Texas, California and Nebraska have all fallen victim in the last decade, just missing out on BCS bowls only to sleepwalk through losses to lesser opponents.
And for three quarters, it looked as if TCU would bring that tradition to the Holiday Bowl's younger brother, the Poinsettia Bowl.
But the Horned Frogs rallied to score 14 points in the fourth quarter and come away with a 31-24 win over Louisiana Tech at Snapdragon Stadium on Wednesday night in front of a crowd of 24,607, lowest in the game's seven-year history.
Wide receiver Skye Dawson caught the winning score, a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Casey Pachall with 4:26 left in the game to give TCU (11-2) its third Poinsettia Bowl win.
"We did have an expectation to get into the BCS," said Dawson, the game's offensive MVP who caught four passes for 85 yards. "Didn't happen, had to come out here and play hard."
TCU overcame a lethargic start, perhaps induced by that snub, including a facemask penalty that negated a 38-yard run to the Louisiana Tech 5-yard line by Matthew Tucker.
"They've been doing it all year, going back to the Baylor game when we got ourselves back into the ball game," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Pachall threw for 206 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The first-year starting quarterback also set school records for passing yards and completions in a season, both previously held by Andy Dalton.
"The bar is going to be set high for myself and my team," Pachall said.
But the Horned Frogs' unlikeliest hero was fullback Luke Shivers. The senior ended the regular season with 101 yards of total offense on 13 touches, but tied the game at 24 on his two-yard touchdown run after earlier catching a 10-yard pass on fourth and 1 to set up a short touchdown run by Tucker in the third quarter.
"Haven't you guys seen that study on fourth downs?" Patterson joked. "I went over it with the math department and they were telling me how it was stupid to punt."
The Bulldogs (8-5) rolled up 268 yards of total offense in the first half, but managed just 10 points because of two critical turnovers. Running back Hunter Lee lost a fumble inside TCU territory in the first quarter, while quarterback Colby Cameron was intercepted by Greg McCoy late in the second quarter.
Defensive MVP McCoy returned the ball 24 yards, setting up a 7-yard touchdown run by Ed Wesley with 55 seconds left in the half.
"That was a critical play in the game, " Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes said. "We gave them a cheap touchdown right before the half. Could have gone into halftime with a sizable lead but let them right back in the game.
"When you play a good football team like TCU and you have as many opportunities to distance yourself from them as we did, that's going to come back and bite you."
Cameron completed 21 of 43 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Myles White caught seven passes for a game-high 110 yards and a score.
As one of just four bowl games matching conference champions, along with the Rose, Orange and GoDaddy.Com, Dykes believed his team acquitted itself well.
"If you asked the national media, they wouldn't know what state Louisiana Tech was in," he said.
"For our guys to come out here and play with the confidence that we played with and expected to win I think is a real credit to them and how far we've come as a program."