January 01, 2011
Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19. It's the biggest win in TCU history, and by the usual TCU standards, one of the ugliest. Before tonight, the Horned Frogs' 24 wins over the last two years had come by a resounding average of more than four touchdowns per game, the majority coming by more than 30 points – including their only other victory this year over a ranked team, a 47-7 obliteration of Utah in November. The standard formula is dominance, on both sides of the ball.
The formula for the biggest win in school history was largely about ball control and field position: All four of Wisconsin's second half drives started inside its own 20-yard line, and the methodical approach both offenses took to making up that ground limited them to a paltry 17 offensive possessions for the entire game, combined. After the fireworks of the highest-scoring first quarter in Rose Bowl history, the triumph was ultimately an old school bite-and-hold.
But it's the triumph itself, not the method, that brings us to the real point: At 13-0, TCU wraps up its first undefeated season since the 1938 national champions, in the heyday of Davey O'Brien. The Horned Frogs are bound for their third consecutive top-10 finish in the final polls, and their third consecutive finish as the nation's No. 1 total defense. Quarterback Andy Dalton and a dozen other senior starters go out with 27 wins in their last 28 games, a school-record 44 wins over the last four years, and as anything but "the little guys."
They also go out as the sixth team since 2004 to finish the season with a perfect record, a BCS bowl win, and no opportunity whatsoever at the nominal national championship, following Auburn (2004), Utah (2004), Boise State (2006), Utah again (2008) and Boise State again (2009). The real point is, don't be a sucker. The BCS was created to declare a "true" national champion by matching the top two teams in the country, and clearly -- for at least the eighth time in ten years -- that mandate is impossible because more than two teams have a legitimate claim on one of those spots.
Again, the "championship game" will go on on Jan. 10 as if it's not just another upper tier bowl game featuring two of those teams, while the others wait and hope for some token scraps from the Associated Press poll. When the prevailing system's only response to an undefeated outfit that just defeated No. 4 team in the nation – a team that had won its previous seven games by an average of almost 24 points – is "You had a great season," that structure is wholly inadequate for the circumstances.
For TCU's part, it should refrain from the business of lobbying AP voters for their No. 1 votes or go on sanctimonious tirades like this one about the obvious injustice of it all. They should deny the premises, and celebrate the ones that matter: It won every game it played, and capped it by beating one of the best teams in the country on the most venerable stage in the sport. Maybe it can spring for some "championship" rings or something. But at some point, some team in the same position has have the opportunity to earn a set the rest of the world recognizes.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.