It was 2005. Unranked TCU came into Norman looking to spoil seventh-ranked Oklahoma’s home opener. The Frogs did just that behind Tye Gunn and Gary Patterson in their first game as a member of the Mountain West Conference.
This set the tone for what Patterson and the Frogs would do in years to come. The Horned Frogs went 11-1 that year and laid claim to the first of four Mountain West Conference titles. Their Houston Bowl victory came against future conference foe Iowa State and earned them a No. 9 end of the year ranking by the AP.
Let’s rewind a few years back when the college football landscape was flipped upside down as Nebraska and Colorado announced they were leaving the Big 12. A little more than a year later Texas A&M and Mizzou decide to bounce as well which made the conference the Big 8 with different members.
There was a lot of uncertainty in the following weeks. Would the conference be able to survive or would it be absorbed by another? SEC? Big 10? Was the Pac 12 willing to open talks again?
In the end it was the Big East that was gutted and the Big 12 was able to survive the initial wave of realignment.
TCU was certainly one of the more polished schools, a team from a non-BCS league that had been to two BCS bowls and won one. Not too shabby.
Their 2011 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin featured an uncharacteristic matchup as the Pac 10 winner was on its way to the national championship game. That was argued as well, many saying that TCU deserved a chance in the Fiesta Bowl for the title.
Preseason polls had the Frogs at No. 6, which was the highest ranking among them, Auburn (22) and Oregon (11).
TCU would beat No. 24 Oregon State and No. 9 Utah on its way to a perfect regular season. Its body of work just wasn’t strong enough. The conference schedule was severely lacking outside of Utah.
The Frogs would finish the season ranked No. 2, garnering three first place AP votes and one from the Coaches poll – of which all voters are obligated to vote for whoever won the BCS title. So close.
Two seasons later and the Frogs were in turmoil, going 4-8 in their new conference home. It seemed as if all the doubters were right and the Big 12 was just too fast for them.
Patience had gotten TCU this far and would get them more.
TCU began the year going 3-0 against Samford, SMU and Minnesota. That was enough to move them just inside the polls at No. 25 as No. 4 Oklahoma rolled into town. By no means had TCU beaten world beaters, which led to skepticism about the Frogs.
This wasn’t the same TCU program that OU faced nine years ago. It had seen success and a missed play by Oregon or Auburn away from playing for all the Tostitos. Now they faced the program that helped them leap into the spotlight in similar fashion. Fringe of the polls, facing a top 10 Sooners squad, and not given much of a chance.
There were differences, though. The Rose Bowl trophy sitting in the trophy case, a few MWC trophies and the convenience of playing in brand new Amon G Carter Stadium.
The Frogs pulled it off again and shot up to No. 9 in the nation. Next week was Baylor in Waco.
Baylor, who had used OU for similar success just a few years before, would knock off TCU in a wild finish.
Everyone knows how that season ended with both Baylor and TCU on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff. TCU would end the season waiting for their shot yet again.
The talk of the Big 12 were TCU and Baylor, who many said were far and away the best in the conference, but those boys from Oklahoma have had plenty to say about that.
TCU, you’re welcome for being validated by your two victories over Oklahoma in the past 10 years. It has given your program that opportunity to thrive and compete with the elite in college football.
Saturday will be different. There’s a lot on the line for both teams as they fight for legitimacy this year. There is no surprise that the Horned Frogs are in the position to compete for a Big 12 title and playoff spot. They have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, this time with the big boys – not the Mountain West or the WAC.
The Sooners are the ones laying the traps now as Baker Mayfield controls the reigns of a team in control of its own destiny. The Horned Frogs are scrambling to stay ranked after struggling against Kansas and no one is quite sure if their own Heisman candidate quarterback Treyvone Boykin will play.
With the way OU has played since the embarrassing loss to Texas, and TCU circling the drain for this season without their stud QB, it’s OU with the upperhand. All the same TCU will enjoy a national spotlight once again thanks to the Sooners.