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A Texas-sized Q&A on the State of Texas Football

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A major undertaking has culminated in a Q&A between six different blogs to determine the current state of college football in Texas.

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(Editor's Note: A big thank you to those that contributed to this piece: Weston Ludeke at CardiacCoogs.com, Rush Roberts and Chuck GHB at Good Bull Hunting, nobis60 at Barking Carnival, Hunter Cooke at Viva The Matadors, pbpope at Our Daily Bears, and our own Jamie Plunkett from Frogs O' War)

A topic of discussion that has become quite popular recently: which football team runs the state of Texas. Almost every fan of football, at any level, in Texas has their own opinion on who they think runs the state. It is a topic worthy of debate considering that Texas is one of three states that consistently produces the most 3,4, and 5 star recruits along with Florida and California. However, of the three states, Texas produced the largest number in 2015. So you can see why it's a big deal to be considered the football program that runs the state.

We reached out to members of the SB Nation blogs of all of the power five programs in the state of Texas, as well as Houston a program that is very much so on the come up and may be joining a power five conference sooner rather than later. When we first thought of this idea, I thought that I would be the perfect moderator for this discussion and here is why. I have blood ties to every one of these programs, except for Houston.

Me - Texas Christian University
Father - Texas A&M University
Uncle - The University of Texas
Aunt (Wife to uncle) - Baylor University
Cousin (son of the prev. two) - Texas Tech University

Growing up in Texas, I have found myself rooting for almost all of these teams at one point or another, some longer than others I should add, but still rooted for nonetheless. Now that we have representatives from all of these teams, I am going to ask them some questions about the current state of football in Texas, how their program is currently doing, and see what their thoughts are on what it means to run the state.

While this exercise doesn't include UTEP, UTSA, North Texas, Rice, or SMU, you can read what SB Nation's Bill Connelly has to say about the future of those programs right under this sentence.


Now, let's move on to the Q&A.

General Questions for All

There are so many factors that go in to building a successful program: Coaching, recruiting, developing talent, brand and name recognition, consistency, winning conference titles, competing for national championships, game attendance, placement at the next level, and etc. What do you feel is the MOST important factor that defines a successful program in the state of Texas?

Texas: Very simply, you have to beat out a ton of competition to land enough Texas high school talent to run what you want to run at a high level. If you head North or West from the state, you're either stopping off to recruit the bear from The Revenant or you're not stopping til' you hit California if you're looking for a consistent pool of top talent. Heading East is a non-starter - five-star and high four-star talent may enter SEC country from elsewhere, but (mysteriously enough) it rarely seems to leave. That means recruiting the state of Texas with a high degree of success, and while there's plenty of talent here there just isn't enough to sustain every program in this article at the level to which they aspire.

Texas A&M: Coaching. Other pieces can fall into place but in such a talent-rich state with programs spread across multiple conferences, coaching is the edge.

Texas Tech: Coaching. We've seen it on the national stage time and time again, to some extent it's not about the stars of the recruits that you bring in, it's how you develop them. In an ideal world you can have coaching and recruiting, but I'd rather have coaching.

Baylor: This is an interesting question. Are we attempting to define what a "successful program" is? If so, I consider a program to be successful when it wins consistently. As an outflow of on-field success, a program will then frequently compete for and win conference titles, and will be in the conversation for national championships. The first three factors in question - coaching, recruiting, and talent development - are the vehicle by which a program achieves a consistent on-the-field success.

As for the factor most important to winning consistently? I don't think I can pinpoint just one. Your program can recruit at an extremely high level, but if your coaches can't develop elite potential into elite talent, it won't win with any kind of consistency. If the program doesn't have a winning game plan, elite talent won't be put in the best position to succeed. But it doesn't matter what your strategy is if you don't have the talent to execute that strategy. If you consider that strategic game management, recruiting, and talent development are all part of coaching, then I suppose that might be my answer.

TCU: I keep waffling back and forth between developing talent and coaching. While there is a wealth of talent at the high school level in Texas, it's what a coach does with that talent once they're on campus that matters. We've seen recent examples of coaches failing to develop talent (Mack at Texas) and examples of coaches developing talent beyond its perceived potential (Patterson at TCU, Briles at Baylor). Ultimately though, it takes the right coach to get the talent into the program, and then turn it into a winning product on the field, so I'll go with coaching.

