No matter the score, we’re proud of the Horned Frogs — who most assuredly deserved to be playing for a title

As Monday night’s sadly lopsided TCU-Georgia national championship game unfolded, I could almost hear them.

“See, I told you the Horned Frogs didn’t belong here. They play in a mediocre conference and struggled to win a bunch of their games. They were lucky to get this far.”

And they’re absolutely wrong.

A lot of those folks piling on during and after No. 1 Georgia’s unexpectedly dominant 65-7 win over No. 3 TCU are backers of this season’s also-rans that are usually in the thick of the title chase. Teams like Alabama, Clemson, Southern Cal and Florida State, and others that didn’t make the four-team playoff field like Tennessee, Penn State, Washington and even upstart Tulane.

But regardless of the final’s outcome, this TCU squad definitely earned its shot at glory by gutting its way through a perfect regular season before losing in overtime in the Big 12 championship game. The Frogs then shocked the college football world by out-physicaling (to use a favored coach’s term that’s not a real word) Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl to advance to battle the defending national champ Bulldogs.

Don’t forget — that Michigan team TCU beat in every phase is the same outfit that destroyed Ohio State 45-23 in the regular-season finale ON THE ROAD. And that Ohio State team is the same one that led Georgia almost the entire game in the Peach Bowl semifinal before the Dawgs rallied to win with a touchdown inside a minute to play — and held on for dear life when the Buckeyes badly missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt with three seconds left.

This is the beauty of college football — and college basketball, as March Madness has shown us for years. Not quite to the monumental-upset degree we’ve seen on the hardwood, but just about any football team can beat any other — and that’s what makes both, in my mind, so much better than the pro brand of those sports.

Yes, the Bulldogs overpowered the Horned Frogs in every possible way, which I never saw coming. After watching every TCU game this season — including three in person with my 1987 graduate wife, Kay — I had every confidence the Frogs would continue to play their game. That means hard-nosed, gritty, determined, fast football on both sides.

But after the Frogs went backward 2 yards on their opening drive and a short punt gave the Bulldogs solid field position that they took advantage of on a five-play, 57-yard touchdown drive that seemed all too easy, I could see early that TCU just didn’t look the same.

All night, the in-your-face, flying-to-the-football, hard-hitting defense the Frogs played against Michigan never materialized. The offense struggled to mount drives against a defense that looked like TCU had a week earlier, and Georgia’s advantages in size and speed allowed the Bulldogs to take control.

I’ll come right out and say this — and although I graduated from Texas A&M, I’ve come to love TCU because of Kay and my many Frog friends, so don’t get mad at me: Georgia is the better team. There’s just no escaping that fact. And the Dawgs weren’t the defending national champs for nothing.

If the Frogs had played their best game of the season, they could’ve kept it close. But even then, they probably wouldn’t have won. And they needed some luck and a few big plays: a pick-six like the two they had against Michigan, or a fumble return for a TD, or a kick return for a score — any of those would’ve been a huge boost. But they got none.

Despite how the game turned out, you’ll never convince me the Dawgs are 65-7 better than the Frogs. They’re damn talented, damn well-coached and damn good. But they’re not THAT much stronger a team than TCU. No. Way.

Legions of Frogs fans are disappointed, and rightfully so. But I’m glad to see so many showering so much love on their team and school and showing immense pride in this program, its players and its accomplishments. That’s the way it should be.

After all, only four out of 131 NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams made it to the College Football Playoff, and two survived to play for the big trophy. If that’s not elite, I don’t know what is. Everyone who wears TCU purple on game day has much to be proud of.

And the Frogs aren’t going away. They might not make it back to the national title game anytime soon, but they’ll be challenging for Big 12 championships, top-tier bowl games and berths in the playoff field when it expands to 12 in 2024. And Kay and I will be at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth to cheer them on when we can splurge on tickets.

GO FROGS!!! 🐸 💜

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