TCU coach Gary Patterson had an agenda for the holidays.
The schedule included football practice on the morning of Christmas Eve, sending the players home to be with their families, then the football team would fly to Pasadena after the holiday.
The players spoke up.
"We’d like to go out there on December 22," the players told Patterson. "We can spend Christmas with our families anytime."
Coming from a Christian school, those words can only mean one thing: business.
The Horned Frogs were hoping for a National Championship, but Coach Patterson knew the odds weren’t in his favor. TCU is still glad to be a part of the Rose Bowl and the rich history surrounding it, but this isn’t just a game that simply makes them happy to be there. They want to win.
Patterson started preparing for Wisconsin right after their win at New Mexico.
Part of that prep will be a counter plan for Wisconsin’s large offensive line, a unit partly responsible for the Badger's offensive outburst over the last three games.
However, this isn’t Michigan’s defense. This isn’t Indiana’s or Northwestern’s defense, either. It’s the best defense in the country for two years in a row. Wisconsin is the team that will need to take more notes.
Not only does TCU boast the best defense in the country allowing 215 yards per game, the second best defense is a full 33 yards behind.
Of course, there’s the same old argument, the implication that TCU is in a weak conference. That may be true, but if anything, it becomes an advantage when it comes time to determine who might be less bruised up for bowl season.
Still, for those who imply that TCU didn’t play any good teams this year, that assessment wouldn’t hold up very well now that the regular season has come to an end.
TCU defeated more bowl teams this season than Wisconsin.
Then there‘s the old implication thrown around that TCU never plays any good teams. That assessment would once again be inaccurate.
Last season TCU went into Clemson’s "Death Valley" and held C.J. Spiller and the Tigers to one offensive touchdown. Later on that season, they went into Lavell Edwards Stadium and held Max Hall and the BYU Cougars, who defeated Oklahoma earlier in the season, to seven points.
In their bowl game to cap off the season, they held Boise State to one offensive touchdown. All of that can be summed up in one word: impressive. Or perhaps, consistent.
Besides, that whole thing about weak conferences, tell that to the Memphis Tigers basketball team from 2007-2008.
Being a member of Conference USA by no fault of their own, their competition was much less talented than leagues like the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and many others.
Memphis went 30-1 that season, but some wondered if they were overrated heading into the NCAA tournament. All they did was defeat Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, Kevin Love‘s UCLA Bruins, and Kevin Durant’s Texas Longhorns by a combined 51 points before taking Kansas to overtime in the National Championship game.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what conference a team is in. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who you’ve played.
When you’re great, you’re great.
TCU has handily defeated each and every team they have played this season. Even in their 40-35 win over San Diego State, they made a few mistakes in the first and last five minutes, but dominated the 50 minutes in between.
The Horned Frogs shut down Air Force’s option offense, something even Oklahoma couldn’t do. They allowed a total of 23 points over a six game stretch. As for Baylor, Robert Griffin said it all.
"I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life," the Baylor quarterback said after a 45-10 loss.
Griffin may have been one of the few quarterbacks to admit it, but I’m sure he wasn’t the only one who felt it.
A few weeks later, fans in and around Salt Lake City shelled out big bucks and packed Rice-Eccles Stadium to standing room capacity.
Many of those fans headed to the parking lots after the third quarter, because that's how long it took for Utah's offense to make it past midfield.
To give TCU all the credit here would be a bit ignorant. The Wisconsin Badgers are a great team. They had a great season, highlighted with a win over Ohio State and a trio of games to end the season where they scored 83, 48 and 70 points.
Perhaps it brings back shades of Sam Bradford and Oklahoma in 2008. The Sooners ended the season scoring 60+ points in their last five wins of the year. They finished first in overall offense among BCS teams.
Against Florida's great defense in the subsequent BCS bowl, they scored 14 points.
Wisconsin also had a pair of escapes. In a 20-19 win over Arizona State, the Sun Devils missed a late extra point. Trailing 30-24 at Iowa, the Badgers pulled off a thrilling fake punt, converted another fourth down on the same drive, and just got the ball across the goal line on a running play to cap off the same drive in a 31-30 win over the Hawkeyes.
If TCU wins this game, should they get a share of the National Championship?
Surely the Badgers would like to win the Rose Bowl, but this game means much more to the TCU football program.
For the National Championship game, you can spend countless hours deciding what to do with Auburn and Oregon. Those from the East will most likely be siding with Cam Newton and company, while those from the West may be likely to take the points and go with the underdog Oregon Ducks. Those folks situated between the Rockies and the Mississippi might as well just flip a coin in the end.
The Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl look to be toss-ups as well.
For the Rose Bowl, the choice is clear regarding which team is more focused and which team has more to prove.
They say it’s easy to forget about anything that finishes "No. 2," but everyone remembers an undefeated season.
TCU came close last year, but lost a tough game to Boise where Andy Dalton threw three interceptions. This time, they will cherish their second chance.
Frankly, I would have loved to see the Horned Frogs get the opportunity to shut down Oregon or Auburn, but I’ll settle for watching them do it to Wisconsin.
As David Lee Roth once put it, those "Midwest farmers’ daughters" up in Madison may have to wait until next season to smell the roses.
Expect TCU, who has out-gained 32 of their last 33 opponents, to be all business and defeat Wisconsin, as the Horned Frogs will bring home those roses to the pretty cowgirls of Fort Worth.