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Your Old Rival is Dead, Long Live Your New Rival: A Q&A

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Not all Red Raiders are bad, guys. I sat down with the always excellent Hunter Cooke of Viva The Matadors to talk College World Series, Back Alley Brawls... and, of course... #Watergate. Be prepared for some #HotTakes.

Melissa Triebwasser

I have always loved the Texas Tech rivalry; while it has been as ugly as any over the long history between the two schools, it seems to be the only school that matches up with us evenly across all three major sports. We all know how the football games have gone recently (HI AARON!), their basketball program - while unquestionably better than TCU currently - hasn't been *that* far ahead of us (this *regular* season notwithstanding), and baseball... well... baseball has been quite possibly the most contentious and hard fought as any sporty contest over the course of the last three years. And while none of these sports has been without their share of controversy (remember Rally Fox?), the #Watergate *scandal* has added all kinds of intrigue to Sunday's matchup. And if the thought of dirt and water throwing hasn't gotten you quite amped up enough - AND HOW COULD IT NOT - TCU and Texas Tech are meeting in the College World Series. Again.

Hunter Cooke was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and while he is a blatant and unapologetic HOMER, it's not without good reason. The Red Raiders are good, and Sunday's matchup should be epic. I grilled him like a tough steak, and thankfully, had some good material to use as a fire starter.

The TCU/Tech rivalry has really taken off in the last few years; and now it seems that the controversial calls and gut-punch endings have translated from the gridiron to the baseball diamond. After the series in Fort Worth, and the "controversy" surrounding it, is there a better baseball rivalry in the Big 12 right now than these two teams?

Absolutely not, and The Controversy Formerly Known As Watergate definitely helped that grow. When two teams that go at it consistently reach the point to where we're arguing about who has more "class" (which, sidebar, is a completely arbitrary adjective), you know you've reached rivalry status. I still feel like it's a healthy rivalry with a lot of respect between programs, but with the amount of times we've faced each other with nearly everything on the line, there's potential for something to break ugly very quickly.

But no, there is a not a better Big XII baseball rivalry than TCU-TTU currently. The stakes are there, the mutual respect is there, the consistency is there, and now the #controversy is here too.

Tech fell off in the Big 12 tournament after winning the regular season crown comfortably, not unlike what TCU did a season ago. But they recovered well to win both their regional and super regional series, and took the supers clinching game in impressive fashion. What are your expectations for Omaha? Is there a result you feel like the Red Raiders need to achieve for it to feel like a successful season, or is being there enough?

While it might not be justified, I do believe there's a level of expectation there now. We got 2/3 out of TCU on the road, and I definitely think we expect to win a tough game against y'all. Florida will be a tough out, so I don't believe anyone outside of our baseball program expects a title, but we do expect to not go 0-2.

Tech has a veteran-laden lineup, but relies heavily on youngsters on the bump. Guys like Gutierrez, Neslony, Davis, and Raley seem to have a feel for the moment, and never shy away from the spotlight. The freshmen pitchers have certainly been up to the task as well this season, but is there any fear that Omaha may be a bit too much, or are you confident that their confidence will continue?

We started 3 freshman pitchers in our Super Regional. While they haven't been to the CWS, playing in the Big XII means playing for bigger stakes than everyone else does. Ultimately, I think we have the veteran leadership to not be rattled. Game 2 of the Super Regional showed that everyone on our team has the chance to step up big facing elimination (we played 2 freshman pitchers that game.

Most of the veteran guys are, well maybe not household names, but certainly familiar to anyone that follows College Baseball. But is there a player that generally flies a bit under the radar that you think could have a big afternoon Sunday, or on a larger scale, be a difference maker in Omaha?

I'd expect Tyler Floyd to "wow" some people not familiar with our team. He's been exceptional defensively all during the postseason, and our bats seem to have woken up considerably as of late.

Gute broke out of an 0-16 slump to plate a game winning - and season saving - run in the Supers. Is he back on track? And if not, can the Red Raiders win without him carrying at least some of the offensive load?

