Boasting rights are the lifeblood of football, and perhaps no state champions that fact more than Texas. You may have heard that the state has a particular fondness for the sport, to the point that no one seems to differentiate whether it’s the high school or college classification — or simply the Dallas Cowboys — that count as the de facto -Religion of the state functions. So when the TCU Horned Frogs and the Texas Longhorns squared off on Saturday, it wasn’t just another game — it was a battle for the unofficial crowning of football kings in the game’s most eager habitat.
“In the state of Texas, you want to be #1,” Drew Hogan, a TCU fan, told ESPN earlier this season. “It doesn’t matter what game it is, who it is, you want to win at dinner if you’re bragging about it.”
And after last weekend, those rights went to the Psychedelic Frogs of Fort Worth, whose 17-10 win over the Longhorns secured TCU a ticket to the Big 12 championship game and kept their college football playoff hopes alive. Most importantly, the win means TCU has climbed onto Texas’ pile of 12 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.1 Prolonging a recent renaissance for a program that had lasted more than 50 years without being the state’s best team into the 2010s.
To decide which team was the King of Texas (KoT) in each of the 121 seasons since 1902, we turned to eSRS, a scoring system similar to the simple scoring system and the team’s points per game for home field advantage and quality adjusts his opponents based on their Elo ratings.
To the surprise of a few, the University of Texas is the undisputed winner overall, earning a whopping 51 KoT honors, including every season from 1999 through 2006. With four of the state’s six national championships, the Longhorns have set the standard in the state for more than a century . However, UT has gone through relatively tough times in recent years. Over the course of 120 seasons, Texas has failed to produce a successful campaign just 17 times, but five of those instances have occurred since 2010.
In 2015, Texas was ranked only the sixth-best team in the state by eSRS, and only improved to fifth-best in 2016, the team’s longest losing streak in 65 years. They’ll likely take second place this year (due in part to a high strength schedule rating), but that probably says more about the rest of the state — TCU excluding — than anything else.
The Longhorns’ archrival Texas A&M has been honored by KoT in 32 seasons, including seven times in the 1990s. After the Aggies, TCU ranks third all-time with 13 KoT honors (including 2022), nearly a quarter of which have been achieved since the team moved to the Big 12 in 2012. After a half-century drought, the Horned Frogs are on track to top the state for the third time since making the playoffs in 2014. SMU (7), Baylor (6), Houston (6), Rice (4) and Texas Tech (2) round out the rest of the KoT leaderboard.
|team||Before 1980||80s||90s||2000s||10s||20s||In total|
|University of Texas||37||2||3||9||.||.||51|
College football history cannot be written without the state of Texas producing eight Heisman Trophy winners from six different schools – including Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker, who have awards named after them. But the state is in the midst of a quiet period for its marquee attractions. For example, Baylor has won at least one share in the Big 12 championship three times since 2013 — as many times as UT and Texas A&M have won combined since 1998.2 In 2016, the state had three wins against top 25 opponents over Labor Day weekend and won the first week of college football (according to Texas Monthly). This season ended without a single Texan team in the AP postseason top 25 for the first time in 49 years.
All things considered, the state of Texas hasn’t seen a national championship since 2005, a stretch in which six other states have claimed titles (including Alabama, which has won a whopping seven).
As the 2022 season began, three Texas-based teams were in the top 25 of the Preseason AP.3 But six weeks later, everyone had fallen away — most notably the Texas A&M Aggies, a popular offseason playoff contender who recently earned the Distinction to be the first program to run a #1 recruit class into a losing season. While only three teams from the Lone Star State currently have losing records, only one of them is ranked.4
That lonely team from the Lone Star State? None other than the #4 TCU Horned Frogs. They’re the kings of Texas this season — and with the state’s near-pathological interest in the sport, they won’t be short of support the rest of the way.
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