TCU is the newly crowned co-champion in the Big 12.
But the Horned Frogs are not playoff material yet.
The College Football Playoff selection committee left TCU out of the four-team bracket that, for the first time, will decide the national champion through elimination and not a poll.
The bracket announced Sunday morning — with students, fans, coaches and players watching in sports bars, coffee shops, dorm rooms, campus apartments, school offices, exercise rooms — showed Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State.
No TCU. The Horned Frogs, who held the No. 3 spot a week ago, were No. 6, even after a 55-3 victory against Iowa State to close the season the day before.
“I’m sad for my kids,” coach Gary Patterson said. “Because I know how hard they worked.”
Instead, TCU (11-1) is headed to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, where they will take on No. 9 Ole Miss in a New Year’s Eve morning game.
The Horned Frogs were tantalizingly close. After a 4-8 season a year ago, they put themselves in position to reach the top of the sport. But Ohio State’s landslide win against favored Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game swamped both TCU’s and Baylor’s hopes.
Baylor, co-champion in the Big 12 with TCU, wound up No. 5 and will play Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington on New Year’s Day.
“Now we need to go prove that you’re part of royalty in college football,” Patterson said. “There’s old royalty, and Oregon’s become new royalty. That’s what TCU needs to become. We need to always be there, one of those teams that are in the top 15 on a year-to-year basis, so when we have a really good team, we can be in the top 10 and then you get the benefit of the doubt.”
Patterson congratulated the teams that got in and saw the big picture for his Horned Frogs.
“It’s been a great journey for us,” he told ESPN. “We were 4-8. We would have liked to be in. We played our tails off, played with an edge all season. If we wanted to control our own destiny, we needed to be undefeated.”
TCU entered the final weekend ranked third, but the selection committee made it clear all season that it would select the four best teams and that simply winning was not enough for a team to keep its spot in the rankings.
“I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t surprised we dropped from 3 to 6,” Patterson said. “But outside of that, you’ve got to go forward. I would do my team a disservice if I said anything else. They played their tails off all year long. And we are a young football team. We just need to keep growing up and keep moving forward.”
Against Ole Miss, the Horned Frogs will face a team that also was ranked as high as third during the regular season before a loss and an injury to star receiver Laquon Treadwell (on the same night TCU was making a last-second field goal to win at West Virginia) sent the Rebels sinking.
“It’s a really, really talented football team,” Patterson said. “They’re in the same boat we are. They’re trying to prove one last time that they belong, to be one of those teams. They’re looking at, ‘I’m playing the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs.’ Both of us know we’ve been as high ranked as third. I would be surprised if we’re not both going into this ballgame thinking, ‘We want to prove that we were who we were.’
Patterson said the players were excited about playing a team from the SEC, which had produced seven national champions in a row before Florida State defeated Auburn last season.
“I think it kind of lets us know what we’ve got to do next year résumé-wise,” Patterson said. “I think it gives you an understanding what you’ve got to do next year, kind of a jump-start going into the next season. You want to be a team that everybody recognizes for what you can do. Most of this team comes back. Having an opportunity to win a game like this helps your résumé going forward into next season.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
TCU vs. Ole Miss
11:30 a.m. Dec. 31
Georgia Dome, Atlanta