In a season that began with an unranked TCU team that was predicted to finish seventh in the Big 12, it seems no one could’ve expected this.
The Horned Frogs are ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, which would give TCU the last spot in the inaugural four-team postseason playoff.
After an underwhelming 4-8 campaign in 2013, some were even claiming that the Big 12 made a mistake by inviting TCU to join the conference.
Oh, how wrong they were.
TCU sits atop the Big 12 standings with an 8-1 record, tied with former cellar-dwellers Baylor in a conference that has traditionally been dominated by powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas.
Few predicted this season’s success, except for Heisman-contender Trevone Boykin. The junior quarterback hadn’t even been declared the starter when he tweeted this premonition.
— Trevone BoyKING (@OGcURIOUSDEUCE) August 17, 2014
This was the best Fall Camp I have ever had, #TCUFootball
— Aaron Green (@AaronGreen22) August 17, 2014
Although it’s one thing to predict the success of a season, it’s quite another to back it up with an 8-1 record with statement wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State.
TCU football has undergone a huge transformation since head coach Gary Patterson and the Frogs lifted the Rose Bowl Game trophy on New Year’s Day in 2011.
But this year’s squad is starting to mirror the Rose Bowl team in a few key statistical categories.
The last TCU quarterback to amass more than 30 total touchdowns on a season was Andy Dalton in his senior year, Rose Bowl-winning season.
Boykin has 30 so far this season, with 23 passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns.
The 2010-2011 Horned Frogs used a three-pronged rushing attack of Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Waymon James to wear down opponents.
This year’s TCU team is using the mobility of Boykin in addition to junior running backs B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green on the ground.
The Rose Bowl rushing attack averaged 5.75 yards per carry. This year’s trio is averaging 5.83 yards per carry.
TCU averaged 43 points per game in 2010, and the Frogs are putting up around 47 each game this season.
The Horned Frogs led the conference in turnover margin and opponent third-down percentage in 2010. This year’s squad leads the Big 12 in both categories.
However, the real similarities between the two teams may extend beyond the gridiron.
Texas Christian University benefited greatly from the national media coverage of TCU in its Rose Bowl victory, and the number of TCU applicants skyrocketed to 19,334 – the most in school history.
In 2012, TCU welcomed a freshman class of more than 50 percent out-of-state students for the first time – with the Class of 2016 showing national appeal of the institution and contributing to its regional diversity.
The Rose Bowl increased the prestige of the TCU athletic programs, leading to a Big 12 invitation.
Joining the Big 12 meant TCU automatically increased athletics revenue by at least 600%, according to Associate Athletics Director Jack Hesselbrock.
The conference realignment also helped student-athletes stay closer to Fort Worth for away games, increased fan and alumni involvement, helped all sports in recruiting efforts and gave TCU lucrative TV revenue.
All of this because of one Rose Bowl win. Now imagine what a national title could do for the school.
If the football program wins its next three games, it will likely play in either the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans or the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the first round of the College Football Playoff.
Just writing that sentence is incredible, considering the Frogs didn’t even travel to a bowl game last year.
If TCU wins one of those two games, the National Championship will be held just 23 minutes away at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Patterson and the Frogs swear they aren’t focusing on the big picture, using mantras such as “just one game at a time” and “we’re focusing on Kansas.”
But with just three games remaining against three opponents with records under .500, it might be time to start thinking about the implications this 2014 football season could have for the city, the team, the players, and TCU’s legacy.
Maybe TCU can take another trip to the Rose Bowl. Wouldn’t that be fitting.