LOS ANGELES — Johnny Hodges loves his chips.
“We’re a crew stuffed with chips,” the TCU linebacker mentioned.
In Hodges shorthand, that interprets to chips on shoulders. A cliché, certain, however an entree into the center of the No. 3 Horned Frogs. They weren’t meant to be right here within the College Football Playoff Nationwide Championship.
In reality, the final crew in an analogous place was BYU in 1984. These Cougars are the latest nationwide champions coming from outdoors the present Energy 5.
TCU as a member of the Huge 12 is clearly a Energy 5 crew nowadays, however it’s been a league-hopper during the last quarter century. When its ancestral Southwestern Convention broke up, TCU was handed over for Huge 12 membership. From there adopted a purgatory of stops within the WAC, Convention USA and Mountain West.
The determined, little purple engine that would lastly achieved its energy convention brass ring when the Huge 12 opened its doorways to TCU in 2012.
There is a motive why No. 1 Georgia is favored by almost two touchdowns, the biggest line in CFP Nationwide Championship historical past. TCU is an extended shot. If the Frogs win, they’d defeat maybe the very best program within the sport. If the Bulldogs do not already maintain that mantle, Monday evening may go an extended solution to constructing that narrative.
TCU is simply making an attempt to hold on, in the event you consider recruiting rankings. The Frogs have 17 blue-chip recruits on their roster, 4 of whom are transfers. The Dawgs have 4 occasions as many.
“You may’t overstate what they’ve carried out,” mentioned former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, a School Soccer Corridor of Fame member, of TCU. “They only keep after you. They don’t seem to be an ebb and movement kind of crew. They only keep the identical on a regular basis whether or not it is going effectively or not. It is laborious to beat a crew that will not be beat.”
That explains the Frogs’ late-game comebacks. That explains TCU hanging 55 on Oklahoma. That explains operating for 263 yards towards a shocked Michigan. That explains why the TCU impression cannot be ignored.
Huge 12 commissioner Brett Yormark was skipping round Saturday on the CFP Nationwide Championship media day like his convention had already gained. Yormark has already acknowledged his intent of increasing the Huge 12 out to the Pacific Time Zone. With USC and UCLA leaving for the Huge Ten, TCU and Huge 12 entered the L.A. market this week.
There’s a area of interest group about 27 miles North of SoFi Stadium, the positioning of Monday’s sport, known as Frogtown. It isn’t a metropolis unto itself however — as its web site proclaims — “a progressive, pocket group … the place socially acutely aware hipsters and multi-generation households cohabitate and name house.”
Frogtown can also be the positioning of a Huge 12 takeover this weekend. Actually, that is what they’re calling it: a “takeover.” There’s purple beer within the Frogtown brewery. There will likely be 200 free Frogtown tacos accessible on the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday.
Superstar sneaker artist Kickstradomis is designing a Horned Frog-themed pair of kicks.
What’s this bought to do with beating Georgia? You are lacking the purpose. Yormark is making an attempt to take over the world, and the Frogs are his invading military.
“Take into consideration the place this convention was six months in the past, 12 months in the past, 18 months in the past,” Yormark informed CBS Sports activities. “It has been a transformative second. Clearly, it is a huge validation.
“It additionally validates the composition and make-up of our convention. I am certain there are individuals who had been anxious. What is going on to occur with Texas and Oklahoma out? Nobody is speaking about that anymore.”
No, they don’t seem to be. This sport might outline the hopes and goals of comparable hopefuls as soon as the CFP expands in 2024.
Slocum coached towards TCU within the SWC a number of occasions throughout his profession. He was additionally shut pals with former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, father of present TCU coach Sonny Dykes. They had been so shut Sonny recalled coming house from highschool baseball observe in West Texas seeing his father and Slocum having fun with an grownup beverage within the afternoon.
Slocum has watched Sonny, who entered 2022 with solely 5 successful seasons in 12 as a head coach, unlock greatness. Dykes has taken a roster assembled by former coach Gary Patterson to the brink of a championship.
