Even with a proven head coach and returning talent, TCU football was not expected to make this much noise. Not this fast. And yet, with only three games left in their season, the Horned Frogs have a real shot at taking the national title home this year.
Texas Christian University had a very bumpy entry into power-five competition, as noted by Mark Ross in Athlon Sport's spring football preview.
So why have things turned around so quickly, and how are they a threat to win it all? Here are the main factors contributing to a potentially deep postseason run for the Purple and White:
TCU Can Win Pretty or Ugly
Squeak by in a tight contest? Yep—those types of games are on their resume.
Defeat an offensive squad in a shoot-out? Sure, they can do that, too. We all witnessed how TCU overwhelmed Kansas State in Amon G. Carter Stadium, as chronicled by B/R featured columnist Sean Frye. The 82-27 destruction of Texas Tech (which set a school record for most points ever scored in a game) already proved TCU's explosive capabilities.
What sets the Horned Frogs apart from many contenders is the 31-30 victory over a wily West Virginia on the road.
After making a statement by upsetting Oklahoma, then barely falling to Baylor 61-58 in a glorified Waco track meet, the Horned Frogs could have overlooked the Mountaineers and stumbled in Morgantown. The resolve TCU has shown to this point in a better-than-expected Big 12 validates a No. 4 ranking by the CFP Committee.
Horned Frogs Offense Now Strength of Team
Since the beginning of the new millennium (when Gary Patterson took over as head coach), TCU's calling card has mostly been defense. Outside of LaDainian Tomlinson and Andy Dalton, the Horned Frogs have been historically categorized by sound fundamentals and scrappy play—the quintessential underdog out of the Mountain West Conference.
For the past few years amongst Goliaths in the Big 12, the David approach has simply not worked. This is why Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech were brought in during the offseason to rejuvenate a stagnant offense.
The results have been monumental.
According to sports-reference.com, last year Texas Christian only had one rusher total over 500 yards, and their leading receiver in touchdowns amassed just five scoring catches.
By the time TCU finishes feasting on the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, backs Aaron Green and B.J. Catalon and quarterback Trevone Boykin should all have over 500 yards on the ground. To date, the Horned Frogs also have two wideouts with seven touchdown catches on the season in Deante' Gray and Josh Doctson.
Boykin is New York Bound
The development of signal-caller Trevone Boykin has been a wonderful thing to behold. The former wideout/running back has flourished under the quick-tempo spread attack implemented by the new regime.
Because play calls have been made simpler and therefore easier to relay and repeat at the line of scrimmage, Boykin's natural instincts and athleticism take over on a much more consistent basis. This has led to spectacular plays such as the leaping score against Kansas State that caught the attention of the NFL, as listed by Mike Huguenin.
Trevone Boykin is the catalyst for the now high-powered Horned Frog offensive attack. Rangy receivers and a slew of speedy backs round out the unit, but he is their leader and main playmaker. With 23 touchdowns and over 2,600 yards through the air, the Dallas native has performed well enough in big moments not only to have his team prime for a playoff berth, but also to have solidified his position as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
TCU has one more serious test left in Texas on Thanksgiving Night. By getting past the Longhorns, the Horned Frogs will be in the driver's seat to snatch a Sugar Bowl bid, meaning that they would be just a few quarters away from taking the big prize home.
Get ready to pucker up, big boys—it just might be time to acknowledge a new prince at the party.
Unless otherwise noted, all additional statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.
Ariel Bedford, a freelancer from Florida, is a contributor with Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.