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Big 12 Championship Game: TCU looks to make national statement on big stage in rematch with Kansas State

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FORT WORTH, Texas. A year ago, the TCU team sat at home as their season ended. The Horned Frogs missed the bowl game for only the third time since 2005, leading to a head coach change on the program for the first time in over two decades.

TCU hired Sonny Dykes on November 29, 2021. Fast-forward to the present: The Frogs are the first Big 12 team to play 12-0 since the conference went round-robin in 2012 and are set to play No. 12. 10. Kansas State, 12:00 pm ET ET on Saturday, hoping to win the first direct Big 12 championship in the program’s history and forge a ticket to the college football playoffs.

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“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since it’s been almost a year,” said defenseman Mark Perry, a Colorado transfer. “I never had any expectations that I would be sitting here 12-0 getting ready to fight for the Big 12 championship. That’s all I could dream of.”

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Saturday is more than an opportunity for the program to win the rare conference crown. It is also an opportunity to reintroduce the Big 12. Since Texas and Oklahoma completed plans to enter the SEC in 2025, four different teams have played for the conference championship: Oklahoma State and Baylor last year, Kansas State and TCU this year.

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However, TCU has the opportunity to join Oklahoma as the only Big 12 members to earn a trip to the college football playoffs and cement their place as a major program as the conference landscape prepares to change with the departure of the Longhorns and Sooners. .

“It was a lot of fun to be a part of this team because I think we did a great job on [handling the moment] “and I don’t quite understand why,” said Dykes. “Once we’re done, we sit down as employees and say, ‘Why did we do this so well? Was it something we did? Did they do something? then pour it into bottles.

The transformation of the first year is almost unprecedented. Since the launch of the CFP in 2014, there has never been a freshman coach who has taken his program to the playoffs. The closest thing to that was Kirby Smart, who scored 7-6 in his first season and led Georgia to a national championship game in his second. By comparison, the four coaches who played in the college football playoffs last season — Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Kirby Smart and Luke Fickell — had a combined 33 years of experience. USC coach Lincoln Riley could lead the Trojans to the playoffs in his first year; but unlike the Trojans who stocked their roster with all-star transfers, TCU is doing so with virtually the same group that went 5-7 last season.

Dykes contrasts sharply with his competitors through a coaching career with names like Louisiana Tech, UCLA, Texas Tech, and SMU. Smart is a national championship winning coach in Alabama and Georgia. Harbaugh led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. Riley coached the Oklahoma Blues and now USC.

However, Dykes’ understated self-confidence has found the perfect home in TCU.

“He doesn’t talk much, he’s not a head coach who will talk a lot,” Perry said. “He’s going to give it to you right now. He likes to say, “Do your job.” I think everyone takes it into their mentality every day.”

TCU has been one of the most resilient teams in America when it was in the top three. The Frogs’ schedule is considered the second most difficult of all the top 10 teams in the world. Sagarin Ratings, only eclipsed by Kansas State because the Wildcats were supposed to play TCU. Frogs take first place in the national rankings recording power, which combines the difficulty of the opponents with the results. Quarterback Max Duggan made several comebacks to become a contender for the Heisman Trophy.

“I don’t feel like the guys are too tight or anything like that,” Dykes said. “I think they are just excited about the opportunity. I think this feeling comes from believing that they are confident and that they are ready. That’s what’s good about this group.”

Unlike the Big Ten or the SEC, the Big 12 Championship Game doesn’t just put a smaller contender on the platter through a divisional setup. Instead, thanks to a 1v2 setup, TCU is the only playoff contender to play a top 10 opponent as a rematch with Kansas State is expected. The Horned Frogs had to overcome a 28-10 deficit in the first half against the Wildcats to avoid a 38-28 thanks to a slew of injuries to KSU’s quarterback. Kansas State has only won one straight conference championship since 1934, and the Cats won’t give up easily.

The criticism of the ongoing Big 12 is simple: none of the new league’s 12 teams have won national championships in the modern era. TCU won titles in 1935 and 1938… but a victory against Davey O’Brien is not the best indicator of prestige in 2022. The Horned Frogs can do away with this in one fell swoop in Arlington, Texas.

TCU Football has pieced together one of college football’s true blue-collar stories by winning its way from the WAC to the national stage in the last 20 years; The 12-0 fight is just the latest chapter on this journey. And with a top championship slot on Saturday, the Horned Frogs will get America’s attention as they punch their ticket.

“Cast [a Big 12 title] “Going back to Fort Worth will mean everything,” said Steve Avila, a three-year offensive player. – Not only for me, the fans and everyone who lives here, but above all for my teammates. We’ve been through so much. So much has happened, especially for the people who have chosen to stay and trust this coaching staff.”


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