What would it not imply for TCU, the Huge 12 and faculty soccer if TCU really wins all of it?
Las Vegas answered a part of that query earlier this month when TCU was put in with the longest odds (16-1) to win the championship when the bracket debuted, in line with Caesars Sportsbook. Those that had the foresight to wager $100 on the Frogs would money $1,600 if TCU wins Monday evening.
“It makes the assertion once more that nobody has a lock on successful,” Slocum mentioned. “Simply because you’ve good gamers does not imply you are going to win. The problem is to get these guys all collectively, all enjoying for one another. That provides encourage to loads of colleges on the market that might not be on the prime. It offers them hope.”
It will imply loads of chips could be cashed. Hodges is one among 14 TCU transfers. Annoyed with himself and Navy, he was searching for a brand new house after final season. His dad took on the duty of emailing every of the opposite 131 FBS applications. There have been no takers.
“I could not even watch a soccer sport on weekends with out feeling sick to my abdomen realizing I had underachieved a lot,” Hodges mentioned. “I did not consider in myself. In life, it’s a must to consider in your self greater than anybody. … However popping out of highschool, I did not suppose I used to be adequate to play faculty soccer. I did not suppose I used to be adequate to play at a Energy 5 [program]. My dad did. He bought me right here.”
TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie took discover as a result of he had performed towards Navy whereas at Tulsa previous to being employed by Dykes. Hodges’ addition turned the protection into an opportunistic unit. TCU was outgained by Michigan final week (528-488), however the distinction within the sport might have been two decide sixes.
“We have now loads of guys on this crew who’re three-stars, two-stars that did not have many presents popping out of highschool, so I really feel like everyone already had a chip on their shoulder coming in,” mentioned cornerback Tre’Vious Hodges-Tomlinson.
“It is time to begin taking us very critical. We’re not a joke.”
Not when Hodges-Tomlinson, the nephew of TCU nice LaDanian Tomlinson, is the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner because the nation’s finest defensive again. Not when quarterback Max Duggan is a former state highschool 200-meter champion. (It shocked everybody from Oklahoma to Michigan when Duggan led all Huge 12 quarterbacks in speeding.) Not when Hodges went from no takers to main TCU in tackles.
“The media desires the bluebloods to win,” Hodges mentioned following the Michigan sport. “They need the bluebloods to play one another. The colleges are greater — greater fan bases. That is what they need. For us, [it’s] to place ourselves on the map, earn some cash and put some respect on your loved ones title.”
That is what is motivating Emari Demercado. In his sixth season, he has wound his approach again house. Out of highschool, his solely FBS presents had been from Military and Navy. That led him to start out at Saddleback School in Mission Viejo, California. As soon as at TCU, he performed down on the depth chart for many of his profession.
When main rusher Zach Evans transferred to Ole Miss, Demercado backed up workhorse Kendre Miller. Immediately, as a central determine in Monday’s sport, Demercado cannot discover sufficient tickets for his household and pals to observe him play for the nationwide title.
Regardless of rising up in close by Inglewood, 5 minutes from SoFi Stadium, he has by no means stepped foot within the venue.
Life was sparse, not superb. In highschool, Demercado lived with a good friend’s household as a result of observe at Downey Excessive Faculty started at 5 a.m. In L.A. the place an enormous metropolis is linked by huge tracks of highways — and visitors — it made sense.
“My mother had purchased me somewhat ’97 Lexus,” Demercado mentioned. “It was simply optimum for me to stick with them.”
Previous to the Fiesta Bowl semifinal, Michigan had given up one 100-yard speeding efficiency all season (Chase Brown, Illinois). Demercado rumbled for a career-high 150 yards in a backup function after Miller was injured.
Oh, and in that sixth 12 months, Demercado was capable of get his grasp’s in enterprise analytics.
“I grew up right here,” Demercado mentioned. “I had my entire childhood right here. I depart and go to Texas and be capable to end my faculty profession right here. It is virtually prefer it’s scripted.”
Chips for everybody.