Houston: Coaching. When a university has good coaching everything else takes care of itself. You can have good recruiting but if you can't develop those players or make the necessary in-game adjustments then you're going nowhere fast. It's also important to have several members of the coaching staff with ties in the Texas high school football community to be able to make good connections with recruits.

In your opinion what does it mean to run the state?

Texas: I'd say that it's pretty clear that running the state is a three-step process:

  1. Come up with a slogan and a hashtag
  2. Allow a recruit's family to trademark said hashtag in a manner that would tiptoe perilously close to an improper inducement if the concept of 'improper inducement' still had any meaning under the shambolic corpse of today's NCAA
  3. Over a twelve month period, watch said slogan comically detonate in your face like Wile E. Coyote's latest shipment from ACME.

An alternative interpretation would be simply owning the hearts, minds, Twitters, Instagrams and Periscopes of the state's top-tier talent - particularly at crunch time when these classes seem to coalesce - such that you're able to load up with difference-makers and enough developmental/system guys to keep humming on both sides of the ball.

It's a little easier to pull of the first one than the second.

Texas A&M: Philosophers and anthropologists will be debating this for many future millennia. We are but humble Internet patrons. But on the usage of the phrase up until this point, it seems to mean being over-hyped, obnoxious, and ultimately futile.

Texas Tech: Well, in order to run the state you would have to run for governor. If you got governor, you would have to secede and morph Texas into a totalitarian government. Once that is accomplished, you need to create a mandate that requires all the best coaches and recruits to go to your school, and level extreme sanctions on the other schools. You might think "this is the most ridiculous and stupid scenario" but then again so is the concept of "running the state". Suck it, Aggies.

Baylor: Wins on the football field. You can brag all you want about how big your stadium is or how much money your school makes or a TV network or whatever. None of that matters if you don't win consistently. You can wow the recruits all you want and make big splashes on National Signing Day, but if it doesn't translate to success on the field, none of it matters.

TCU: Winning, and specifically winning in-state games. Big schools like Texas A&M and Texas haven't done much of that lately, and that has opened up the opportunity for TCU and Baylor to rise to the level they have. Some recruits can be easily wowed by big stadiums and tradition, but plenty more want to win, and can ID a winning program. It's why TCU and Baylor have seen major upticks in recruiting over the past few years as well.

Houston: Running the state is having Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, JJ Watt, James Harden, and Dallas Keuchel all down with your program. If someone doesn't agree with that assessment then they're from Oklahoma.

Who do you think runs the state right now, if anyone at all?

Texas: To me, the state feels pretty un-run right now. There's big-time scatter amongst the big-name recruits this year regardless of which service you rely on for your rankings, and A&M's conference switch (along with Texas' struggles and the fact that the Big XII's rep doesn't match its on-field play) has helped the SEC gain a significant foothold with the state's truly elite talent. It may be a long time before any program serves as a true in-state shot-caller to rival what Mack managed in the early oughts, and in truth we might not see that kind of dominance ever again.

Texas A&M: The Whataburger and HEB corporations.

Texas Tech: If we're going with the totalitarian government scenario, the only team historically corrupt enough with the ties to financial means would be SMU or Texas, so take your pick. The actual answer is whoever wins the TCU-Baylor game every year, unless a young, upstart school (cough, cough) can give them a run for their money.

Baylor: As of right now...TCU and Baylor.

TCU: TCU and Baylor. The Frogs and Bears are 2-2 against each other since the Frogs joined the Big 12. Against the rest of the state, they're a combined 22-5 in that time span (11-5 against P5 teams).

Houston:

Herman Grill

Which team in Texas do you think has the best chance to win a national championship in the near future?

Texas: I'm going to hedge here between Texas and TCU. That may seem pretty unfair to Baylor based on some of the heights that they've hit of late, but I honestly haven't seen it on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears and when potential monsters like Shawn Oakman ho-hum their way through their senior campaigns it makes me dubious that we'll ever see championship-caliber D in Waco.

