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Tribune News Service
Mac Engel

Mac Engel: TCU’s 2022 dream season will change the school, and finish in national title game

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A few minutes before kickoff TCU chancellor Victor Boschini escaped from his suite, away from the game.

He typically prefers to watch from the press box, where he can focus on the field, but TCU’s game against Michigan didn’t really allow for it.

The man looked a bit nervous, as did every single person wearing purple on Saturday in Phoenix. This game was an atomic ball of stress on every single TCU fan, and administrator.

Just playing in the college football playoff was going to have a major impact the school. Reaching the national title game could change it, and push TCU to Notre Dame-type awareness.

A small, private school with a national name.

When I asked Boschini in Aug. of 2021 what TCU’s next “Rose Bowl” moment was, he said with the confidence of a young Mike Tyson, “We’re going to win a national championship. It would be amazing.”

That amazing, previously thought to be unattainable, goal is now on the table.

TCU is in the college football national championship game.

Typing that felt almost as difficult to comprehend as, “TCU wins the Rose Bowl.”

TCU can win the national title in football.

No. 3 TCU’s 51-45 win over No. 2 Michigan in the 2022 Fiesta Bowl on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona, could do for the school what winning the Rose Bowl did back in 2011.

After the game, TCU players, coaches, administrators, cheerleaders, and so many other TCU people, ran around and celebrated on the field. Boschini navigated alums and coaches, while radiating happiness.

“Honestly I am just happy we made it to the national championship game,” he said.

TCU director of athletics Jeremiah Donati, who was tasked the impossible job of asking former TCU head coach Gary Patterson to resign last season, looked thrilled, and exhausted.

“It was intense,” Donati said. “Honestly this is one of the most surreal moments of my life.”

Surreal. That’s a good way to put it.

It was Donati last year who persuaded the TCU football search committee to hire Sonny Dykes away from SMU.

The entire crew planned to throw a New Year’s party that promised to be as memorable as the entire 2022 season. Good chance a lot of people will remember the game, and forget much of the party.

By appearing in the national title game, TCU officials expect school applications to jump to more than 50,000 almost immediately. The school usually gets about 20,000.

School officials said the donations are currently coming in “briskly.” Translation — we’re talking obscene money. Those oil and gas folks are currently encasing TCU in cash.

Also, this is not over.

The national title game is in L.A. at SoFi Stadium in Jan. 9.

TCU will be mentioned so frequently on every single sports media platform through Jan. 10 that whatever happens in the national title game, it’s all still a win.

But, since TCU is in the national championship game, why not win its first in football since 1938?

Dykes said after the game he and his team are prepared for what is coming.

“We know we are going to hear it again. We are going to hear the same crap,” he said after the game. “We have to answer that criticism, and do what we are supposed to do.

“If we think that’s going to go away ... you guys know it’s not.”


TCU didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason Top 25 poll. TCU was picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll. TCU was picked to lose at Texas, even though the Horned Frogs were ranked No. 4 for that game.

Dykes’ team will again be a heavy underfrog in the next game.

TCU was a 7.5 point underdog against Michigan. Because, it’s Michigan.

And TCU is a small school in the junk Big 12. The same Big 12 that previously had never won a playoff game. Nice work, Sooners.

Michigan had previously lost one game in the last two years: Its 2021 playoff game against Georgia.

Michigan had not trailed by 14 points all season. The last time Michigan trailed by two touchdowns in a game was ... its 2021 playoff game against Georgia.

It was apparent after TCU defensive back Bud Clark intercepted a pass early in the first quarter and returned it 41 yards for the game’s first score that the Horned Frogs could play with the Wolverines.

TCU did come up with some crazy plays, like two defensive touchdowns.

But TCU flat beat up Michigan. TCU did to Michigan what Michigan was promised to do to TCU.

TCU was better on the offensive line.

“We heard all week that they were going out-physical us,” TCU linebacker Dee Winters said.

TCU’s defensive players made plays that change games.

TCU’s skill players, namely backup running back Emari Demarcado and wide receiver Quentin Johnston, were far too much for Michigan’s defenders.

TCU’s senior quarterback Max Duggan did not have his best game throwing, and he had some bad luck, but he also made the type of plays that made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.

TCU won by six, but it could have been by 26.

Now, in Georgia, TCU’s next opponent has too many NFL players, and too many 5-star recruits, to do anything other than beat the Horned Frogs by 75 points in the national title game.

That’s the way it’s going to go.

“(Winning) is credibility, you know what I mean?” Dykes said. “We you are a small, private school, you’ve got to fight for it. It’s just the way it is.

“Michigan’s got 750,000 alumni. We got 75,000, whatever it is. It’s part of what makes TCU great, though, is that they roll their sleeves up, they go to work, they figure out a way to do it. It’s not only the football team. It’s the entire university.

“I think we all have a chip on our shoulder. It’s part of the Horned Frog way. It’s just the way. And, again, that’s what makes the place special.”

They are now just one win away from winning a national championship in football.

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