Old rivals: Big one for Baylor at No. 4 TCU

The debate will forever rage: Where would TCU be today if it had been invited to the Big 12 and Baylor had been snubbed?

Older TCU faithful still get prickly about the snub even though TCU, 16 years later and through three different conferences, is in far better shape than Baylor.

"I don't think it's gone away for the alumni," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "I think all that stuff still holds in play, which is the fun part, which is why I think you see a standing-room only crowd this Saturday here for the Baylor game."

Art Briles follows Chuck Reedy, Dave Roberts, Kevin Steele and Guy Morriss in trying to lift the Bears from Big 12 doormat and finally into a bowl game. A win Saturday at No. 4 TCU, where Patterson has reigned for 10 years and has the Frogs square in the national dialogue, would go a long way toward legitimizing Briles' long-term plan to make Baylor competitive at the highest level.

"It’s an emotional game," Patterson said. "It has to do with recruiting. It has to do with bragging rights. It has to do with all those kinds of things."

Clearly, the snub from the Big 12 was a wake-up call at TCU. A commitment to football followed and now first-class facilities are in use and a state-of-the-art stadium renovation project will get underway after the season. On the field, TCU is 14-3 in its last 17 games against teams from conferences with automatic BCS bids, including a 5-2 mark against the Big 12 since 2005. That includes two wins against the Bears, 17-7 in 2006, and 27-0 in 2007.

Perhaps Baylor was slower to commit to the program once the Big 12 was formed. Past hires can certainly be questioned. Baylor has seemingly had to start from ground zero time and time again.

"He’s trying to win at the highest level," Patterson said of Briles. "I think that's what they're trying to do at Baylor. I would say that we're very similar. We may have different styles at how we're getting to it, but I think we're very similar."

Baylor, too, now has first-class facilities. It has a coach in Briles that -- like Patterson has done at TCU -- Baylor fans hope will embrace the program, the school and the city, stay a while and in the process return the program to the proud days of Grant Teaff. Baylor hasn't had a winning season since going 7-4 in 1995 in the Southwest Conference under Reedy. It hasn't played in a bowl game since the 1994 Alamo Bowl, a 10-3 loss to Washington State. The last bowl win? Teaff's 1992 team beat Arizona, 20-15, at the John Hancock Bowl, otherwise known as the Sun Bowl.

For TCU, Saturday is just the next game on the schedule that it must win to stay unbeaten and remain in contention for a BCS bid. For Baylor -- and who would have figured this 16 years ago? -- it could be a springboard toward legitimacy.