Oklahoma football: TCU accomplished what Sooners couldn’t in four tries

TCU linebacker Dee Winters (13) knocks away a pass from Michigan tight end Colston Loveland (18) during the second half.Syndication Arizona Republic
TCU linebacker Dee Winters (13) knocks away a pass from Michigan tight end Colston Loveland (18) during the second half.Syndication Arizona Republic /

TCU is the only Big 12 school other than Oklahoma to make the College Football Playoff, and the Horned Frogs have done something the Sooners could not.

In its first CFP appearance, TCU outlasted the No. 2 seed Michigan Wolverines 51-45 in one of the two sensational national semifinal games on New Year’s Eve to advance to the national championship game next Monday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

In 11 seasons as a member of the Big 12 Conference, has shared one conference championship. The Horned Frogs tied for the conference title with Baylor in 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff format. Had it not been for a shared Big 12 championship that season, one of those two teams could have been one of the four teams playing in that inaugural season of the playoff.

Since the Horned Frogs have been members of the Big 12, Oklahoma has won six Big 12 titles outright and shared one with Kansas State (2012). During that same time frame, the Sooners have also made four appearances in the College Football Playoff, including three consecutive appearances between 2017 and 2019.

The only problem with OU’s CFP resume is that the Sooners have failed to make it past the first game.

In 2017, No. 2 Oklahoma lost to No. 3 Georgia 54-48 in two overtimes — a game Baker Mayfield and the Sooners could have and probably should have won were it not for a second-half comeback by Georgia from a 14-point halftime deficit. The following season, Kyler Murray led the No. 4-seeded Sooners against top-seeded Alabama. The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 28-0 lead and Oklahoma was forced to play catchup the rest of the way, finally falling 45-34.

The Sooners made it back to the playoff for a third straight season in 2019 with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. As the No. 4 seed again, the Sooners were matched up against and completely outmatched by No. 1 LSU, which completely dominated the Sooners in all phases and delivered one of the worst defeats in Oklahoma history, winning by a 65-28 margin.

TCU was not intimidated by going up against Michigan, which was returning to the playoff for a second straight season but still looking for its very first playoff win. The Big Ten champion Wolverines had punched their ticket to college football’s biggest stage by a stunning 45-23 win over Ohio State and a similar winning margin a week later in the Big 12 Championship against Purdue to cap off a perfect 13-0 regular season.

Six of TCU’s 12 wins in 2022 have been by one score, and several of those were in dramatic come-from-behind fashion. That was not the case, however, in the playoff semifinal win on Saturday. The Horned Frogs never trailed against Michigan, leading 41-22 at one point late in the third quarter.

Michigan mounted a furious second-half comeback, but TCU showed great resilience in responding with 10 unanswered points in the final quarter after the Wolverines had pulled to within three points, 41-38 with practically the entire fourth quarter remaining to be played.

So, the Horned Frogs advance to next Monday’s national championship game, taking on the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs, the reigning national champions.

The last time a Big 12 team played in the national championship game was Texas in 2009. Texas was also the last Big 12 team to win the national championship when the 2005 Longhorn team, quarterbacked by Vince Young, came from 12 points down midway through the fourth quarter, scoring the final 15 points in the game to win 41-38. Some experts call that BSC Championship game the greatest national title game of all time.

TCU has already made Big 12 history by becoming the first conference team to move beyond the semifinal round in the College Football Playoff, and the Horned Frogs can double down on that history a week from now by becoming the first Big 12 national champion in the playoff era.