The Hist-O-Graph project looks at where we've come from and where we're going. Confused? Try Hist-O-Graph article #1: Introduction. Barring that, know that it's charts and a discussion, and your comments are welcome and encouraged.
Today we'll be examining The Three Kings of the Pac-12/Big XII: Texas, Oklahoma, and USC. So dubbed partly because they are the only teams in our former or new conference to have won a National Championship (or more) in the duration of study. And no, Oregon, I'm not counting that R-FACT co-championship, so you can just wait your turn. More often than not (6 of 11) one or both of these teams were playing for the national championship.
Aside from that, they've each had an undefeated season in the last 11 years, and each won their respective conferences twice or more (seven times). They also rule the springtime, their recruiting classes are regularly the envy of most anyone, anywhere. Their shoes are shinier and their cars are newer. This is truly a tale of the "Haves."
The Texas Hist-O-Graph: Ten Wins and No Excuses
For anyone without a Ralphie logo on their shirt, hat, or bicep; that is a reference to our wayward former head coach. It is not a happy one.
Seriously though, when you truly realize the quality of the recruiting classes for Texas (or any of the Kings for that matter) they literally have no excuse for not winning ten games year-in and year-out. And with the exception of last year's plummet/crash/burn/implosion, they've done precisely that.
They had that obscenely good recruiting class in '02, (6 5-star recruits, Really?!), and paired that with Vince Young in '03 and rode those players all the way to the Rose Bowl in their junior and senior years and the NC in '05. And how was this class won? In spite of losing the Big XII game and losing to Oklahoma two years running. Sure they nearly grasped the National Championship game... but so did we.
Really it underscores what most Texas types said about Mack Brown in any year not ending in 05: that he can recruit but can't convert it into championships. It's like when Larry Coker was fired from Miami for not winning every championship, every year, every where. Except it's not; because he hasn't been fired.
Which brings me to another amazing hallmark of the Three Kings; the stability of their head coaches. No head coaching change in ten (or so) years goes a long way to solidifying that recruiting base.
I'd show you what I mean, but I can't actually bring myself to put any shade of Red on the front page, so jump with me...
The Oklahoma Hist-O-Graph: Never Not Good
Screw these guys. No, seriously: this is just ridiculous. They've played in a bowl game in every stinking year of the last decade, and as often as not it was for a National Championship. To add insult to injury the only reason they have this kind of program at all is because they A) are close to Texas, B) had the wishbone in the 70's, and C) are sitting on a gigantic pile of money, from which to direct their covered-wagon-based empire.
Twice in the chart, ('04 and '08) they've taken a bowl loss and turned it into two of their best recruiting classes. The other best recruiting class? This one, this year. It's like they're able to recruit in spite of themselves. One thing we'll see later in the series is how desperately joined a team's record is with their recruiting cycles. But not here in Norman, Oklahoma. (Actually, now I feel a little bad for them)... (It's passed now).
The Big XII may have been conceived as the original super-conference, but our old conference sunk into the "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" routine. Way moreso than the Pac-10, which is who I'd always heard the insult directed at. It's a binary conference now, nobody but OU and UT have won the conference since 2003. Either you're Texas or Oklahoma, or you're not; and woe be upon those who make the wrong decision. I think they will continue to dominate the playing field and recruiting of the Big XII until there isn't one anymore.
That conference is firmly in the grip of its two kings. And now we're gone; out from under their thumb. But where have we gone to?
The USC Hist-O-Graph: The King Dethroned
I know what you're thinking... "This isn't going to be better than when we were in the Big XII. In fact, it's worse. Way worse."
Did they win the conference seven times in a row? Yes. Did they win the National Championship twice in a freaking row? Also yes. Vacated or not, USC played in and won a game that at the time was called the national championship. The effect that has on recruiting is palpable, it's like a force of nature, and it allowed them to basically recruit at will for six years afterwards.
It started quckly, too; Carroll wasn't even there when we visited the Coliseum in 2000, but by the time we'd won and lost our Conference championship games, USC had back-to-back National Championships and was being touted as the very best college football team anywhere, of any year, and every era.* They were so good that if they played against themselves, they'd win twice.
*I'm fuzzy on how that worked out for them.
But here's the key; look over to the right of the chart. It's over. I'm not saying they won't be good; but the unmitigated dominance that started so quickly has stopped... for now.
If there was ever a time to be in a Pac-12 South shoulder to shoulder with USC, it wasn't in the late 90's, it's now. We've left the tyranny of the plains, where the kings gleefully put Joel Klatt's head on a pike* and go and eat everyone else's food.
*it's a metaphor, people.
So where have we gone to? We've gone to the promise-land; and not just because everyone and your mom have made promises about how well we'll recruit and represent here. I think it's the only extant conference that we'll have a genuine opportunity to be truly successful in. It's the best place to be, and not just because the alternative was so bleak and awful. Which it is.
What do y'all think about that? I say Go Buffs.
The series will continue with looking at where we're coming from and where we're going. Next, some less-dominant teams.