The year was 2008, a rather strong year for college football.
Tim Tebow was winning hearts and haters in Florida, Alabama was back, and the Big 12 South was giving us week after week of great football. This was also the year Texas Tech arrived on the big stage, with Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, and a pirate for a coach, Mike Leach.
Leach had Tech rolling, as he had much of his tenure at Tech. Leach had developed an offensive system that allowed Tech to compete with the big boys, including Texas.
Texas vs Texas Tech had become the big game in the Lone star State, usually a night game, usually between two top 25 teams, and twice the game was against two top 10 teams. Texas Tech had done the impossible; they had taken Texas A&M's spot as the main in-state rival of the University of Texas.
2008 was the high point for Tech and for the rivalry. No. 1 Texas came to Lubbock to face the undefeated No. 5 Tech. The game became an instant classic, with an iconic moment in college football history, the Crabtree touchdown catch that won the game. Tech then climbed to No. 3, and the next week defeated No. 8 Oklahoma State before finally losing to Oklahoma. Tech didn't win the national title that season, but what they did do was become the rival of Texas, become a national team, and become big time.
Then it all came crashing down, as a year later Texas Tech made the big mistake of firing Mike Leach. Since then, Tech has been on a downhill spiral, and it couldn't have come at a worse time.
At the same time Tech was facing difficult times, so was the Big 12. While the Red Raiders were trying to get back to their glory with a new coach, Tommy Tubberville, the Big 12 was losing teams left and right. First, Nebraska bolted to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac 10. A year later, Missouri and in-state rival Texas A&M left for the SEC. The fallout with Texas A&M was interesting, with all the other Big 12 Texas schools saying they will not schedule the Aggies anymore.
With the Aggies gone, the state of Texas is looking for a new big game, preferably on Thanksgiving night. The past 10 years, Texas vs Texas Tech had been a big prime time game, with ABC usually broadcasting the game to the nation. So, with the Aggies gone, it would be only natural that the new big in-state rivalry game would officially be Texas vs Tech on Thanksgiving night.
Well, the Big 12 instead opted to go with TCU, the new kids on the Big 12 block. The reason was simple, TCU was the better team. TCU was given an invitation to the Big 12 because of their success. Texas Tech wasn't the only Texas school flirting with the big stage, looking to be an elite program in the state.
TCU's big moment was the Rose Bowl, when they defeated Wisconsin. They were picked over Tech for one simple reason -- TCU is still winning, while the Red Raiders haven't been the same since Leach left.
Texas Tech would love nothing more than to fill the Thanksgiving void, and the void left in all Texans hearts that want a big time rivalry in state. But TCU doesn't seem to be the only team in Tech's way.
Baylor had the greatest athletic school year in program history, coining the "year of the bear". The football team was a big part of that, culminating with a Heisman Trophy for QB Robert Griffin III.
The success of Baylor and TCU, and the open spot left by the Aggies must have Texas Tech coach Tommy Tubberville's seat pretty hot. If Tubberville doesn't at least show some serious improvement this season, the Red Raiders won't hesitate to fire him and look for a coach that can get Tech back to where they were the previous decade.
The Thanksgiving game is still within reach, since no word has been said about making any team the permanent rival for UT. 2012 is a big year for the Big 12, the state of Texas, and maybe most importantly, the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
John Dyer is a sports blogger for KSAT.com. He also owns a sports website, Texas Sports Junkie.