Playing in the Big East doesn't promise success. It only mandates not being overlooked.

If Boise State senior kicker Kyle Brotzman didn't miss two chip-shot field goals in the Broncos' November 27 loss to Nevada, TCU and its 12-0 record would likely be ranked No. 4 by the BCS and headed to the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. While the difference in prestige is incalculable, the financial discrepancy is inconceivable. Boise will earn $1 million; TCU $17 million.

It's a giant payday on a big stage for a Fort Worth program that has won 25 consecutive regular-season games and 38 of 41 overall, losing only to Oklahoma, Utah and Boise (in last year's Fiesta Bowl) since 2008. In Pasadena the Frogs can not only stake their claim as being the best team in 2010, they can shut up the Big Ten blowhards for years to come.

"I know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor," Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee said in November in response to the clamoring for respect by Boise and TCU. "We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet, that there's some reason to believe that they may not be the best teams to be in the big ballgame."

Perfect. Bulletin-board motivational material from a bozo in a bow tie.

TCU won't—can't—win a national championship, but will win the Rose Bowl. Teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin can have their elitist attitudes, but the Horned Frogs have college football's speediest, stingiest defense. Oregon has the nation's best offense and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is the sport's best player, but TCU is the best team.

In the Horned Frogs' future is a new, bigger conference and a new, bigger facility as 80-year-old Amon G. Carter Stadium undergoes a $105 million facelift. In TCU's present: a football team that is all grown up but still, inexplicably, being told it isn't tall enough to ride this ride.

Go figure.

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