By Alex Bhatt
This is the first part of The Daily’s three-part preview series on the TCU Horned Frogs, who play Stanford in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Antonio, TX. This part examines how TCU ended up in the Alamo Bowl against Stanford.
On Thursday, Dec. 28, the No. 15 Stanford Cardinal (9-4, 7-2 Pac-12) will play the No. 13 TCU Horned Frogs (10-3, 7-2 Big 12) in the 25th Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. This is Stanford’s first match-up this year versus a Big 12 opponent so it is important to understand what the Cardinal should expect.
In the modern college football era, TCU football has been a name of great recognition in both the state of Texas and within the Power Five conferences. Located in Fort Worth, TX, TCU football has grown drastically in recent years, especially under head coach Gary Patterson.
Patterson became coach of the Horned Frogs back in 2000, and he is currently the second longest-tenured coach in college football, only behind Kirk Ferentz of Iowa. Patterson has coached his teams to an overall record of 159-57 (.740) and has a record of 9-6 in Bowl Games.
One thing to note is that under Patterson, TCU is a clean 5-0 against all Pac-12 opponents. Two of these victories came against the Cardinal in 2007 and 2008.
With Patterson at the helm, TCU has been in the playoff conversation a couple of times in the past few years. In 2009, not only did Patterson win AP Coach of the Year, but the Horned Frogs finished with a final ranking of No. 4 as well as their first bowl appearance in 51 years (Fiesta Bowl). The following year, the Horned Frogs finished No. 3 in the nation and won the Rose Bowl over the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 21-19.
In 2012, the Horned Frogs left the Mountain West and joined the Big 12. After an abysmal 2013 season, the Horned frogs finished the 2014 season with an 11-1 record and their first Big 12 title. At the end of the year, the committee ranked TCU at No. 6 and the Horned Frogs have held a powerful presence in the Big 12 ever since.
With a victory, TCU would bring both their and Stanford’s wins and losses in bowl games to an even .500 record. Currently, the Cardinal are 14-13-1 while the Horned Frogs are 14-15-1 in each university’s respective bowl games.
Last year, the Frogs were defeated by the Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl. However, just the year prior, the Horned Frogs were in the 2016 Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. Though trailing 31-0 at halftime, TCU rallied and scored on every single possession in the second half to take the game into overtime. In overtime, the Frogs were able to hold off the Ducks and win 47-41. That win is still tied for the largest comeback in NCAA college football history and is perhaps the most memorable win in program history.
How did TCU get here?
Two years ago, promising Texas A&M transfer and 2016 Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year Kenny Hill was the talk of the town. “Kenny Trill,” as he prefers to be called, had broken Johnny Manziel’s record for passing yards in a single game as a freshman for the Aggies with 511 yards through the air, but decided to transfer to TCU in 2015.
TCU enters Thursday night’s game after a decisive 41-17 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game on December 2nd. The Horned Frogs started the season with a 7-0 record, but ended with an even 3-3 record, suffering one loss at the hands of Iowa State as well as two to Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Horned Frogs had two shut-outs this year against Jackson State (3-8) and Kansas (1-11), but their most notable victory came against divisional rival Oklahoma State (9-3). The Horned Frogs were ranked No. 16 at the time and traveled on the road to Stillwater, Oklahoma to play the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys on September 23rd. Though the Cowboys’ Mason Rudolph threw for almost 400 yards, the Horned Frogs forced four turnovers and rallied behind running back Darius Anderson’s 160 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns. The Horned Frogs won the game 44-31 and immediately emerged as a Big 12 Champion contender early on in the year.
Fighting the Love and the Cardinal O-Line
TCU’s biggest challenge will be stopping explosive Heisman runner-up Bryce Love on the ground. The junior running back has amassed 1,973 yards and averages more than eight yards per carry. However, despite these phenomenal numbers, Love and the dominant Cardinal offensive line will need to recognize the powerful front defensive seven they will face on Thursday. The Horned Frogs have only given up an average 3.2 yards per carry to opposing running backs, ranking eighth in the country.
Due to continued success by the secondary and the defensive linemen, the Frogs led the Big 12 in both passing defense and rushing defense.
Throughout the season, TCU ranked fourth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (99.8). Moreover, the defensive line, led by senior Mat Boesen and junior Ben Banogu, had the third most sacks in the entire country with 41 sacks for a net loss of 264 yards. The Frogs’ defense garnered four defensive touchdowns, good for a tie for seventh in the nation.
The Valero Alamo Bowl will begin at 6 p.m. PT on Dec. 28 and will be broadcasted by ESPN.
Contact Alex Bhatt at abhatt21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.