Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 6:11 PM
OK, somebody has pulled a fast one here.
Maybe you’ve been like most people waiting for LSU’s season opener against TCU. Ready to settle in and let it be just another Big 12-SEC debate over bragging rights or real bare-knuckle football vs. the silly popgun stuff.
Do you man up for the SEC and put on your big-boy pants or just run around playing flag football while wearing ballerina slippers like the Big 12?
What’s it going to be?
The two conferences plan to start seeing a lot of each other, particularly in the bowl season. These games are important.
There’s plenty of conference bulletin-board material, what with several of the Big 12’s big-name coaches checking in over the offseason with pot shots to question the SEC’s self-proclaimed (and widely accepted) world domination.
But this one just doesn’t add up.
We’ve all been sold a bill of goods here.
First of all, you have to get comfortable with the notion that TCU is a dues-paying member of the Big 12.
Started last year, as I recall.
TCU had gotten itself semi-famous for being one of those upstart outfits relegated to the Big Thunder Mountain Whatever Conference, one of those that always had to go undefeated to get itself in a decent bowl game.
The Horned Frogs and Boise State were always threatening to throw a monkey wrench in the BCS’ best-laid plans.
Anyway, last summer, when the dust finally settled on all that bizarre NCAA musical chairs, TCU was in the Big 12, where it should have been all along, one of the few table-hops that seemed to make some geographic sense.
So TCU and the Big 12 sounds right on target. Good enough there.
But if the Frogs are going to be in the Big 12, they really need to start acting like it.
As is, this seems like a poor example for the SEC and Big 12 to be declaring bragging rights.
Think Big 12, and what image do you conjure up?
Certainly not defense.
The conference scoffs at defense. It’s point in the message-board wars always seems to be that, yeah, the SEC plays some pretty fair defense, but they do it in-house against outdated Model-T offenses while the Big 12 is running circles around everybody with its high-tech gizmos and RGIII’s.
TCU evidently hasn’t figured that out.
TCU entered the Big 12 and, with its traditional style of play, was almost as big of a shock to that conference’s system as Texas A&M was to the SEC with its no-huddle, up-tempo, Johnny-Football track meets.
These neutral-site games to open the season are supposed to be big in the bragging rights theater. They’re the kind that often end with chants of “S-E-C … S-E-C.”
But how is this game ever going to decide something tangible between widely differing philosophies of the SEC and Big 12?
Shoot, the Frogs’ style is right out of the SEC manual.
They believe in defense first.
And the Big 12 let them in anyway.
Head coach Gary Patterson built his reputation on it.
On offense they believe in the old-school values of ball control, balance, establishing the running game, protecting the ball, even, as your old friend Curley Hallman used to say, Field Po-Si-Tion.
All we have to go on at this point, of course, is last year’s numbers, but TCU evidently didn’t get suckered into the Big 12’s game.
The Frogs were middle of the pack or lower in most of the offensive hijinks.
But on defense — yes, it shocked me, too, but the Big 12 does in fact keep and record defensive statistics — TCU led the conference in total defense and most of the other relevant categories.
Even dealing with all those crazy offenses, the Frogs gave up only a few more yards per game (324-309) than the Tigers.
The offensive numbers, too, look a lot like staid, old unimaginative LSU.
The Frogs didn’t throw for much more than the Tigers’ awkward passing game of last season (236.5 per game to 206.6) and ran for only a little less than LSU’s bread-and-butter running game (173-152).
TCU looks like an SEC chest-thumping wannabe instead of proud new member of the Big 12.
In fact, where TCU sometimes struggled in last year’s shakedown cruise was against those nutty-professor offenses. Oklahoma State 36, TCU 14. Iowa State 37, TCU 23. Texas Tech 56, TCU 53 (if LSU ever scored 53 points and lost, it’d shut down the school, maybe denounce statehood).
The problem is, if you sign on to play a Big 12 school, you want to see all three rings of the circus. For all the shock value of this matchup, LSU might as well be playing Florida.
LSU and TCU first played each other in Sugar Bowl II, 1936, and the Horned Frogs clinched a national championship — by beating the Tigers 3-2. Three to two!
That’s the way the SEC might win another national championship some day.
Surely the plan was to get one of the Big 12 tissue defenses to hit a few fungoes against while trying out the supposed new-look, hopefully better LSU offense under coordinator Cam Cameron.
The big unknown is a retooled LSU defense. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a wild-and-woolly Big 12 offense put it through its paces with all the bells and whistles attached?
Probably not going to happen.
Win or lose it figures to look just like another SEC game for the Tigers.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org