TCU's run to the College Football Playoff National Championship wasn't supposed to happen. Whether unintentional or by design, when it comes to determining a national champion, college football has always been a sport great at separating the wheat from the chaff. It's a sport where Cinderella isn't even supposed to make it to 9 p.m., let alone midnight.

Despite exceeding expectations by reaching the game, TCU's 65-7 loss to Georgia was an excellent reminder of the divide that remains in the sport between the elite and the upstarts. While TCU's run is unlikely to ever happen again before playoff expansion, if we look past what the Horned Frogs have been historically, and instead focus on how they pulled off the impossible, we see there's a path.

While it's impossible to boil everything that TCU did down to one paragraph, let's try! First of all, the Frogs brought in a new coach, Sonny Dykes, who helped establish a new culture within the program. Next, the Frogs had a quarterback in Max Duggan — who wasn't the Week 1 starter, mind you — perform to the utmost of his ability in an offense designed to take advantage of what he, and his teammates, had to offer. Finally, there was some luck involved. There always is, even for elite teams. Going 6-1 in one-score games with an overall point margin of +29 (4.14 per game) means a few coin-flip situations went TCU's way far more often than not.. To be clear, that is nothing to be ashamed about. When you combine being good with being lucky, great things happen.

So can it happen again? While it's not the recommended path to success, we've seen that it's possible. With that in mind, I went through all the Power Five teams to miss out on a bowl game in 2022 to see if I could find any that might be capable of going from home for the holidays to playing on New Year's Eve. While there aren't many TCU types (use it as bulletin board material, Vanderbilt), there are five Power Five programs that can pull it off. These are the prime candidates (though none are coached by Prime).



OK, let's check off some boxes here. It's a team coming off a 5-7 season with a first-year head coach. Sure, it's Auburn, and it has won a national title this century, so it's not a true "TCU" program, but it meets enough criteria to make the list. Auburn has proven time and again that if everybody involved with the program pulls in the same direction, it's capable of doing great things.