âI grew up in Texas, played high school football in southeast Texas,â said R.C. Slocum, a former Texas A&M coach. âThe dads all worked in the refineries and shipyards together. So there was huge competitiveness: Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange. It was the biggest thing going on when I was growing up. If you were an able-bodied young guy, you almost had to play.â
âI know itâs big in Ohio and places like that,â he added, âbut Iâd say thereâs no place itâs bigger than in Texas.â
So what is to blame for Texasâ stunning shutout? And can it recover in time not to undergo the same humiliation for a second consecutive year? Only one state team was included in The A.P.âs preseason top 25, which was released on Monday: the University of Texas, at No. 23.
To hear Texans tell it, last seasonâs troubles derived partly from misfortune â several simultaneous blips from programs that began the season with high hopes. T.C.U., for example, opened the season at No. 13, ahead of state rivals Houston (No. 15) and Baylor (No. 23).
âIt just happened to happen,â said Ty Summers, a T.C.U. linebacker from San Antonio. âItâs not like we all got on the same page and said, âHey, weâre going to do bad this year.ââ
T.C.U. â the most consistent of Texasâ major powers in recent years, having averaged more than nine wins a season in 16 years under Patterson â was 6-7. Texas A&M stumbled to its third consecutive 8-5 finish. Baylor, mired in a sexual-assault scandal and playing under a lame-duck acting coach, sputtered to 7-6. And the Texas Longhorns, not a decade removed from a…