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When was the last time TCU won a national championship?

The Horned Frogs are aiming for heights they haven’t experienced since the Great Depression.

Davey O’Brien

Update December 31, 8:07 p.m. ET: The Horned Frogs knocked off the Michigan Wolverines 41-35 in the 2023 Fiesta Bowl. They will face the Georgia Bulldogs for the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 9.

The No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs will have the chance of a lifetime on Saturday when meeting the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines at the Fiesta Bowl for the College Football Playoff semifinal. A victory in Glendale, AZ, on New Year’s Eve would advance them to the national championship game on January 9, where they’d have a chance to accomplish something the program hasn’t done in nearly a century.

The last time TCU won a national championship was in 1938, where that team ran the table and finished No. 1 in the then brand new AP poll. Led by quarterback Davey O’Brien (yes, that Davey O’Brien), the Horned Frogs ripped right through its Southwest Conference schedule and battered non-conference foes like Temple, Marquette, and Tulsa. A huge part of that was due to how dominant they were defensively as they held opponents to single digits in all but one contest.

TCU would go on to defeat Carnegie Tech 15-7 in the fifth ever Sugar Bowl on New Year’s day to officially cap the perfect 11-0 season. Throwing for 1,509 yards and 19 touchdowns (ridiculous passing numbers for the time), O’Brien would be awarded the fourth ever Heisman Trophy at the end of the year.

After decades upon decades of wandering in the wilderness of irrelevance, TCU would have a few close calls at competing for a national title during the Gary Patterson era. The Andy Dalton-led Horned Frogs finished the 2010 regular season with a perfect 12-0 record and was ranked No. 3 in the final BCS standings. They just missed the cut of making the BCS title game and after defeating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, they were ranked No. 2 in the final AP poll.

A few years later, the program finished the regular season with an 11-1 record with its lone loss coming in a wild 61-58 shootout against rival Baylor. They was famously ranked No. 3 in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings of the season before being jumped by Florida State and eventual national champion Ohio State in the final rankings, leaving them out of the playoff field. Afterwards, the Horned Frogs gradually faded from the national stage until Patterson stepped down midway through the 2021 season. We’ll see if Sonny Dykes can make some history in his first year in Fort Worth, TX.