Who Can Be Next Year’s TCU?

In 2022, we saw the TCU Horned Frogs do something that no team in College Football Playoff history has done: make the National Championship game after starting the season unranked.

The Horned Frogs were picked to finish seventh in the conference last season, but ended the regular season at 12-0 before losing to K-State in the Big 12 Championship game. Then, Sonny Dykes’ Frogs did the unthinkable and made the College Football Playoff after losing in the conference championship game and went on to beat a 13-0 Michigan team in a game for the ages.

So, that begs the question: is TCU’s path to the CFP replicable, and if so, who will do it next year? Here are three teams that I think can take the same path as the 2022 Horned Frogs in 2023.


Texas Tech Red Raiders

2023 Record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Key Returners: QB Tyler Shough, RB Tahj Brooks, WR Jerand Bradley, DL Tony Bradford Jr., DL Jaylon Hutchings

Key Additions: WR DeAndre McCray, S CJ Bakersfield, OL Rusty Staats

Key Departures: LB Tyree Wilson, RB SaRodrick Thompson, LB Dimitri Moore, S Reggie Pearson

Texas Tech finished the 2022 season with a dominant 42-25 victory over Ole Miss in the TaxAct Texas Bowl, bringing their overall record to 8-5 and the excitement around the program to a high it hasn’t seen in more than a decade. In Joey McGuire’s second year, the Red Raiders could be more dangerous offensively as Tyler Shough and Tahj Brooks return in the backfield with Jerand Bradley and transfer DeAndre McCray at wideout. Defensively, the Red Raiders will have to replace Tyree Wilson on the edge, but the interior of the defensive line is a strength with both Tony Bradford Jr. and Jaylon Hutchings coming back. I don’t expect TTU to be ranked in the preseason poll, and if they are, it will likely be near the bottom of the Top 25, which is totally fine by Joey McGuire. Texas Tech was starting to click as the season was winding down, and if they can find a way to improve on what we saw at season’s end in 2022, there could be a Big 12 championship, or more, in store for the Red Raiders in 2023.


Texas Longhorns

2023 Record: 8-5 (6-3 Big 12)

Key Returners: QB Quinn Ewers, WR Xavier Worthy, LB Jaylan Ford, DL T’Vondre Sweat, TE Ja’Tavion Sanders, DB Jahdae Barron, EDGE Barryn Sorrell, OL Cole Hutson, OL Kelvin Banks, WR Isaiah Neyor

Key Additions: QB Arch Manning, LB Anthony Hill, RB Cedric Baxter, WR AD Mitchell, S Jalen Catalon

Key Departures: RB Bijan Robinson, LB DeMarvion Overshown, DL Keondre Coburn, DL Moro Ojomo, CB D’Shawn Jamison, RB Roschon Johnson

I know, I know. Anyone outside of Austin is tired of hearing how the Texas Longhorns are “back.” Well, let me preface this by saying that the Longhorns will have some things to work out at quarterback and running back. However, if either Arch Manning or Quinn Ewers can establish themselves as the undisputed QB1 and Cedric Baxter is the day-one starter that he looks to be at running back, Texas could have a monster year. The Longhorns are dripping with talent at several key positions and a young and talented offensive line will be one year older and more experienced. Defensive returners in Jaylan Ford, Jahdae Barron, and T’Vondre Sweat give UT a proven difference-maker at all three levels of the defense. Plus, with the addition of AD Mitchell and Isaiah Neyor (missed 2022 with a knee injury), and Ja’Tavion Sanders and Xavier Worthy back, Texas’ offensive weaponry is downright scary. People will overlook Texas on the basis that they’re constantly hyped year-in and year-out, but I’m buying it in 2023.

Oklahoma Sooners

2023 Record: 6-7 (3-6 Big 12)

Key Returners: QB Dillon Gabriel, RB Jovantae Barnes, OL Tyler Guyton, WR Jalil Farooq, LB Danny Stutsman, DB Woodi Washington, DL Ethan Downs, S Billy Bowman

Key Additions: EDGE Dasan McCullough, DL Rondell Bothroyd, TE Austin Stogner, OL Walter Rouse, WR Andrel Anthony, S Reggie Pearson, DE Adepoju Adeboware, S Peyton Bowen, WR Jaquaize Pettaway, CB Kendal Dolby

Key Departures: OL Anton Harrison, RB Eric Gray, WR Marvin Mims, TE Brayden Willis, LB David Ugwoegbu

There might not be a team in a more similar situation to TCU last season than the Oklahoma Sooners. Brent Venables’ first year did not to go plan, and because of that, his coaching staff went out and got several pieces that will contribute in 2023. Oklahoma returns a strong group of contributors on both sides of the ball including quarterback Dillon Gabriel on offense and the Big 12’s leading-tackler, Danny Stutsman, on defense. EDGE Dasan McCullough, DE Rondell Bothroyd, and CB Kendal Dolby will all be day-one starters for the Sooners, while freshmen EDGE Adepoju Adeboware, S Peyton Bowen, and WR Jaquaize Pettaway are all some of the top players at their position in the 2023 class. Oklahoma lost seven games in 2022, five of which were by seven points or less, and four of which were by exactly three points. Oklahoma doesn’t need to improve that much to win double-digit games in 2023, and I have a feeling they are going to be much, much better in Year 2 under Venables. The Sooners have been left off of several Way-Too-Early Top 25 lists, and that sets them up perfectly to come out of nowhere like TCU did in 2022.

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