I've got very few questions about Gary Patterson's defensive bona fides, and if he's able to keep a Meacham/Cumbie-caliber guy running the offense and Shawn Robinson pans out then they can certainly be in the mix. Elite talent in the trenches figures to be a handicap against playoff-caliber opposition, but I wouldn't totally discount them in a season where the stars align.

Finally, despite more than a half decade in the wilderness I'm getting to be pretty encouraged about what Charlie is building in Austin. The prospect of landing a Top 10-12 recruiting class on the heels of a 5-7 death march just boggles my mind, and if the Longhorns manage a successful campaign this year we might make a return to the deserved Top Five class ranks that we haven't seen since Mack in the early-mid 2000's. Placing Strong's defensive acumen alongside ~85% fluency in the Briles offense under Sterlin Gilbert could be a real championship recipe come 2017 or 2018. Of course this season could go sideways and see Texas rolling the dice on a new coaching hire come next season, but if Charlie can cross the watershed line this year he just might make it to the top of the mountain.

Texas A&M: Well any of the P5 schools theoretically have--hahaha it's Baylor or TCU.

Texas Tech: It's funny you ask, because I think it's TCU. The experience y'alls young players got this year with all the injuries is invaluable, and is going to pay dividends in the near future.

Baylor: (Because you said Texas and not the Big XII) Baylor. That doesn't mean that I'm not super confident in their chances at this point, though.

TCU: I'll go with TCU. Baylor is a close second.

Houston: The Houston Cougars will win the 2016 college national championship. After an upset win over Oklahoma in the season opener, the Coogs run the table, win the American title, and then sneak into the playoffs. Riding the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Greg Ward Jr.'s hot hand, the Coogs upset Stanford in the first round followed by Alabama in the championship game. The 2016 Houston season becomes the biggest upset in modern sporting history and the subject of an excellent 30 for 30 episode called the "H-Town Takeover". Nick Saban's heart grows three sizes that day and he breaks down in tears as he realizes the endless pursuit of championships and money is hallow and ultimately meaningless when you're doing it at the college football version of the New York Yankees. Saban resigns to coach the New Mexico State Aggies and live in the desert amongst the Indians.

University of Texas

First of all, what is the big factor that caused the program to be in the current state that it is in?

Complicated questions rarely have simple answers, but the majority of Texas' outgoing issues flow from Mack Brown's on job retirement following the 2009 National Championship loss to Alabama. By all reports Mack had planned to ride off into the sunset after bagging a second crystal trophy, but one derptastic speed option call against Marcel Dareus saw Colt McCoy knocked out, Texas beaten down and Mack unwilling to go out like that. So back he came, but I don't think he ever fully reengaged with the job. The issues that had been growing ever since Vince slew the Trojans - entitlement, sub-par recruiting evaluations and the desire to fill classes quickly with "kids who want to be Longhorns" rather than fighting until the final bell for hotly contested guys and late-blooming seniors - continued to mestastasize.  And without Will Muschamp's savvy and relentlessness on defense or Colt McCoy's ability to hit shoebox-size passing windows on third and eight, we couldn't wallpaper over the dry rot.

2010 saw the chickens come home roost in a 5-7 horror show, and while Texas put up a veneer of respectability over the next three seasons it was clear that - wildly inflated recruiting rankings aside - our days as a national power under Mack Brown were done. An increasingly fractious and fractured coaching staff had made it tough to recruit to a particular identity (particularly on offense) and for some reason out cultural rot seemed to settle in more strongly along the offensive line then anywhere else. Former OC Bryan Harsin was reportedly horrified when he started to get a sense for the toolkit he'd be working with on his arrival in 2011, and Charlie's eyes must have bugged out like a Tex Avery cartoon wold when he got a handle on the talent (and THC levels) on his new OL.

Charlie certainly carries some of the blame for back-to-back losing seasons, and his first solid moves on the offensive side of the ball were probably hiring jay Norvell and Jeff Traylor following the 2014 season. There's no great spin for 100% turnover on your offensive staff in less than two seasons, but the bulk of his problems stem from the fact that Shawn Watson was wildly miscast for the task of building a coherent O with a mismatched offensive staff and maladapted offensive roster. Whether you believe Charlie's first offensive hires were teachable moments or mortal sins pretty much defines where you sit on the Keep Charlie/Can Charlie spectrum.

