TCU

TCU has chance to distinguish itself in SEC country

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin made big plays all season, but Ole Miss has the athletes to keep up with the Frogs’ top playmakers. (Special to the S-T Michael Prengler)
TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin made big plays all season, but Ole Miss has the athletes to keep up with the Frogs’ top playmakers. (Special to the S-T Michael Prengler) Michael Prengler

It is too late for TCU to make a playoff case. But deep in SEC country, on the last day of the year, the Horned Frogs have a chance to say something else.

That they are SEC-good.

The No. 6 Horned Frogs carry a higher ranking and a better record than the Southeastern Conference opponent, Ole Miss, they face Wednesday morning in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

But unless they win, or at least play competitively, the Horned Frogs won’t be able to take back to Fort Worth the cachet of stacking up against a team from the best conference in the country.

“Ole Miss is a good football team, no matter what conference they played in,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “For me, this is about playing Ole Miss. It’s not about playing the SEC.”

But the SEC is what all of college football measures itself against. The Frogs are putting their Big 12 co-championship and esteemed defensive reputation to the test against one of the SEC’s best teams.

They know what a win would say.

“If we win this game, we feel like we can be one of those top teams next year and compete for a national championship,” quarterback Trevone Boykin said. “That’s our ultimate goal, to try to win a national championship. We won a Big 12 championship, shared it with Baylor, that was one of our goals. To win this game, it would mean so much for this university and the guys in the locker room.”

TCU had a chance against the SEC a year ago. But the Horned Frogs lost by 10 points to LSU in Arlington — Big 12 territory.

That seems like an era ago, however. TCU is in the first year of an offensive revolution that made it the second-highest scoring team in the Big 12, fueling an 11-1 record that nearly resulted in a national semifinal berth. The Frogs paired explosive point production with their typical defensive strength.

“You watch them on film, and they’re an SEC-type defense,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dan Werner said.

Which could be useful in SEC country, in the Georgia Dome, which traditionally has hosted an SEC team against an ACC team in this game and is sure to have an SEC partisan feel.

“I’m loving that it’s like an away game,” center Joey Hunt said. “I’m loving the atmosphere. The SEC atmosphere is bigger than the Big 12. It is what it is. But I don’t think anybody is scared up here. We’re just ready to play in SEC country.”

To win, the Horned Frogs will have to solve the top defense in the SEC. Ole Miss allowed less than 14 points a game. Until they lost their top two receivers, and then a guard later, the Rebels were ranked as high as No. 3 and in line for the College Football Playoff themselves.

There is no question Ole Miss represents SEC quality.

“We had some hurtful losses, obviously, and some difficult injuries,” Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. “But our kids overcame that. Beat two No. 1 teams this year, and I think, four conference champions and four teams that had 10 wins.”

That is how the Horned Frogs see Ole Miss.

“These are the games we live for, playing against top-ranked opponents,” receiver David Porter said.

For Patterson, that probably sounds fine. He wants the players thinking about an opponent, not an SEC opponent. But for as much as Patterson’s teams have proven over the years, they need an SEC skin on the wall. They don’t have one since beating Vanderbilt in 2003.

“We’re going to represent the Big 12, but it’s not about the Big 12 — it’s about TCU,” Patterson said. “TCU is trying to get to a point where we can play for a national championship. They do play in a very good conference. They do play against unbelievable competition. So we understand if we can play at that level and somehow score one more point, then we feel like we’re on the right track.”

But it’s still TCU vs. Ole Miss, he said. Not Big 12 vs SEC.

“We want to win because we think they’re a very good football team,” Patterson said. “Not because they’re from the SEC.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

No. 6 TCU (11-1) vs. No. 9 Ole Miss (9-3)

11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Atlanta

TV: ESPN

Big 12 vs. SEC

Aug. 30

Alabama 33, West Virginia 23

Sept. 13

Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28

Sept. 13

Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10

Sept. 18

Auburn 20, Kansas State 14

Monday

Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 37

Monday

Arkansas 31, Texas 7

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

No. 6 TCU (11-1) vs. No. 9 Ole Miss (9-3)

11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Atlanta

TV: ESPN

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