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No.3 TCU Makes Playoffs, to Play Michigan

Sports

Duggan accounted for 361 yards in TCU’s bitter defeat. | Image by LM Otero, AP

The physical and emotional impact of losing to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game was evident on the faces and in the actions of TCU players as they made their way off the turf at AT&T Stadium Saturday. Despite the heartbreaking overtime loss, the Horned Frogs retained the No.3 spot in the latest Associated Press poll released on December 4.

TCU was selected as one of the four college football teams to compete for a national title and will face No.2 Michigan in the VRBO Fiesta Bowl on December 31. The AP Poll and College Football Playoffs Selection Committee also awarded a bowl appearance and a shot at the title to No.1 Georgia and No.4 Ohio State.

The Buckeyes are the only team in the top four to change rankings from the previous week after USC was moved down following the team’s loss in the PAC-12 Championship Game Saturday.

TCU was selected after the committee reviewed the body of work from an undefeated regular season led by first-year head coach Sonny Dykes and quarterback Max Duggan who climbed to the No.2 ranking in the competition for the 2022 Heisman Trophy that will be voted on Monday.

Duggan’s performance in the Big 12 Title game is the stuff of legend, though his numbers may not reflect the grit and determination that the senior quarterback displayed. In the fourth quarter, with TCU trailing 28-17, Duggan put the team on his back and pushed the Kansas State defense to the breaking point.

On the final scoring drive, Duggan rushed for 13 yards, 15 yards, and a monster 40-yard run that set up a touchdown run, also by Duggan. Then, Duggan hit a perfect pass for the two-point conversion to tie the game.

“We had a little bit of a sleepless night, but appreciate the committee’s confidence in our players and our program,” Dykes said Sunday, according to ESPN. “I think it’s all you can ask for at the beginning of the season.”

The committee said that they were particularly motivated by the Horned Frogs’ performance against Baylor, in which the team was able to run the field goal unit onto the field and successfully kick a game-winning score with a running clock and no timeouts available.

“You think about TCU in the game against Baylor, getting on the field, running on the field, kicking the field goal speaks to a disciplined team, a well-rounded team,” CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said. “We’re trying to look at everything we can as we go into this.”

TCU and Michigan have never played before. TCU has only won a national title once, back in 1938. Michigan has won the national title 11 times but has not claimed victory since 1997. Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy said he is excited to see how Duggan operates against the stout Michigan defense.

“Max, he’s a tough dude,” McCarthy said. “Seeing him run the ball, especially on those last couple of drives, it was really standing out and realizing, ‘Hey, it’s Big 12, but there will be the opportunity for me to use my legs.’”

TCU will have until New Year’s Eve to rest and recuperate from the first loss of the season before facing the biggest challenge yet for a team that has seemed destined for greatness in 2022.

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