Despite being the most known brand name in Texas and college football, what is keeping the Longhorns from being good again? It's not lack of talent, so what is it?

Oh, the past two seasons have most certainly reflected a lack of talent - or at least the lack of balance and experience on the two deep during Charlie Strong's first two seasons. I touched on Texas' grossly inflated late-era Mack recruiting rankings above, but the idea that Strong is losing with top-tier talent based on the recruiting service rankings of the 2011 (#4) and 2012 (#2) classes is a complete and total chimera. The Longhorns saw a smooth zero players drafted in 2014, and they'd be in line to repeat that feat this year if not for the fact that junior DT Hassan Ridgeway is making an early jump to the pros.

In theory those 2011-2012 classes should have had Texas stocked with high-performing upperclassmen, but by the time Texas lined up against BYU in the second game of the 2014 season a whopping 33% of those classes had evaporated due to graduation, transfer, dismissal or season/career-ending injury. The 2014 team had fifteen 4* players from the 2011 and 2012 classes on the defensive two-deep, and while not all of those guys earned - or even approached - 4* status, the Texas D was one of the best in the country by most advanced metrics. The 2014 team had five 4* or 5* upperclassmen in the offensive two-deep including a post-Achilles injury running back, a frequently-suspended scatback and an offensive lineman whom the coach nicknamed "NCAA" because he frequently managed No Contact At All. Unsurprisingly, the 2014 offense was out-and-out disastrous against just about any Din the top third of college ball.

2015 saw a little higher overall talent level on offense, but their efforts there were undone by deficiencies at QB and along the OL (when two true freshmen are your two best lineman, it's not a good thing) as well as what proved to be a disastrous decision to re-up with OC Shawn Watson. The defense put up some ugly counting against a truly brutal slate of high-end offenses, but they were all but running a Children's Crusade in the back seven thanks to a severely imbalanced roster. I've got 100% confidence that Charlie and DC Vance Bedford didn't suddenly forget how to coach defense last season, so I'm confident that we take major steps forward on that side of the ball next season despite a still-young squad and a bit of sketch on the DL. If Sterlin Gilbert is good enough to justify Art Briles' angst when we hired him - and I think that he is - things should start to sort themselves out on offense as well.

What is it going to take in order for Texas to be competitive again in the Big 12?

Right now, staying the course. This was a to-the-studs tear-down and was never going to happen quickly, though you certainly wanted to see quicker progress and fewer outright embarrassments (BYU, TCU and Arkansas in 2014 along with Notre Dame, TCU and the dire Iowa State game in 2015) along the road. Ditching entitlement and fighting through a deficient and imbalanced roster meant plenty of ugly moments.

Ditching entitlement and fighting through a deficient and imbalanced roster meant plenty of ugly moments

The class that Charlie is about to sign is going to absolutely shock casual observers, and I'm very high on what new OC Sterlin Gilbert and his partner in crime Matt Mattox can get done once the OL gels and one of Texas' five (!) QBs proves that he can deliver some league-averaging performance at the position. It's no guarantee that all those tumblers fall into place in 2016, but it finally feels like Texas is on the right path on both sides of the ball.

Do you think that the state of Texas needs the Lone Star Showdown again?

I'm not totally up on all the latest matchup nicknames (trigger warning: I still call Texas-OU the Red River Shootout and I'm not changing my tune,) but I assume we're talking about Texas playing Texas A&M here. If that's the case, I'm largely ambivalent. From a Texas fan and program perspective, there's the the "I kind of miss the excitement of playing them" camp and the "they can twist in the wind for a hundred of years after the dung they shoveled on their way out of the conference" camp and I'm in the latter. I greet the prospect of renewing the rivalry with more of a shrug than the snarl I gave it in 2012, though. From an A&M fan and program perspective I definitely get the desire to play Texas again, but is there a real need? Obviously beating Texas would bring some positive momentum to a program that's lacking it at the moment, but if they're looking for some more appealing non-conference wins they could start by taking the Southern Kentucky School for the Mute and Jim's School of Small Engine Repair off the schedule. Does any program in the state benefit from Texas and A&M getting back at it? I doubt it.

