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The (Non-TCU) players that helped the Horned Frogs reach the Playoff

The national landscape fell just right for the Frogs in 2022. An appreciation of those who helped clear the stage for a TCU Playoff run

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina
Thanks Spencer!
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

If the TCU Horned Frogs had completed the undefeated 2022 season at 13-0, it was always more-or-less guaranteed to reach the College Football Playoff. However to climb into the Top-4 while not winning the Big 12 Championship, TCU needed some external help throughout the season to leave a spot open for the Frogs to fill. So often that perfect storm hasn’t come to fruition for the Frogs:

  • In 2009 TCU had worked up to #4 in the BCS computer rankings, needing some upsets in the final week of the season to jump into the National Championship Game; Texas was granted a phantom extra second to kick a walk-off winner in the Big 12 Title and Cincinnati scored a TD in the final minute to complete a 21-point comeback, each coming away with 1-point wins to force undefeated TCU to the kids table to face Boise State in consecutive seasons.
  • Sometimes the pendulum of fate can sway both directions on the same weekend. In 2010 TCU was #3 in the BCS into Thanksgiving week, needing a loss from either Oregon or Auburn to get a shot at the crystal ball. Alabama was putting a beating on Cam Newton and his #2 Tigers when Bama’s reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was rumbling down the sideline to extend the first half lead to 28-points. Instead Ingram had the ball punched out from behind, just his 2nd lost fumble in his college career, and the ball somehow didn’t go out of bounds, rather bouncing 20+ yards through the endzone for a touchback, sparking an Auburn comeback that led to its National Championship. The weekend was not all a loss for the Frogs however, as the next day Colin Kaepernick’s Nevada took down Kellen Moore’s #4 Boise State in an all-time great contest as Kyle Brotzman missed a 26-yard field goal to end regulation and a 29-yarder in OT. With Boise’s loss it assured TCU a spot in the Rose Bowl.
  • 2014 saw Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State each come away with wins in conference championship games to influence the first ever Playoff Committee to drop TCU from #3 to #6 despite a 55-3 victory over Iowa State.

All of that is to say: it takes more than just being one of the best teams in the country with a spotless or near spotless record to wind up with a chance at the National Championship. It takes a bit of luck and a bit of help, so we should celebrate the events and players that helped create a landscape that has the Frogs two wins away from lifting the trophy. Certainly every member of the 2022 TCU team and staff are most to thank for this incredible season, but sometimes you need to be dealt the right hand and have the pieces fall into place just right for a season to go from successful to special. These are the non-TCU players whom Frog fans can thank for clearing the path to Playoffs. If any one of the below players doesn’t display some heroics, the Horned Frogs would be watching the CFP Semifinal from home. If you have an extra Christmas card laying around or you made too much peanut brittle, consider sending to these guys as a thank-you for their efforts in sending TCU to the Fiesta Bowl:

Spencer Rattler - QB, South Carolina:

All hail the Cock Commander General! Rattler destroyed TCU’s defense while at Oklahoma in 2020, but after getting supplanted by Caleb Williams in 2021 and with Lincoln Riley bolting for USC, Rattler took his talents to the SEC. The Gamecocks had reached a 6-4 record after getting trounced by the Florida Gators; with just two games remaining, both against Top 10 opponents, South Carolina looked to be limping into bowl season. Instead, Spencer Rattler turned on that 5-Star magic for the Garnet & Black that he’d flashed while in Crimson & Cream. Rattler threw for 438 yards and 6 TDs to end Hendon Hookers’ Heisman hopes and eliminate the Tennessee Volunteers from the Playoff. The following week Rattler put up 360 yards and 2 TDs against the vaunted Clemson defense as the Gamecocks went into Death Valley and knocked the Tigers out of the Playoff discussion. The man simply hates the color orange and took it out by relegating these two carrot-colored foes to the Orange Bowl, keeping space available for the Frogs in the Top 4.

Cameron Rising - QB, Utah:

In his two victories over USC this season, Rising threw for 725 yards on 67% passing and 5 TDs while rushing for 78 yards and 3 TDs. The Trojans were undefeated in all 2022 games not against the Utes and it was Cam Rising’s heroics that knocked USC out of the Top 4. Rising now has three consecutive wins over the Trojans after keeping them out of the Pac 12 Championship in 2021. As old rivals, it may be hard for some Frogs fans to feel too happy about any Ute success, but all had to be rooting for Rising and his efforts to outduel Caleb Williams. While not enough to knock Williams off the top spot for the Heisman Trophy, Rising and the Utes did leave a window open for the Frogs to climb into the Playoff.

Chase McGrath - K, Tennessee:

As Frog fans were pouring onto the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium after a 2OT victory over #8 Oklahoma State on October 15th, McGrath was setting up for the chance to etch his name forever as a Vol hero. His 40-yard field goal as time expired gave the Volunteers its first win over the Alabama Crimson Tide since 2006. Jalin Hyatt and Hendon Hooker could get the nod here, as they linked up for 5 TDs, but this was the moment that sent the bright orange faithful storming Neyland Stadium and bringing the goalposts into the Tennessee River and the man who made it happen should get the flowers from Frog fans.

Jayden Daniels - QB, LSU:

When it comes to Alabama’s chances to make the Playoff, it requires a double-tap to make sure they aren’t getting back up - and even then Nick Saban will drag his team’s dead corpse of a resume across every national platform to beg for a Playoff spot. Daniels and his LSU Tigers provided that critical 2nd loss for Saban’s squad with Daniels accounting for 277 yards and 3 TDs. Alabama tied the game in the final 30 seconds and then scored a TD in its first possession of Overtime to take the lead. Daniels took the first play of LSU’s OT possession for a 25 yard scamper into the end zone. Then Brian Kelly put it all on the line by going for the 2-point conversion, putting the ball in Daniels’ hands for the classic play that leaves a receiver open for a moment in the endzone; Daniels hit Mason Taylor to give LSU the win and leave the Crimson Tide with its 2nd field-storming walk-off loss, preventing Alabama from inclusion in the 2022 Playoff.