Sugar Bowl: #6 TCU v. #2 Cincinnati
In real life, the impact of this game, as the “non-traditional” championship game compared to the “traditionalist” Rose Bowl, has been blunted by both teams losing their bowl games. And since TCU beat Florida (in the quarters), who beat Cincinnati (in real life), it would seem to suggest TCU will be the favorite. Which is exactly what happened – and they did it in such a way that, without the knowledge that the real life Horned Frogs lost to Boise State and combined with the convincing quarterfinal win over Florida, it may be hard to call the Rose Bowl winner a convincing favorite. TCU sure doesn’t look like a mid-major team.
Cincinnati had the ball to start the game, and Tony Pike had a 15-yard completion to Mardy Gilyard on second down, followed by an Isaiah Pead run to midfield for six yards, but he was stopped behind the line on second down and the Bearcats were forced to punt. TCU went three-and-out with a fumble and Cincinnati looked to have the early momentum. But they went three-and-out as well, and on the Frogs’ next play from scrimmage Joseph Turner pounded ahead for an 18-yard gain, putting TCU across midfield after a face mask penalty. TCU couldn’t do anything and was forced to punt, but Cincinnati didn’t get very far either despite an 11-yard Pead run and an 8-yard run by Jacob Ramsey that both went for first downs. TCU went three-and-out again, but Pike was picked on the very next play, and TCU had the momentum for good. Andy Dalton made a long completion to Jeremy Kerley, and Matt Tucker pounded ahead for a six-yard touchdown to take the early lead. The teams traded three-and-outs across the quarter break.
Cincinnati managed to pick up a first down but a big sack of Pike helped force a punt despite crossing midfield. A Dalton pass to Evan Frosch and 7-yard Tucker run crossed midfield, but the drive stalled and TCU punted the ball back. But after the defense forces yet another three-and-out, the ensuing punt is returned almost to midfield, and a completion to Bart Johnson for 23 yards pretty much puts the Horned Frogs in field goal range, allowing them to take a 10-point lead. The Bearcats then engage in their most productive drive of the half: after a second down sack pinned the Bearcats behind their own 20, Pike makes a 27-yard completion to Gilyard and follows that up with a 15-yard Pead run and a 17-yard completion to Ben Guidugli that puts them inside the 30. But a Ramsey 8-yard run is negated by an illegal motion penalty the following play, and Pike is sacked out of field goal range on third down, forcing a turnover on downs. Dalton makes a long completion to Logan Brock but can’t do anything with it, but while Guidugli makes a long completion there isn’t enough time to do anything with it. Cincinnati enters the break down 10-0 and unable to so much as attempt a field goal, and pundits note that TCU is winning the game because their defense is outplaying the Bearcat defense.
TCU gets the ball to start the second half and makes the most of it, the highlights being a long completion to Kerley and Dalton dancing inside the pylon for eight yards, ultimately setting up a field goal that gives TCU a 13-point lead that seems twice that size. Things seem to go well for Cincinnati at first as well, with a 25-yard completion to DJ Woods, but another pass to Armon Binns results in what replay confirms as a fumble, giving TCU the ball right back. TCU can’t do much more than a pass to Johnson across midfield, and punts the ball into the end zone, starting another productive Bearcat drive, starting with another long completion to Gilyard, 17 yards on third and 12. Jamar Howard gets involved for the next first down, and Gilyard makes a nine-yard completion for another first down, but once again the Horned Frogs lock down inside the 40 and force Cincinnati to go for it on fourth down, this time getting a sack that gives TCU great field position to start the final period. By the end of the day, Pike is sacked nine times by eight different players and, combined with four rushing attempts, loses a total of a whopping 62 yards on the ground by himself. Turner would be named the MVP for his 17 rushes for 81 yards and a touchdown, emblematic of TCU’s overall rushing success, but the defense is the real star of the day.
TCU misses the field goal created by the turnover, but Pike throws his second interception, Ross Evans quickly redeems himself, and TCU, as though they weren’t in command already, puts the game away for the remainder of the final period, scoring a touchdown after Cincinnati punts on their next drive only to see it returned inside the 30, and scoring another touchdown, Turner’s, later on. Cincinnati is unable to score all day, or even attempt a field goal, and notice is served to Alabama and Texas that they do not have the de facto national championship game.
Final score: TCU 30, Cincinnati 0
Preview of the Golden Bowl coming either if and when I simulate a bowl only affected by the Golden Bowl Tournament, or when posting my final rankings.