How many wins is it going to take in order for Charlie Strong to keep his job by the end of 2016?

While nuance has fallen on sad days in the back half of the 2010's, I'm still a big fan. While wins are the name of the game and the undeniable bottom line, Texas isn't winning a national title next season. Once you accept that, it makes sense to ask yourself things like:

- What kind of progress is taking place on both sides of the ball?

- Are we developing and maximizing talent?

- Are our shortcomings due to youth and a not-yet-perfectly-balanced roster, or systemic issues that we don't think this staff can solve going forward?

- Are we managing all elements of the program - including overhauling out approach to practice - in a way that will allow us to field Top 20 units on both sides of the ball going forward?

- Are we gaining and maintaining traction with next year's recruits?

Win totals flow from good processes, and they're also influenced by injuries and bounces of the ball that you simply can't predict or control in any given season. If you're making a decision on Charlie's future, a real understanding of factors like those should drive your ultimate decision irrespective of the team's final record.

OK, ready for the non cop-out answer? Charlie's unlikely to see 2017 with six wins or fewer, and the future feels fraught with danger at seven. All nuance aside, I think his bogey is eight wins if he wants solid odds of coaching out his full contract and earning an extension to take Texas into the 2020's.

In your opinion, do you think that Strong will be there in 2017?

Ultimately, I think he gets it done.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M has benefited immensely by moving to the SEC. However, the Aggies have to go up against teams like Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, and the rest of the SEC West every year. Naturally, this makes double digit win seasons much harder to come by. Despite this, A&M has been able to hold its own against these opponents in terms of recruiting. This then begs the question, why is it that the Aggies couldn't get the job done in the big games this season?

Lack of offensive identity and leadership was the culprit this season as opposed to bad defense in previous years. No one knows what is going on behind that shiny maroon curtain, but there's a sense that improvement is needed quickly.

Do you think that the new and younger fan base is reasonable with their high expectations of the team?

Oh sure. We should just keep firing coaches until we get one who has two 11-win seasons in a row, then make that the new benchmark. Fire him if he doesn't get three and keep burning through millions until we get the right guy. Money automatically fixes things, and the Internet supplies no shortage of moonlighting athletic directors.

Another year, another QB transfer (or two). What is causing all of these players to leave the program that they were once thrilled to be a part of?

I think they thought they could step in and inherit Manziel's success, but Johnny's Redshirt season was so important and overlooked. It helped him mature as an offensive leader and made him starter material.

Despite the QB transfers, A&M has been fantastic on the recruiting trail these past couple of years. Other than now being in the SEC, in your opinion, what are some of the factors that are responsible for this huge upswing in recruiting?

It's difficult to distinguish between the entry into the SEC and the beginning of the Sumlin era because we look back on them as concurrent and coinciding events. But the energy Sumlin brought with him would still have resulted in a recruiting upswing had we not joined the SEC, just not to the same degree.

As a fan of Texas A&M growing up, and even now they are the SEC team that I tend to root for, I have become all too familiar with the Aggie saying, "There's always next year". Meaning that no matter how promising the team looks at the beginning of the season, they would always find a way to let me down. Whether it be the defense during Johnny Manziel's final year and again in 2014, or the offense this year. However, Sumlin made his best move yet by hiring John Chavis as defensive coordinator. The man who helped orchestrate many great defenses while at LSU. I trust that the defense will develop with time and with the new OC coming from UCLA, people won't be able to point the finger at Spavital sabotaging the offense anymore. So what are your expectations for next season?

I think with the QB situation in flux 8-4 sounds pretty good. Of course we are excited to have our new QB ready to take the reins. I wanna say his name was Travis something? Got him from Oklahoma, and I think it's safe to say that he will be an early dark horse for - wait, I'm just receiving word that he has transferred.

How long will it take A&M to win a conference championship in the SEC?

Six of the last nine national champions came from the SEC West, and four of those were Alabama. Surviving the season against these teams only gets you a chance to compete for the conference title. It's difficult to put a timeline on that happening, but suffice it to say it will be an uphill battle every season.

Do you think that the state of Texas needs the Lone Star Showdown again? For that matter, would you like to see the Aggies play another team from Texas again? If so which one(s)?

