Lone Star Sadness: Horns, Aggies form Axis of Underachievers

At the top of USA Today’s most recent revenue rankings for college athletic departments are Texas and Texas A&M.

Both had revenues of more than $200 million for the 2018-19 school year. Ohio State was the only other school to crack the $200 million mark.

The Longhorns and Aggies seemingly have it all: revenue, resources and location. No state produces more major college football players than Texas.

Texas and Texas A&M have everything needed to put out a national championship-level football program. Right?

Apparently not. The erstwhile rivals remain stuck in a cycle of disappointment. The Aggies and Longhorns refuse to play each other but combine to form an Axis of Underachievers in the Lone Star State.

The latest failures came Saturday. No. 9 Texas and No. 13 Texas A&M were two of eight ranked teams to lose, including six to unranked teams.

The wildness started with Texas getting upset at home by TCU — though at this point calling Frogs over ‘Horns an upset is to ignore recent history. Since coach Gary Patterson and TCU joined the Big 12 — with the blessing of Texas — the Frogs are 7-2 against the Longhorns.

That includes 3-1 since Texas hired Tom Herman to make the Longhorns great again. Herman has done better than his predecessor, Charlie Strong, but no better than the raggedy end of Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas. The Longhorns are still routinely losing to Big 12 competitors who operate on half the revenue and stock their rosters with far fewer recruiting stars.

Texas has had three straight top-10 recruiting classes under Herman, according to 247 Sports. TCU’s best showing in the last three years nationally is No. 24.

Neither the Horned Frogs nor Longhorns distinguished themselves Saturday. The teams combined for 26 penalties in a game that was at times unwatchable. Fittingly, it came down to which team made the final critical mistake and Texas would not be denied — fumbling away a chance to take a late lead about a foot from the goal line.

“That’s on me to get them ready and find a way to make sure that we don’t beat ourselves,” Herman said.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Texas has six losses as a ranked team against unranked opponents since 2017, Herman’s first season. That’s the most in FBS.

Texas A&M fans are experiencing a different kind of pain.

The Aggies once again were nothing more than a speed bump to No. 2 Alabama.

“I think we competed with those guys, no matter what the score was,” Texas A&M linebacker Buddy Johnson said.

But shouldn’t the score be better by now? A&M lured Jimbo Fisher to College Station from Florida State with a 10-year contract and a guaranteed $75 million to challenge the Crimson Tide.

The school’s president gave Fisher a national championship plaque with the date left blank when he arrived at A&M to make clear the expectations.

In three games against Alabama under Fisher, the Aggies are 0-3 by a combined 144-75.

Beating Alabama is hard. Just ask LSU. It doesn’t happen very often and when it does it’s a momentous event.

But the last time Texas A&M did it was 2012 and it turned quarterback Johnny Manziel into a national celebrity. It remains the highlight of Texas A&M’s otherwise uninspiring tenure in the Southeastern Conference.

The Aggies escaped the Big 12 to be rid of Texas and moved to the toughest neighborhood in college football — the SEC West — to take up residence in the middle of the pack.

With that contract, Fisher should have plenty more opportunities to beat his old boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban. Fisher is 0-4 overall against Saban, who improved to 20-0 versus his former assistants.

Maybe this 10-game all-SEC season turns into a breakthrough of sorts for Fisher’s Aggies. It won’t get any tougher than Saturday in Tuscaloosa, futilely chasing Alabama star Jaylen Waddle.

Maybe Herman’s Longhorns rebound to win a Big 12 that looks very winnable. No. 17 Oklahoma State is currently the conference’s only unbeaten team. Texas faces No. 18 Oklahoma next week, with the Sooners riding their first regular-season losing streak since 1999.

For now, though, Texas and Texas A&M continue to prove the adage that money can’t buy happiness.

THE FULL LEACH

Beat LSU in Death Valley one week with a record-setting performance. Lose to Arkansas, a team that had dropped 20 straight SEC games, the next week at home.

Mississippi State got the full Mike Leach experience in two games with its new coach.

Turnovers and failure to convert in the red zone doomed the Bulldogs on Saturday. Arkansas, unlike LSU, played mostly zone coverage against the Air Raid, “limiting” K.J. Costello to 313 yards passing after he went for almost double that against the Tigers.

Kudos to Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who has a history with Leach and the Air Raid. Odom was defensive coordinator at Missouri when the Tigers were in the Big 12 and went 3-0 against Leach.

HOT TAKE

Matt Campbell is as good as any coach in the country not named Saban or Swinney.

Iowa State is 7-7 in its last 14 games against ranked teams, a small miracle given the Cyclones’ history. Campbell now has two of Iowa State’s seven victories in 85 meetings against Oklahoma, and the Cyclones’ first win at home against the Sooners in 60 years.

Point to the opening loss to Louisiana and scoff if you want, but Campbell is doing things at Iowa State that simply aren’t supposed to happen.

AROUND THE COUNTRY: No. 4 Georgia reminded everyone it has one of the four most talented rosters in the country and that will be enough to treat most opponents the way the Bulldogs treated No. 7 Auburn. … The penalties finally caught up to No. 11 UCF. After getting flagged 27 times in the first two games, the Knights got hit with 18 more and lost to Tulsa for a second straight season. UCF’s 21-game home winning streak was also snapped. … The Trey Lance showcase game worked out OK for North Dakota State and the possible first-round NFL draft pick. The Bison stretched their winning streak to 38 games and Lance was solid enough to do no harm to his draft stock. … North Carolina State has been hard to figure out so far. The Wolfpack knocked off No. 24 Pitt for their first road victory against a ranked team since 2017. … Mississippi under Lane Kiffin has a chance to be the country’s most entertaining team, with a potent offense and no defense. … The result vs. SMU wasn’t what No. 25 Memphis wanted, but after being out of action for nearly a month because of a COVID-19 outbreak, the effort was pretty good. … South Carolina might be the school most likely to figure out a way to buy out its coach during a pandemic. The Gamecocks are 0-2 after losing to No. 3 Florida, and coach Will Muschamp is 26-27 in his fifth season.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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