Having experienced how the cronies that run the college football playoff operate their precious playoff bracket, TCU’s game in the 2014 Peach Bowl will have a direct effect on the Horned Frogs’ 2015 season. If TCU wants to make the 2015 playoff, it had better show up in Atlanta at the Peach Bowl.
Because college football is still largely a perception game, how the Horned Frogs play the Rebels on New Year’s Eve will have an impact how the world views them next August. Only in college football does one season have a direct effect on another, despite every coach of every team in the history of ever insisting every year is different.
No one could blame TCU for being so mad about narrowly missing an invite to the games that matter if they are completely checked out this bowl season. Under normal circumstances, an invite to the Peach Bowl is a good way to end a season. But given the way the season ended for TCU, an invite to the Peach Bowl borders on being slapped in the face with a frying pan.
“If you had told me at the start of the season we’d be 11-1 and Peach Bowl - I’d take it,” TCU director of athletics Chris Del Conte said.
In August, everyone associated with TCU would have taken it, too. Only the way the season ended a Peach Bowl invite is akin to the BCS Plus 2 committee patronizing TCU with a “Hey little guy, you got an invite to the Peach Bowl? That’s super! You have so much to be proud of. I’m going to the Rose Bowl!”
TCU now realizes the rankings are nothing more than a glorified eye-ball test, and its first exam for 2015 will be the last game in 2014. Whether it’s quarterback Trevone Boykin’s Heisman candidacy or the team’s push for a playoff spot, it all starts in Atlanta. Beating a top 10 Ole Miss will go a long way in the eyes of the people who are still skeptical TCU is a legit power, and its success is merely on the backs of a “weak Big 12”.
The way the depth charts look at the other Big 12 teams, TCU should be considered the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 next season. The Horned Frogs lose some major players - most notably safety Sam Carter, left tackle Tayo Fabuluje, defensive tackle Chucky Hunter, corner Kevin White and linebacker Paul Dawson - but everyone else of significance returns.
“Basically, you are bringing everybody back,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said this week. “It will be an interesting spring. Defensively, we’ll have our hands full.”
TCU has had expectations before and missed; it was a dark horse candidate to win the conference in 2013 but finished 4-8. The team that won the Rose Bowl was originally expected to be in contention for a BCS game did just that.
“If there is a team that is (ready to handle expectations), nobody has handled more adversity than this group of kids has handled,” Patterson said. “You don’t lose that many seniors, either. It’s going to be very hard for them not to (handle expectations). If somebody screws up at the bowl game, they’ll come home. Somebody screws up next year, they won’t be in school. None of that changes. Even changing offenses, we didn’t change the foundation of what TCU has been built on as far winning games, acting right, playing hard. It all goes in cycles - you have 26 seniors next year, they’ve been through it all. This group was redshirts at the Rose Bowl. They went from the highest highs, to the lowest lows.”
Not being selected for a playoff game is a low, but it’s relative. A Peach is not a Rose, but it is better than an Alamo.
There is a greater prize in mind outside of a t-shirt that says 2014 Peach Bowl champions. This game is no longer about 2014, but rather it is the start of the 2015 season.