YES. Texas, most, but Baylor, Tech, and TCU also to a degree.

Texas Tech

Other than an awesome offensive mind, what is it that Kliff Kingsbury brings to the table as a head coach?

Kliff's work ethic is ridiculous. Not a lot of people know about it because of the whole "Coach Bro" thing, but behind those Ray-Bans are tired eyes that have been up since 4 AM and won't close again until midnight. The dude is quite possibly a machine, definitely an insomniac, and an undeniable worker.

Other than Texas, who would you say is Tech's biggest rival these days?

Everyone. We hate everyone.

There was a stretch of a couple of years during the leach era where Tech was able to go toe to toe and win against the big programs like OU and Texas. While Tech is still competitive in most of their games these days, and still VERY capable of upsetting almost any top team, what is it going to take for Tech to be able to compete for a conference title in the future?

A functional defense, which might not be too far off the radar with David Gibbs at the helm.

Texas Tech doesn't have the pedigree that Texas has, nor has the benefit of being in the SEC that A&M has, so what would you say Texas Tech has to offer recruits that those two programs don't?

A whole lot of fun and a town that worships the ground that they walk on. Texas Tech is a place that's going to put up some points. There's the whole defense thing, year, but what QB wouldn't want to play for Kingsbury? Also, Lubbock in specific and West Texas in general bleeds Texas Tech football. I grew up in Abilene and I knew around 20 kids who's parents met at Tech and never missed a game, despite the 2 1/2 hour drive to get literally anywhere from Abilene.

I would make the case that Lubbock offers one of the best, if not the best, night atmospheres in the conference. What would you say is the biggest contributing factor to that?

Witchcraft. It's a little known fact that we appeal to the gods of the Tortilla in order for Tech to play well in Lubbock. In seriousness, it's a combination of 3 things. Distance, Weather, and Fans. Lubbock is so far away from everything. It really takes you out of your element. Driving into it feels like a scene out of the new Mad Max movie. It's a faraway land that has a little mystique about it. It's the middle of the Sahara, the Elephant Graveyard, the wrong side of the tracks. The distance creates a sense of otherness for visitors, like they simply don't belong. The Weather in Lubbock is just different too. Here the heat has sucked any and all moisture out of the air. It's like being on a mountain, there's just not enough air to breathe right. It's technically not as hot as Houston without any humidity, but try stepping on that 115 degree turn in full pads at 2:30 in the afternoon. It ain't fun. The Fans produce some of this too. The main thing about Tech fans is that all of them have a chip on their shoulder. In a way, we're all tired of being told that we're idiots or have STDs simply because we graduated from or go to Texas Tech. It's partially why I love that we've earned our reputation of being, well douchebags. The outside world doesn't tell us how terrible we are, how we went to high school 2.0. how every girl here is easy, and how they stomp us every year and expect us to treat them like royalty in our house. It's the pinnacle of arrogance to look down upon someone and expect to be welcomed into their home with open arms. This is a bit of a rant, but I don't really care. Viva la Proletariat, down with the rest of the Big XII.

What is the biggest problem facing this program right now?

Some might say defense, but I say a quick trigger on coaches. In the early stages of this year, we had people calling for Kliff Kinsbury's head from our own fanbase. We've had 7 defensive coordinators in 8 years. David Gibbs is the second to stay. If he makes it past a year and 3 months, he'll be our second longest-tenured DC in a freaking decade. We can't just fire someone and expect to get results. It's like slapping a bandaid on a broken leg and expecting it to rest itself.

Where do you see this program in 5 years?

Hopefully with a defense, and hopefully with Kliff Kingsbury and David Gibbs still there. Beyond that, I don't know anything. This is the Big XII. The Pac 12 has their whole Pac 12 After Dark shenanigans, but we have what I like to call "Big XII At Any Given Time".

Houston

What was the Biggest thing that led to Houston's huge turnaround from last year to this year?

Hiring Tom Herman away from Ohio State is the obvious answer here. Coach Herman hired an excellent coaching staff and quickly added a level of professionalism, work ethic, and excitement to the UH program that hadn't been seen since the Bill Yeoman era.

