When Jerry Jones and his various cleaners of small items (glasses, coasters, watches, meat hooks) inform two college football teams they’re allowed to play in Cowboys Stadium, it’s usually a no-brainer response. So it came as no surprise to see the TCU Horned Frogs and LSU Tigers forego a home-and-home in 2013-2014 for a season opener next September in Arlington.
For LSU, it provides the same entry point as 2011 when the Tigers debuted with a victory over Oregon at Jerry World and ended the year in New Orleans. There’s the visibility in Dallas-Fort Worth, a necessity in recruiting and a shrewd move by Les Miles considering the deep 2014 class in Texas. It also means a probable win. The Horned Frogs are likely to build a more talented depth chart as Big 12 members but I don’t think it equals LSU’s by 2013.
For Gary Patterson’s program, the national appeal and competitive factor make sense. He wants to test his team against the SEC’s best and it’s a Labor Day weekend sell to area prospects. But the Horned Frogs aren’t recruiting in the Mountain West anymore. You allow LSU into Dallas-Fort Worth at your own peril. Giving them an opportunity to showcase in your backyard might sound nice in theory (“we only play the best here, son”) but high school athletes like winners, not competitors. If the Alabama-Michigan score replicates itself in this matchup, how does Patterson convince a kid with an LSU offer to shun them?
Had this game occurred in 2014, I’d have no beef with TCU’s decision-making. With a playoff structure in place and the lack of a conference championship in the Big 12, the onus is on those teams to schedule difficult non-conference opponents. It keeps them viable in the national conscience and overrides the recruiting issue. But doing so in 2013 only serves to endanger Horned Frogs recruiting in their immediate vicinity. It wouldn’t be prudent for Texas A&M to ask Alabama to play them in Houston. The native team doesn’t benefit if Florida accepts a game with Ohio State in Jacksonville. Home-and-home’s held over a two-year period don’t have near the recruiting cache of these standalone, high-profile neutral site tilts. So losing or failing to perform is more dangerous.
Then again, the underlying motivation here might be green. According to the Dallas Star-Telegram, the Crimson Tide and Wolverines split $9.4 million for their clash. LSU and Oregon pocketed $3.5 million and $2 million, respectively for their duel in 2011.
Jerry Jones is more than willing to offer a few dollars and the use of his personal cleaning services to college football programs interested in Cowboys Stadium. In this instance, I think the TCU Horned Frogs should have stuck to the original home-and-home.