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Why TCU’s national title run is important for the Big 12

By newadmin / Published on Friday, 06 Jan 2023 16:31 PM / No Comments / 4 views


Let’s remember this little tidbit ahead of Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game: TCU was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 before the start of the 2022 college football season.

It made sense at the time, as the Horned Frogs entered the year unranked after going 5-7 in 2021. Sonny Dykes was preparing for his first season as the head coach in Fort Worth. Max Duggan wasn’t named the starting quarterback for the season opener, much less expected to be a Heisman Trophy contender. 

Fast-forward several months, and the Horned Frogs have morphed into the first Big 12 team to compete for a national title in the College Football Playoff era, where they will face defending champion Georgia.

TCU vs. Georgia: David vs. Goliath?

This is certainly a major coup for the Big 12, as Oklahoma is the only other team from the conference that has made the College Football Playoff, going 0-4 in four semifinal appearances. Since the inception of the CFP back in 2014, only teams from the SEC, Big Ten and ACC have won a national championship.

While TCU is listed as a 12.5-point underdog heading into Monday’s championship game, Duggan and the Horned Frogs simply can’t be discounted. Michigan can give Georgia that advice from experience. The Frogs shocked the Wolverines in the Fiesta Bowl, 51-45.

“We’re good enough to compete,” Dykes said this week. “We have all the pieces here. We just have to put them all together, and we’ve got to do things the right way. We have to be willing to pay the price. And those guys believe that. They really have. They’ve believed it from day one.”

Regardless of the outcome on Monday, TCU’s magical run to this moment is important for the state of the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma, the conference’s longtime bellwethers, are expected to leave for the SEC in 2025, but reportedly could exit as soon as 2024. Therefore, it’s important for the future of the league that teams committed to staying put can compete for championships.

Texas was the last Big 12 team to play for a national title back in 2009, when QB Colt McCoy was injured on the first drive of the game, and Alabama went on to win its first national championship under Nick Saban.

It’s been a tough run for the Big 12 over the past decade-plus, as both the conference and this Horned Frogs program have had plenty of doubters. TCU is a tiny private school in Fort Worth with an enrollment of fewer than 11,000 students, the smallest in the Big 12. This group embodies that, and in return, it has truly galvanized them to become everybody’s favorite Cinderella team this season.

“We use it as motivation, because why not?” said Quentin Johnston, TCU’s star receiver, who could be the first at his position taken in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. “It’s one of the main things I feel like has driven us to the success we’ve come to this year.

“So honestly, there’s going to be a lot of outside noise, people projecting us to lose by however many points, but we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and prove them wrong from week to week.”

Will Max Duggan lead the TCU offense to victory against Georgia?

Playing Georgia on college football’s biggest stage is certainly TCU’s toughest challenge to date. That would be the case for any team, given the Bulldogs are on the cusp of surpassing Alabama as the sport’s new power and measuring stick. But after what Dykes’ team did to Michigan, it’s not impossible for the Frogs to pull off the upset.

The Wolverines came into the semifinal matchup with the Big Ten’s No. 1 run defense. The Frogs took that as a challenge, and in return, TCU went on to rush for 263 yards and three rushing touchdowns, even after star running back Kendre Miller went down with an injury in the first half. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have the best run defense in the country, holding opponents to just 3.0 yards per carry and six total rushing touchdowns. Kirby Smart’s defense limited Ohio State to just 119 yards on the ground and one touchdown in the Peach Bowl.

For TCU to beat Georgia, the Horned Frogs must establish the run game, which would in return open up its prolific passing attack. That game plan is easier said than done against the Bulldogs’ defensive front, which features Jalen Carter, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound nightmare in the middle who could be the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft.

Despite the loss, Ohio State did an excellent job neutralizing Carter, but that will be a tall order for the Frogs, who have yet to face a unit this indomitable.

But then again, the more TCU hears it can’t do something, the more likely it is to do just that. Remember, this is a team that won five games this season when trailing at the half.

“I think that if you had asked us before the season started, would we play for a national championship, most of us probably didn’t think that we would,” Dykes said. “I thought that we were capable, certainly, but we just hadn’t done it together. And there is a lot that goes into doing it together. We’ve kind of had to build the plane while we’re flying it in some ways this year.

“I think the Cinderella label probably started to wear off a little bit after the three-game gauntlet where we had to play three or four on the road: West Virginia, Texas and Baylor. I think at that point, our guys started to believe, ‘OK, we’re a real football team, and we’re a battle-hardened team, and we’ve had to overcome some adversity.’ And you know what? We have a chance to make a run.”

And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

TCU wasn’t supposed to be the first team from Texas to make it to the four-team playoff. This wasn’t supposed to be the first team from the Big 12 to make it to the title game.

But here they are, and they’re ready to put up a fight.

Can TCU threaten Georgia in the National Title game

Joel Klatt discusses the matchup between the TCU Horned Frogs vs. the Georgia Bulldogs.

Read more:

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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