Blame TCU for BCS Championship Rematch


The usual gnashing of teeth and published ire against the Bowl Championship Series that is becoming as much a December tradition as Hanukkah or Christmas took on added intensity this year. There has been plenty of consternation since the December 4 announcement Alabama and LSU would duke it out a second time for the mythical national championship. SEC-enamored media members, Iowa State/Oklahoma State, the BCS itself were all on the receiving end of anti-rematch vitriol, but the most deserving recipient has avoided the slings and arrows.

TCU could have prevented this. Gary Patterson’s picture of non-automatic qualifier excellence has been mentioned for its Nov. 12 defeat of Boise State. Indeed, when Patterson called for a game-winning two-point conversion down a point on the Smurf Turf, it had monumental implications. A 65-game regular win streak at Bronco Stadium came to an end when Dan Goodale’s 39-yard field goal attempt sailed well right. Moreover, the Broncos’ hope of making history as the first non-AQ to play for the BCS Championship evaporated.

And let there be no doubt, a 12-0 BSU would have played for the title. In seasons past, teams like Utah (2008), Hawaii (2007) and Boise (2006) were bypassed for the championship game in favor of BCS conference programs with a loss. The 2011 Broncos were a different breed though, having opened the season with a win in SEC Country, against an SEC team that would go on to win 10 games. Boise has also become something of a name brand with its two Fiesta Bowl championships. Passing on these Broncos would have been an unforgivable sin for the BCS, and the driving forces behind it would have realized.

Why, even with a loss BSU finished No. 7 in the polls. Such respect was previously unheard of for teams outside the Power Six. The Broncos’ final ranking is a testament to how far this program rose. No other non-AQs can stake claim to such national prominence as what BSU has established — no other non-AQ, save TCU.

With its four straight double digit-win seasons, landmark victories over traditional powers like Oklahoma and 2011 Rose Bowl Game showing, TCU built clout equal to BSU’s. This November’s record-shattering win on the Smurf Turf only solidified the Frogs’ place as the preeminent non-BCS conference team — for a few more weeks anyway, before the Frogs exit for the Big 12 Conference.

With such prominence, the BSU win and Oklahoma State’s overtime loss at Iowa State six days later would have all but sealed TCU’s historic championship game appearance were it not for two days early in the campaign.

Every Heisman Trophy winner has a starting point. Robert Griffin III’s was September 2, a tone-setting performance on Friday Night Tessitore. RG3 erupted for 359 yards passing and five touchdowns en route to leading the Bears to 50 points. It was the first in a long line of Heisman-worthy showings from Griffin, and yet that Friday evening TCU’s first-time starter, Casey Pachall, went toe-to-toe with the future bronze statue recipient. Pachall scored four touchdowns on the night to set the tone of his whole season.

Pachall’s stellar play flew under the radar. He completed 67.4 percent of his attempts and had a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and under his guidance TCU scored 41.7 points per game. However, Pachall seemed to garner little national attention, perhaps due to that opening weekend loss.

The Frogs’ title hopes were dashed in the first game of the season, but if one play in a wild fourth quarter goes differently, TCU is one a much different path.

Now, I know what you are thinking dear reader. “Didn’t TCU lose twice?” And that is correct. The Frogs did indeed finish 10-2, ironically suffering both losses in the Lone Star State.

On Oct. 1 against crosstown rival SMU, TCU suffered the most perplexing loss of the program’s last four years. The Mustangs took advantage of nine Frog penalties for 115 yards resulting in five SMU first downs, 461 yards of total offense, and a wide early advantage to win 40-33 in overtime.

As it had against BU, TCU fell behind June Jones’s Mustangs early and needed furious fourth quarter rallies to take the game to the wire. Nine points and a couple of bad first halves: that’s all that separated the 2011 TCU Horned Frogs from playing for the BCS Championship.

Add TCU’s one-point win at Boise, and 10 points were the cumulative difference between history and status quo. Granted, 10 points are more than LSU or Alabama are capable of scoring on one another, but it’s a slim margin nonetheless.