Georgia football: Is TCU a bigger challenge than Ohio State, or a mirage?

TCU Horned Frogs and Georgia Bulldogs logos at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the site of the Playoff Fan Central. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
TCU Horned Frogs and Georgia Bulldogs logos at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the site of the Playoff Fan Central. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Georgia football pulled off an unbelievable win against Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but is TCU an even tougher opponent as some have stated?

If you’re a Georgia football fan, you know who Ohio State is. You hear about them week in, week out. You hear the names of their star players repeated constantly on College GameDay. You hear about the rigorous schedule they play in the Big Ten.

Ohio State is a national brand, and a win against the Buckeyes, even in the regular season, is a peg to hang your hat upon. Beating them in the College Football Playoff? Well, you can hang an entire hat store on that one.

Georgia fought hard, expending a lot of energy and emotion, to close the deal in the playoff semifinal game against Ohio State. Now they’re faced with a new task and a team that — other than film study and stats — they don’t know very well at all.

If you think of TCU in 2022, the name Max Duggan leaps to mind. The Horned Frogs quarterback has made a year-long career out of bringing his team back from the abyss. But if you were hard-pressed, could you name any other players on the TCU roster?

Most fans can’t. The same is probably true for a lot of players. The Big 12 was dismissed early on in the season as a conference that is on the brink of folding, with its two biggest brands joining the SEC in the coming year or two. TCU was an afterthought even in that conference. They didn’t even get a top-25 vote in the preseason.

So have the Horned Frogs benefitted from a cakewalk schedule, or are they a team that too many others simply overlooked?

At the beginning of the season, TCU had the 42nd most difficult schedule in the nation, based on opponents’ W-L records and bowl wins/losses the previous year. If you look at the final results of their schedule, at first glance it might appear that it got more difficult.

Or, did it?

In truth, Georgia football had a tougher schedule than TCU football

A cursory view of the 13-1 Horned Frogs’ schedule has them playing and winning games against five Top-25 teams. But those rankings were at the time of the game. While the season doesn’t exist in a vacuum you do need to consider where those teams ended the season.

Breaking down their schedule week by week makes it seem a tad less daunting.

They opened the season against Colorado, a Pac-12 team who only managed one victory during the season. Week 2 saw them in cupcake-land against Tarleton State, an FCS team who only went 6-5 on the season.

From there it was a game against Sonny Dykes former team, SMU, who finished the 2022 campaign with a 7-6 record.

TCU then began conference play, where they went undefeated until the rematch with Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game. Some would brag that stretch is when the Horned Frogs beat the best teams.

Oklahoma was ranked No. 18 when they played TCU. They finished the season 6-7 and unranked.

Kansas was ranked No. 19 when they met TCU. They finished the season 6-7 and unranked.

Oklahoma State was ranked No. 8 at the time of the TCU game. They finished the season 7-6 and unranked.

The list goes on. In fact, the only two teams that TCU played who ended the season ranked in the Top 25 were Texas and Kansas State. They barely eeked out a 17-10 win against the Longhorns who finished the season with a loss to Washington in the Alamo Bowl, and went 1-1 against the Wildcats, who were blown out by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

So maybe their schedule wasn’t quite as tough as many want to make it out to be.

Ok…here it comes…

“Hey, they just beat Michigan”

Indeed they did. They beat the team who beat Ohio State. But it wasn’t because Max Duggan gave them the performance of a lifetime, the way CJ Stroud did against Georgia. They beat Michigan because the Wolverines essentially beat themselves. The Horned Frogs got 14 points off two pick-sixes and Michigan turned the ball over on downs twice in the game.

Anyone who is surprised that Michigan’s offense and quarterback play let them down in a big game hasn’t been watching much Michigan football during the Harbaugh era.

So no, TCU is almost certainly not a better team than Ohio State. Will they present some different challenges? Every game does. Will Max Duggan exploit the Georgia defense? It’s possible, but probably no more than Stetson Bennett will exploit theirs.

The hope is that Georgia learned a lot from the Ohio State game that they can carry with them to the matchup with TCU, and prove once again that the Dawgs are still on top.

Next. 3 TCU Players the Dawgs Must Stop. dark