Seeking to turn chips into chips, TCU could alter the sport with national championship win

LOS ANGELES — Johnny Hodges loves his chips.

“We’re a team full of chips,” the TCU linebacker said.

In Hodges shorthand, this translates to tokens on the shoulders. A cliché, certainly, but an entry into the heart of horned frogs n°3. They weren’t supposed to be here in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

In fact, the last team in a similar position was BYU in 1984. These Cougars are the most recent national champions to come from outside of the current Power Five.

TCU, as a member of the Big 12, is clearly a Power Five team these days, but it has been a league stepping stone for the past quarter century. When its ancestral Southwestern conference disbanded, TCU was passed over to become a member of the Big 12. From there followed a purgatory of stoppages in the WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West.

The desperate little purple engine that was finally able to achieve its power conference brass ring when the Big 12 opened at TCU in 2012.

There’s a reason why No. 1 Georgia is favored by nearly two touchdowns, the longest line in CFP National Championship history. TCU is a long shot. If the Frogs won, they might beat the best program in the sport. If the Bulldogs don’t already hold that mantle, Monday night could go a long way in building that narrative.

TCU is just trying to hang on, if you believe the recruiting rankings. The Frogs have 17 top rookies on their roster, four of which are transfers. The Dawgs have four times as many.

“You can’t overstate what they’ve done,” said former Texas A&M coach RC Slocum, a member of TCU’s College Football Hall of Fame. “They stay right after you. It’s not an ebb and flow type team. They just stay the same all the time whether it’s going well or not. It’s hard to beat a team that won’t be beaten. .”

This explains the Frogs’ late game comebacks. That explains TCU hanging 55 over Oklahoma. That explains running 263 yards against a shocked Michigan. This explains why the impact of TCU cannot be ignored.

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark jumped on Saturday at the CFP National Championship media day as if his conference had already won. Yormark has already declared its intention to extend the Big 12 to the Pacific Time Zone. With USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten, TCU and the Big 12 entered the Los Angeles market this week.

Kind of.

There is a niche community about 27 miles north of SoFi Stadium, the site of Monday’s game, called Frogtown. It’s not a city per se but – as its website proclaims – “a progressive pocket community…where socially conscious hipsters and multi-generational families live together and call home.”

Frogtown is also the site of a Big 12 takeover this weekend. Really, that’s what they call it: a “takeover.” There’s purple beer at the Frogtown Brewery. There will be 200 free Frogtown tacos available at the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday.

Famous sneaker artist Kickstradomis designs a pair of horned frog-themed sneakers.

What does that have to do with beating Georgia? You miss the point. Yormark is trying to take over the world and the frogs are his invading army.

“Think about where this conference was being held six months ago, 12 months ago, 18 months ago,” Yormark told CBS Sports. “It’s been a transformative moment. Obviously, it’s a big validation.

“It also validates the composition and composition of our conference. I’m sure there were people who were worried. What’s going to happen with Texas and Oklahoma? Nobody talks about that anymore. “

No they are not. This game could define the hopes and dreams of like-minded hopefuls once the CFP expands into 2024.

Slocum coached against TCU in the SWC several times during his career. He was also close friends with former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, father of current TCU coach Sonny Dykes. They were so close that Sonny recalled coming home from high school baseball practice in West Texas, seeing his dad and Slocum having an afternoon adult drink.

Slocum watched Sonny, who entered 2022 with just five winning seasons in 12 as head coach, unlock greatness. Dykes took a roster put together by former coach Gary Patterson to the brink of a championship.

What would it mean for TCU, the Big 12 and college football if TCU actually won it all?

Las Vegas answered part of that question earlier this month when TCU was installed with the longest odds (16-1) of winning the championship when the bracket debuted, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Those with the foresight to bet $100 on the Frogs would take out $1,600 if TCU won Monday night.

“It confirms again that no one has a lock on victory,” Slocum said. “Just because you have good players doesn’t mean you’re going to win. The challenge is to bring these guys together, all playing for each other. It encourages a lot of schools that maybe aren’t at the height. top. It gives them hope.

This would mean a lot of tokens would be cashed out. Hodges is one of 14 TCU transfers. Frustrated with himself and Navy, he was looking for a new home after last season. Her father took it upon herself to send emails to each of the other 131 FBS programs. There were no takers.

“I couldn’t even watch a weekend football game without getting a stomach ache knowing I had underperformed so much,” Hodges said. “I didn’t believe in myself. In life, you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. … But coming out of high school, I didn’t think I was good enough to play college football. I didn’t think I was good enough to play a Power Five [program]. My father did. He brought me here.”

TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie took notice because he had played against Navy in Tulsa before being hired by Dykes. The addition of Hodges turned the defense into an opportunistic unit. TCU was passed by Michigan last week (528-488), but the difference in the game may have been two picks of six.

“We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are three stars, two stars who didn’t get a lot of offers out of high school, so I feel like everyone already had a chip on their shoulder on the way in,” cornerback Tre’Vious Hodges-Tomlinson said.

“It’s time to start taking ourselves very seriously. We are not kidding.”

Not when Hodges-Tomlinson, the nephew of TCU great LaDanian Tomlinson, is the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s best defensive back. Not when quarterback Max Duggan is a former state high school 200-yard champion. (It surprised everyone from Oklahoma to Michigan when Duggan led every Big 12 quarterback in rushing.) Not when Hodges went from nil to leading TCU in tackles.

“The media wants the Bluebloods to win,” Hodges said after Michigan’s game. “They want the Bluebloods to play each other. The schools are bigger – bigger fanbases. That’s what they want. For us, [it’s] to put us on the map, make some money and put some respect on your last name.”

This is what motivates Emari Demercado. In its sixth season, it returned home. Coming out of high school, his only FBS offers were from the Army and Navy. This led him to start at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. Once at TCU, he played down the depth chart for most of his career.

When first rusher Zach Evans transferred to Ole Miss, Demercado backed workaholic Kendre Miller. Suddenly, as the central character of Monday’s game, Demercado can’t find enough tickets for his family and friends to watch him play for the national title.

Although he grew up in nearby Inglewood, 5 minutes from SoFi Stadium, he never set foot in the hall.

Life was rare, not glorious. In high school, Demercado lived with a friend’s family because practice at Downey High School started at 5 a.m.

“My mom bought me a little 1997 Lexus,” Demercado said. “It was just optimal for me to stay with them.”

Prior to the Fiesta Bowl semifinal, Michigan had given up a season-long 100-yard rushing performance (Chase Brown, Ill.). Demercado rumbled for a career-high 150 yards in a backup role after Miller was injured.

Oh, and in that sixth year, Demercado was able to earn his master’s degree in business analysis.

“I grew up here,” Demercado said. “I spent my whole childhood here. I leave and go to Texas and I can finish my college career here. It’s almost like it’s scripted.”

Fries for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *