That's what it came down to tonight. TCU had an infinitesimally slim chance of playing in the national championship game going into today's college football action. We needed Pitt to beat Cincinnati, Clemson to beat Georgia Tech and (especially) Nebraska to beat Texas. It was unlikely, nearly impossible...and then...
The games got close. And they stayed close. Cincy pulled out a one-point comeback win at Pitt--bad for us because because it might let Cincy jump us in the BCS standings (right now, we're at four and Cincy's at five). But it was just a one-point win over a Pitt team that faded at the end of the season. It might not have impressed poll voters that much. So, we still had hope at mid-day.
Following Florida's big loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game--arguably a good thing for us, as it'll surely knock Florida out of the BCS top two--tonight brought Nebraska-Texas and GT-Clemson. GT-Clemson wasn't really critical to us; it just would have helped for Clemson to win the ACC Championship Game because we beat Clemson in South Carolina earlier this season. Long story short, Clemson led by one point late in the game but ended up losing by five. Not a good result for us but not a deal-breaker, either.
And then there was the Big 12 Championship Game between Texas and Nebraska. A highly unlikely Nebraska win (the Cornhuskers entered the game as two-touchdown underdogs) could very well have vaulted us into the BCS top two--over Florida and Texas, assuming Cincy didn't jump us--and into the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena in January. I don't even have words for how I would have felt had that happened. Unfortunately, I don't need them now, either.
I expected--everybody expected--Texas to crush Nebraska. But the Huskers kept the game close...and kept it close...and then finally took the lead by two with 1:44 to play... ... ... ...only to lose on a (literally) last-second field goal. Crushing. Incredible. And there's nothing we could do about it.
Seven total points in three different games--Cincy by one, GT by five and, most painfully, Texas by one--"doomed" TCU to a mere BCS bowl. Honestly, I'm still thrilled that we'll be in a major bowl game, our first for half a century. And I'll make it to the game and have fun no matter what. We're still 12-0. This was still a magical season.
But I feel as though this TCU team could play with anybody in the country--even Alabama and Texas--and we won't get the chance. It's funny how I've gone from euphoria to frustration without TCU losing a game. College football is a stupid sport--it has the worst and most convoluted process for determining a champion in all of sports. Today, we got stung by that process.
Hopefully we'll be able to prove ourselves in a BCS bowl and start high in the polls next season. I'm still excited about going to a bowl in January for the first time in my lifetime--but I'm also frustrated and drained. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be sports fans...