-AQ school, the non-AQ school never wins (West Virginia and USF are a combined 13-0 over their in state buddies) and they don't think that their lesser rivals deserve a home and home series. On the one hand, neither series has the deep roots of the TCU-SMU series (West Virginia and Marshall played a home and home in 1914-15, another game in 1923, then not another single meeting until 1997), and West Virginia is pretty well the university in WVA to the point where considering it a little brother series (ala Michigan vs. Michigan State) seems to denigrate the term. This is what TCU-SMU could likely (and some might argue has already) become: a no win situation for the frogs. If we're big brother to the ponies we become in essence their championship game (like Baylor treated us this year), their fans get hyped up to the max, their team comes out flying and even in situations where we win with regularity there's no glory in beating them and only disaster if they beat us (see: 2005). So what can TCU do to stop our one consistent rivalry from descending into a Texas-Rice style affair? Other than petitioning them for a berth in the Big East (which most Frog fans are decidedly against), the rise will have to come from SMU itself, they'll have to build on these last two seasons of bowl eligibility, they'll have to win their conference and (perhaps most importantly) they have to build a fanbase that cares about the team they're putting on the field (and will show up to see it). This is an argument that has often come out against TCU- that we don't sell out our stadium (despite its size), to which we used to reply that the stadium was suited for our SWC days and only with three out of four living TCU alumni at every game could we fill the stadium- SMU has more alumni and a significantly smaller stadium, yet in these past two years, SMU's finest football years since 1984, the Mustangs have managed to put a mighty 23.5k fans per game in the stands, compared with 42.5k frog fans last year. The only way the Mustangs can brings themselves up to a level that makes them worth playing (and beating) is to continue their improved play on the field (and actually winning CUSA would help) and increase fan turnout. It may honestly be more difficult for SMU to attract casual fans in Dallas due to the other sports teams that rely on that area (especially when the Mavericks and Rangers are at historic highs), but 30k needs to be their goal. If they can get to the level we were for our CUSA run- beating AQ teams and threatening undefeated seasons- there will be worth in playing them and we'll have a fairly unique and interesting series on our hands down the road. If not... well having the game in Amon Carter every year sounds pretty good to me, really.