Herman and staff took a team that had chronically under-performed and got them to believe in themselves and play at a higher level than almost anyone outside of Cullen Boulevard thought was possible.

What is it going to take in order for Houston to join a power 5 conference?

It'll take the passive Big 12 to change their temperament and decide to finally get aggressive about losing the Houston market to the SEC.

Either that or the Pac 12, Big Ten, or ACC decides they like Houston's potential and adds the Coogs to build a Houston pipeline of talent to their conference. Also, one of these conferences might decide that the Houston market, while fragmented in fan support, is large enough to grow their respective conference network.

Realistically, if Houston doesn't join a power 5 conference in the near future, how long do you think Herman will be there?

Herman took the Houston job even after being warned that Houston is a "pro football city". Herman stayed after his excellent rookie campaign even though everyone said he'd be one and done. It's entirely possible he decides to stay 5-10 years or longer to build up his own program from scratch and a legacy here. He's only 40 years old and the 'blue blood" programs will still be there a decade from now.

How is U of H setting its program up to be successful in the long run?

The university has been working hard at improving facilities: We opened a new football stadium and basketball development center. Coming soon are a renovated basketball arena, a new indoor football-only practice facility, a new football-only weight room, and a new baseball development center.

Tom Herman may be getting the press, but he isn't doing everything in isolation. UH has tremendous, forward-thinking administrators like President & Chancellor Renu Khator, AD Hunter Yurachek, and Chairman of the Board of Regents Tilman Fertitta who've been instrumental about improving Cougar academics in addition to Athletics.

Does Houston have an instate rival?

SMU and Rice are probably our biggest rivals as far as teams we currently play. But UH is much more focused on increasing out standing across the whole state against former SWC foes Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, and TCU. We love making fun of fans of these schools, particularly when we do better than them in spite of our perceived lower status.

This is another reason Houston needs to be in the Big 12: Rivalries are what make college football great. If you think the Longhorns are going to waste effort talking trash to the UConn Huskies like they would us Houston Cougars, you're nuts. If I was governor of Texas, the Aggies never would've been able to leave the SEC. I would've called in the Texas Rangers to hold'em hostage until they gave up plans of leaving.

Houston is currently killing it in recruiting, what would you say this program has to offer that any of the other programs in Texas don't?

The Houston Cougars are a team with a lot of swagger in the heart of one of the greatest cities in America. No high schooler wants to go to Lubbock, Waco, or College Station willingly. In Houston we don't have to pretend we have diversity on a brochure to appeal to people. Just walk around the UH campus or the city and you'll see how electric and diverse this place is. You can move to this city and attend this school from any place in the world and you'll look like a local.

Where do you see this program in 5 years?

"Top of the world ma, top of the world!"

Baylor

What has been the biggest contributing factor to Baylor's extremely quick turnaround from Big 12 stepping stone to Big 12 title contender in such a short time?

Art Briles. Hero to Bears, villain to Frogs (and everyone else). He's the reason that Baylor is where it is today. He sold Baylor fans everywhere on a dream and then went about accomplishing that dream. His system, his innovation, his ability to identify, recruit, and develop talent put Baylor back on the college football map.

How close is Baylor to competing for a national championship?

But for a quarterback injury, Baylor would have been in the thick of things in 2015.

Why should recruits choose Baylor over the bigger schools or schools in tougher conferences?

Recruiting pitch time eh? Do you want to win? Come to Baylor. No other school in the state has won as many games in the past five years as Baylor has. Baylor is a family, and it's that "smaller school" atmosphere that helps create that feeling. The coaches support you and push you to be the absolute very best you - both on the field and off. Briles and his staff are innovators - where else will you find a coaching staff capable of installing an entirely new offense at halftime of a game, running it with success, then building on that offense and shattering bowl records with it? Where else can you be a part of a program that broke the bowl record for passing in one year, then rushing the very next?

Say Art Briles leaves Baylor, considering the level of success that it has had in the past five years, how appealing is that job from a college football point of view? How would compare it to the rest of the Big 12?

