If you are part of the Greatest Generation, a Baby Boomer, or even a Gen-Xer, you grew up with the football. Frogs stormed the gridiron in the Southwest Conference with many of the same teams you’ll see them kicking off against today. The situation, like the world, became more complex for the xennials and millennials. I started watching the Horned Frogs play in the Western Athletic Conference after the SWC disintegrated and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards helped Baylor and Tech leapfrog TCU into the newly established Big 12. The purple and white were members of Conference USA when I became a freshman Frog, battling perennial powers such as South Florida and Cincinnati. Coach Gary Patterson made national noise when his boys transitioned to the Mountain West Conference and played ESPN College Gameday Top 20 match-ups with Utah and achieved an undefeated season and Rose Bowl victory. The next leap was supposed to be to the Big East, which apparently used to be a conference, before the great Big 12 exodus that saw founding members split in every direction. Despite agreeing to join, TCU never played a game in the Big East and finally took what seemed their rightful spot among the Big 12.
What’s the Problem?
Baylor is the problem. Just kidding. Except I’m not. Baylor’s victory over TCU in the final game of the 2014 season, the first year of the college football playoff, allowed then fifth-ranked Ohio State to jump both teams and go on to win the title. The Big 12 was left out of the playoffs entirely. This episode has caused Patterson traumatic stress disorder. Since then, the perception is that any blemish on the Frogs’ record will banish them from inclusion in the race for the national championship. The real problem is TCU football is damaged from a combination of their mid-major conference days and this painful end to what seemed a fairytale season. This underdog disease is causing lukewarm non-conference scheduling and has to stop. Corrections can’t be made immediately. Early season opponents are scheduled as many as 10 years ahead of time, although arrangements can change. Case in point: TCU was supposed to play Ohio State home and home but instead opted to make more money by playing one neutral-site game at AT&T Stadium and forgo what would have been a trip to Columbus this season. Not many visitors win in Columbus, but bailing on the series when they had a chance to play twice is bush league. A win against Ohio State in Columbus could easily supercede a loss against Oklahoma in the eyes of the playoff selection committee. Instead the Frogs will travel to Purdue, a Big 10 middleweight, instead of taking on the conference big dog this season.
Who’s Coming to Town?
TCU’s non-conference schedule has and continues to be formulaic. Open with multi-directional state university, play a middle tier team from a major conference, and finish with long-time rival SMU. I’m not suggesting pummeling the Ponies should change. There is something to be said for maintaining storied rivalries. Purple proponents need to rethink how and who they’re playing from the other power conferences. The Frogs are slated to play home and homes with Purdue, Cal, Stanford, Colorado, Duke, and North Carolina through the next decade. It’s impossible to forecast with assurance how prominent those teams will be. A betting man would gladly accept even money that none of them will be contenders for a playoff spot. These are unacceptable opponents for a TCU team whose goal should be to crack the postseason turf ceiling. College football has become about resume building. Just ask Central Florida. A student with a 4.0 GPA in communications won’t outshine an economics and sociology double major with a 3.6 GPA in a job interview. Oklahoma fell against Texas last season and still made the playoffs for the third time.
How Do We Compare?
I opted to take a Bible course my freshman year, which was a long time ago, but am fairly certain there’s a verse that says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s non-conference opponent” or something fairly close to that. Well, I have sinned. Texas and Oklahoma are abashed with the riches of big name match-ups in the coming years. The Longhorns will play LSU this year and Arkansas next before home and homes with Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and Florida over the next decade. Oklahoma visits UCLA this year and hosts Tennessee next before a combination of Nebraska, Michigan, Georgia, and LSU. The rest of the conference doesn’t impress the way the Longhorns and Sooners do in their lofty scheduling but is an example of the Frogs relegating themselves to middleweight-underdog status. If we want to be the best, we’re going to have to beat the best. There is no way for TCU to backdoor their way to their goals.