Tired No. 4 TCU has done its job for playoff so far at 11-0

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FORT WORTH, Texas – There will be some people who look at how fourth-ranked TCU is still undefeated going into the final week of the regular season, and they will question if the Horned Frogs really deserve to be part of the playoff discussion.

Their latest victory came on a chaotic game-ending field goal that capped a two-score rally in the final 2 minutes, 7 seconds at Baylor, in a stadium with a bitter playoff-busting memory for the Frogs (11-0, 8-0 Big 12, No. 4 CFP). Only one of their conference wins has been by more than 10 points and they had to overcome double-digit deficits after halftime in back-to-back games last month.

“They can say whatever they want to say. Our job’s to win football games. We’ve done our job up to this point,” first-year TCU coach Sonny Dykes said after Saturday’s 29-28 win. “And, you know, hopefully we’ll do it again Saturday. And what anybody says I couldn’t care less about.”

The first Big 12 team to reach 11-0 in the College Football Playoff era, the Frogs play their regular-season finale against Iowa State (4-7, 1-7) next weekend. They then will have to go only about 20 miles from campus to play No. 15 Kansas State or No. 24 Texas in the Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 3, the day before the final CFP rankings that will determine the four playoff teams.

Those will be the 10th and 11th consecutive Saturdays for TCU to play since its open date during Week 3 back in mid-September.

“We’re tired. I mean, I’m not going to lie. … We’ve played a lot of games like this, and this takes a lot out of you,” Dykes said. “It wasn’t always perfect (Saturday), but the end result happened the way we wanted it to and we were fortunate. I think we all know that. But at the same time, it’s like I told the guys, it’s not an accident. If we’re not a team that doesn’t do things the right way, then we don’t get ourselves in that position to be able to make that play.”

A play called bazooka, with the field-goal unit running onto the field as the final seconds were clicking off the clock. Griffin Kell, who earlier missed an extra point, made the 40-yard kick as time expired at McLane Stadium – where a 61-58 setback in 2014 was their only loss that season, the first with a four-team playoff.

Quarterback Max Duggan said his only thought while the offense ran off the field as the field-goal unit shuffled by them was, “Griff’s gonna go win the game.”

Emari Demarcardo’s 3-yard TD with 2:07 left capped a 90-yard drive to get the Frogs within 28-26, but he dropped the pass on a 2-point conversation try that would have tied the game. TCU got the ball back with 1:34 left after using all three of its timeouts and forcing a three-and-out by Baylor, which finished with 501 total yards a week after the Frogs held Texas to 199 yards in a 17-10 road victory.

Since coming off their open date with an emotional 42-34 win at SMU, which had won the previous two games in that series when Dykes was coach of the Mustangs, and a 55-24 win over then-No. 18 Oklahoma in their Big 12 opener, the Frogs have had nothing come easy.

They got the tiebreaking touchdown at then-undefeated Kansas with 1:36 left, before their double-digit comebacks at home: down 17 in the second quarter before beating Oklahoma State 43-40 in double overtime, then behind 18 late in the first half to Kansas State before winning 38-28.

After those four consecutive victories over ranked opponents – though only K-State is still in the AP Top 25 – the Frogs won 41-31 at West Virginia after adding a touchdown in the closing seconds. They scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat Texas Tech 34-24.

“This league is really good,” Dykes said. “Anybody that doesn’t understand that, or tries to diminish what these players have done, just doesn’t know much about what they’re talking about honestly.”

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.