Can I have five more years to answer this question, please? I think that it's a program on the rise, but just how high it's risen at this point, I'm not quite sure. The university and boosters have shown clear commitment to athletic success, though, building gorgeous new facilities for the program (and not just the stadium) and continuing to pay its coaches competitively. I'd like to think that it's at worst a Top-25 job at this point...Possibly #3 in the Big XII.

Coming back and playing at the same level before a broken neck is difficult to say the least, but Seth Russell should be ready to go by next season. While Coleman has left for the draft, the offense is still filled with play makers and the defense, while still in need of some shoring up, should be able to keep Baylor as one of the toughest teams in Texas next year. What are your expectations for next year? Will you be disappointed with anything short of a national championship?

It's still early, so I haven't fully wrapped my brain around my expectations for next season. I can say with certainty, however, that my own personal expectations aren't "Natty or bust." With Andrew Billings leaving for the draft, we basically lost all of our starters on the defensive front. That's a huge amount to replace that's absolutely key. I'm confident in Briles' ability to repace his losses both at skill positions and along the offensive line, but there are too many question marks at this stage of the game for me to have my heart set on CFB's biggest prize. Ask me again in mid-October.

Other than TCU, who is Baylor's biggest rival at the moment?

I'd say Texas, though there's probably a case to be made for Oklahoma.

TCU

How has TCU sustained such a high level of success, despite hopping from conference to conference for 16 years?

Gary Patterson has been the driving force behind TCU's success for this past decade-and-a-half+ run. His commitment to the program, and his commitment to running it as cleanly as possible, has proven to the boosters and to parents of the players/recruits that he genuinely wants to create men of character. Plus, there's plenty of talent that gets underevaluated in the state of Texas, and Patterson was able to capitalize on the chip-on-my-shoulder mentality those kids tend to have. Why was he able to do that? Because he has one too.

What was the biggest thing that led to TCU finally getting into the Big 12?

A combination of sustained success (eight 10-win seasons in the decade leading up to the move), and Texas A&M deciding they'd like to continue their mediocrity in a conference that will use their membership as a recruiting tool in Texas.

What does this program have to offer that the other larger schools don't have?

Gary Patterson, Doug Meacham, Sonny Cumbie, Fort Worth, the beautiful student body, the list goes on, and on, and on.

What is it going to take for this program to take itself to the next level and win a national championship?

Maximizing the time left with Meacham and Cumbie, as well as finding a way to motivate/maximize the talent of the 4-stars like TCU has been able to do with 2- and 3-star players.

With all of the young talent getting reps this previous season along with what should be an interesting QB battle in the summer, can you give us a sneak peek on what your expectations are for next season?

I fully expect TCU to compete for a Big 12 championship and a spot in the CFP in 2016. By all accounts, Kenny Hill has his head on straight and has been an excellent addition to the Frogs. With a host of young, experienced talent on the defensive side of a ball, and a new stock of JUCO/transfer wide receivers for Hill to bond with, along with the young guys like Turpin, Austin, Stewart, and Porter, both sides of the ball look ready to rock.

Who has the best coaching staff in the state of Texas right now? How would you say they compare to the best coaching staff in the country?

I'd say it's TCU hands down. No other school has the same balance of elite coaching talent on both sides of the ball. Yes, Art Briles is a phenomenal offensive coach, but they're not great defensively. The opposite can be said for Texas. Tech is similar to Baylor, and Texas A&M is basically Chavis sitting on top of a burning dumpster.

I'd have to say that TCU's coaching staff is definitely one of the Top 10 in the country, if not Top 5. I see Ohio State and Alabama as the top two staffs in the country, with TCU in the same mix as OU, Clemson, Stanford, Michigan State, Michigan, LSU, and Florida State.

While both Baylor and TCU are smaller than UT and A&M and their programs do not have as large of stadiums like the latter two, these smaller private schools have ended their seasons as the higher ranked teams in the state for the majority of the decade. The past two years, both TCU and Baylor have finished with top 15 rankings and UT and A&M have finished unranked. Do you think that this trend can last, or no?

Yes, but it requires TCU and Baylor to continue to beat Texas consistently on the field, and stay even with the Horns and Aggies on the recruiting trail. The Frogs and Bears will always fight an uphill battle from a perception standpoint (especially when it comes to things like fan base/stadium size arguments), but on-field results don't like.