Six Years ago, Gary Patterson and TCU were coming off of a 5-6 season and making a move into the Mountain West conference from the Conference-USA. Yesterday on New Year’s Day, the TCU Horned Frogs defeated the Wisconsin Badgers to win the Rose Bowl.
The Horned Frogs were nothing more than a forgotten about mid-major from a lower level non-AQ conference until they made the move into the Mountain West and started garnering National respect.
Last season, TCU finished the regular season 12-0 and were a Hunter Lawrence field goal in the Big XII Championship game away from a potential matchup with Alabama in the National Championship game.
Instead, TCU ended up being matched up with Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. They were playing in their first BCS bowl game and were inexperienced and overwhelmed with the environment in Glendale and fell 17-10 to the Broncos.
This season, all eyes were on the Horned Frogs with Boise State losing to Nevada late in the regular season. TCU wasn’t just playing for themselves; they were playing for the respect of all the non-AQ’s out there.
Boise State’s loss to Nevada had made people forget about their win over Oklahoma and Utah’s wins over Pittsburgh and Alabama. It seemed coming in that the respect of the non-BCS conferences was on the line with TCU playing Wisconsin.
The thought from around the nation was that the Horned Frogs didn’t really need to beat Wisconsin to gain a lot of national respect, but if they could compete and keep the game close, then it would go a long way.
TCU did more than that on Saturday afternoon in the Granddaddy of them all by beating Wisconsin 21-19 and finishing a perfect 13-0. This was no fluke. It was easy for people to write the other victories by the non-AQ’s in BCS bowls off as flukes.
I mean, Utah’s win over Pittsburgh was nothing, the Panthers were a weak team and most people think that the Big East doesn’t deserve an auto-bid anyway. Boise State’s win over Oklahoma was obviously a fluke and the Broncos had to pull out every trick in the book in order to beat the Sooners, plus Oklahoma is prone to choke in the big games.
Utah beat a half-stepping Alabama team in the 2009 Sugar Bowl that was coming off a devastating SEC Championship loss to Florida that cost the Crimson Tide a shot at the National Championship. If Alabama would have been on its game, then there is no way the Utes would have walked out of New Orleans with the win.
If you needed an accurate description of how non-AQ’s matched up in the BCS, then look no further than Georgia’s manhandling of Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. That game obviously proved that teams from the smaller conferences had no business playing with the big boys in the BCS.
But, what excuse can be made for TCU’s win over Wisconsin yesterday? Sure, the Big Ten as a whole looked pretty bad yesterday, but this was a Badgers team that was thought to be playing just as good as anybody since their loss to Michigan State on the first Saturday in October.
Since that game, Wisconsin had reeled off eight consecutive wins, including wins over a #1 Ohio State and a road win in Iowa City over the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin was bigger and had faced better competition than TCU all year long.
That didn’t matter on Saturday. Sometimes, heart, grit, and determination are far more important than sheer level of talent and size. As the saying goes, it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. TCU proved that once again against Wisconsin. They were undersized and overpowered, but they were better coached and they wanted it more than the Badgers.
Anybody that still has any doubt that TCU could play with any team in the nation just doesn’t get it. I believe that TCU should and will be a unanimous #2 regardless of the outcome of the National Title game and they might just be the best team in the nation. It’s too bad that we don’t have at least a plus-one in college football so that they would get a crack at Auburn or Oregon.
This will be the eighth time in the BCS era that an undefeated team was not given a shot at the National Championship. That means that in the BCS era, there have in the very least eight times we didn’t have a legit National Champion. I say that as unbiased as possible, because I’m an Alabama fan and even though they did win the BCS National Championship last season, there was an undefeated team remaining with them in Boise State.
Seven of the eight times, the teams have been from non-AQ conferences with the lone exception being Auburn in 2004. This TCU team may be better than Auburn and Oregon, but we will never know. I think it is fair to say that they are more balanced than both of the teams that will be playing in the BCS Title game on January 10th.
TCU has the 12th ranked total offense in the country led by QB Andy Dalton and the #1 ranked total defense in the country led by LB Tank Carder. The Tigers and Ducks both boast two of the top offenses in the country, but their defenses are nowhere near the level of TCU’s. To Oregon’s credit, they did rank 25th nationally in total defense.
You can say what you want about TCU’s schedule, but they beat six teams that played in bowl games during the regular season and that’s actually more than Oregon, who only beat four bowl teams.
Before their two-point win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, TCU only had two games where they won by less than double digits. They boasted the nation’s top defense and they proved that against a bigger and more physical Wisconsin team. Even though the Badgers did rack up some yards against TCU, they shut it down when they had to and only allowed Wisconsin to find the endzone twice.
TCU’s win in the Rose Bowl went a long way in gaining respect not only for TCU, but also for the non-AQ conferences as a whole. Gary Patterson deserves a lot of the praise for TCU’s performance in Pasadena and how they performed all season long. Patterson has submitted himself as one of the best coaches in college football.
Now, with the gained respect from this Rose Bowl win, TCU will play one more season in the Mountain West before departing into BCS conference by joining the Big East in 2012. I believe that TCU will dominate the Big East and in a few years you could see Gary Patterson leading TCU not only into a BCS bowl game, but possibly even the National Championship game.
It’s time to stop ignoring the non-AQ conferences just because the league they play in isn’t up to the caliber of the SEC or others. Time and time again the non-AQ’s have proven their mettle in the big games and it’s time everyone starts taking them seriously.
We see you TCU. We see you non-AQ’s.