The sting of missing the College Football Playoff is fading a little bit for TCU.
Days like Tuesday, when the school formally accepted an invitation to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, help.
“I’m not in that room, but I know this: If you had told me at the beginning of the year — 11-1, Peach Bowl? I’m sold,” athletic director Chris Del Conte said. “I’m eating Chick-fil-A all day long.”
It’s all about perspective. Not getting a chance to play for a national championship disappointed the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs. But compared to a 4-8 season from a year ago, winning a share of the Big 12 title and getting to a major bowl game is easy to accept.
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“I know I’d rather be doing this than what I was doing a year ago at this time,” coach Gary Patterson said.
The recruiting continues, but what Patterson also gets to do now is organize practices for the Dec. 31 game against Ole Miss. It’s not a national semifinal, but it does mean a chance to finish as a top-five team and perhaps start as a top-10 team next year if the Horned Frogs can win.
“We feel like this is a playoff game,” Patterson said. “Ole Miss is a team that was as high as third in the nation, that played at a very high level, that could have been in the playoffs, lost a couple heartbreakers — exactly what I would want as a coach. The kids are going to practice hard because they know the competition level.”
The Peach Bowl will provide a big-stage feel, as well. It is one of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games, among which the national semifinals will rotate. The Peach Bowl, played in the Georgia Dome until the new NFL stadium for the Atlanta Falcons is complete, hosts a semifinal in 2016.
“I told our kids this is going to be like playing in Cowboys Stadium,” Patterson said. “They know how loud that is.”
Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan promised the Horned Frogs they could expect a high-energy atmosphere and complimented Patterson for taking a high-road approach to the College Football Playoff.
“In this business, you teach as much as you coach,” he said. “And I think what Gary taught not only his players, but all of us in this business — to rise above — I’m sure those kids on that team at TCU are going to be able to use it later in life in how you handle adversity.”
Del Conte said there was not much time to be disappointed about being left out of the playoff.
“I think once we knew the way it came out, we said, ‘OK, here’s where we’re at, let’s move forward,’” he said. “You can let yourselfbe disappointed for two or three hours. You can’t let it linger. Because you’ve got 140 kids and you’ve got a university that everybody says, ‘You better walk out with your chest out and say we’re ready for the Peach Bowl.’”
In accepting the Peach Bowl bid, Del Conte looked over at Patterson and told the audience that the coach was true to his word that this would be a good season for TCU.
“What you’ve done for Texas Christian University, our football program and our city is phenomenal,” he said. “Can’t thank you enough for the ride we’ve been on week in and week out. When you think about last year and 4-8, losing four games by 11 points, watching him grind in that office — to the chagrin of his wife — to a point that he tells you, ‘You know what? Next year is going to be a special year,’ if we would have known it was going to be this special, 11-1, I would have taken it the first day.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407