AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Since 1895, the Texas Longhorns have played 75 games on Thanksgiving. Of those, 64 were against Texas A&M in a game that turned into a holiday tradition.
In case anyone forgot, tradition got blown to bits last year when the Aggies left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference and the Longhorns said ``so long'' to their oldest rivals. No. 18 Texas (8-2, 5-2) wanted to keep playing on Thanksgiving and the Big 12 this year served up TCU (6-4, 3-4), an old rival that has become a new one again.
Texas and TCU used to face each other every year in the now-defunct Southwest Conference, and having the Horned Frogs back on the schedule rekindles memories of the salty old days of name calling and sarcasm between programs.
``They are like a bunch of cockroaches,'' former Texas coach Darrell Royal said in 1961 after unranked TCU spoiled the Longhorns' national title hopes with a 6-0 victory. ``It isn't what he eats or totes off, but what he falls into and messes up.''
There's no national title game on the line Thursday night, but the Horned Frogs could still mess things up for a Texas team that still has a shot at a Big 12 title and BCS bowl if it can win its last two games.
While there are several tie-breaker scenarios that would still have to fall Texas' way, it's a surprising position for the Longhorns, who were written off at midseason after consecutive losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma. Texas has won four in a row and its much-maligned defense appears to be getting better every week
``We've worked hard to get back here and build something we could be proud of,'' Texas guard Mason Walters said.
Coach Mack Brown said he talked to his team about all the different scenarios and bowl projections.
``Let's just try to beat TCU,'' Brown told them. ``And the more you win, the better it gets.''
TCU's season has just been flat-out hard. The Horned Frogs started 4-0 before starting quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, got suspended and then left school for treatment at an inpatient rehabilitation facility. After playing in BCS games after the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Horned Frogs had to overcome that adversity as well as the tougher scheduled in the Big 12.
``With everything's that happened to us, for this team to have fought back ...to be bowl eligible is truly an accomplishment,'' coach Gary Patterson said.
Patterson acknowledged being excited about his team getting the marquee matchup on Thanksgiving night against Texas in their first year in the Big 12.
``For us to get a chance to do that, I think is a big deal,'' Patterson said. ``We as a program, as a university, are really excited about the fact you're getting an opportunity to play back in that kind of venue, to be part of the tradition of Thanksgiving day. We hope to be a great substitute at this point in time.''
That's all the Horned Frogs are for now. The 2013 Big 12 schedule released Tuesday has Texas Tech in Austin against the Longhorns on Thanksgiving next year.
Brown beat Texas A&M 10 times in 14 years. He called Texas-Texas A&M the ``ultimate instate rivalry,'' but said Texas has to move on under the new conference landscape. Texas' regular season schedule is booked until 2018, and athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said there are no plans to schedule the Aggies in the future.
``We're really excited about TCU,'' Brown said. ``I know our players are excited about it because it once again showcases high school football in the state of Texas with two great programs. And at the same time our players know a lot of their players. So it really will not be that much different from the A&M game for us.''
Several of Texas' older players said they will miss the playing the Aggies but accepted the change.
``It was fun while it lasted,'' said senior tailback Jeremy Hills ``We won the first, the last and the most (against Texas A&M), so that's done. That chapter is done.''
Senior defensive end Alex Okafor shrugged off the Aggies.
``Honestly, I feel sorry for A&M,'' Okafor said. ``We still have a big-time (Thanksgiving) game, and they're missing out.''