*HOMER ALERT* Yes to both.

Gute played excellent offensively in the last Super Regional game, and the CWS is the biggest stage of all. Even if he doesn't, the fact that we still won a Super Regional despite his offensive output is a big tell for us. Gute makes our team go. Without him, we're different, but still dangerous.

Who gets the ball Sunday against TCU, and who do you want to have it? After taking two out of three in Fort Worth, what do you think the key is for beating the Frogs and making it to the winner's bracket right off the bat?

Davis Martin.

Okay, here's the plan. It's super secret so don't tell anyone.

We're going to break into the Pentagon, and steal their time traveling technology. We're going to harness the electricity of Jones AT&T stadium to power it up. We will travel back in time and make sure Luken Baker's parents never meet through any means necessary.

You're in a dark alley, no weapons, when a band of merry thugs approach you - probably wearing Miami uniforms, amiright? Who is one guy from Tech's team you want next to you? What if you had to pick from TCU's lineup... who are you going to battle with?

If I'm in a dark alley with a Texas Tech baseball player, I'm taking Stephen Smith because that dude cracks heads. If it's a TCU player, I'm taking Luken Baker because he also cracks heads, and he is one of three guys I know off your team. Sorry, don't really keep up with y'all's baseball team that much.

I'm pretty sure that the Showgirls aren't traveling to Omaha with TCU, but, just to give you the floor - do you have any thoughts on #Watergate, or are you, and the Texas Tech players/fans, totally over it? Is it any extra motivation, or do players even need any extra motivation by the time they get to this point in the post season?

The Controversy Formerly Known As Watergate was the most ridiculous and stupid thing to have ever been a controversy, even if Texas Tech had done it maliciously. It's the sort of thing the Big XII should have never had to investigate. It goes back into the arbitrary "classy" definition.

As a Texas Tech fan, speaking for myself, I'm used to being called classless. It really doesn't bother me anymore, because no one can police what I can and can't say or do but me. I'm generally a good sport about most things, and try not to take myself or sports too seriously, but I'm not going to tell another grown human being how to act or feel. Besides, "classy" is nice on message boards and on Twitter but doesn't translate holistically. Eric Striker likes to celebrate after he makes a big play. He also led the Oklahoma players in solidarity in the racially based incident they had on their campus. Is he classy or not? And who are we, the outsiders, to judge?

Let me put it another way. Fair warning, this is a hot freaking take. The Big XII investigated and debated The Controversy Formerly Known As Watergate, but didn't investigate Jarrett Stidham's strange recruitment. It's a nonissue when you consider the other glaring problem in the Big XII currently, which will remain nameless.

If anything, it motivates me to write and petition the Big XII to take care of stuff that actually matters.

Final question, and I am going to make it a multi-parter:

A. Who wins the matchup Sunday between TCU and Texas Tech? How do you see the game playing out?

I'm thinking we beat TCU in a game where we both throw haymakers at each other from the beginning. So much so that while I think we win, I think we burn through a significant portion of our best pitchers and it comes back to hurt us later on.

B. Dependent on the above answer, how do you see your Red Raiders doing after their matchup with the Frogs? What is your prediction for their time at the College World Series?

I'm calling Texas Tech to the semifinals. I think we get TCU, but playing Florida right now is like walking into Macaulay Culkin's house without a cup. I hope we win it all, but it's tough for me to overlook the Gators.

Thanks again to Hunter and the good folks at Viva The Matador. No seriously, they are really good dudes over there - I mean, just check out their ability to laugh at themselves if you aren't convinced. Be sure to check them out, and see my Q&A response over at Viva The Matadors when it posts sometime in the next day or so.

One last bit of information... TCU lost four conference series this season: Texas, Texas Tech, OSU, and Baylor. The Frogs were able to exact their revenge against three of those teams in the Big 12 Tournament on their way to the championship. The only team they haven't seen since dropping a three game set? Tech. One last stop on the revenge tour awaits Jim Schlossnagle and the Frogs in Omaha.

Go Frogs. Beat Tech.