Dallas Colleges: TCU Horned Frogs
- Baylor is heading back to AT&T Stadium for the fifth time in six years this weekend. They've got some pretty good digs in Waco now, but the Bears still appreciate playing on that big stage. Art Briles knows Texas Tech will give his team their best shot, just like everyone else has. I like this Briles-ism: "If you don't take care of this week, next week's not going to exist." Plus, it can't hurt to get a little extra experience playing at the site of this year's College Football Playoff title game, right?
- Cool to hear Andy Dalton chime in on how much he's enjoyed watching TCU make a run at the College Football Playoff. The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this season feels a lot like the ones from the Frogs' three-year run that ended with a 2011 Rose Bowl victory. Gary Patterson said the same thing. He believes this team is playing and winning as a group like those teams that combined to go 26-3.
- Dana Holgorsen is wisely treading lightly when it comes to his quarterback situation this week in preparation for Iowa State. He says he's going to judge the "body of work" of both Clint Trickett and Skyler Howard as he decides who starts for West Virginia this week. That probably bodes well for Trickett, who struggled against Kansas State but has still thrown nearly 400 more passes than Howard this season. If WVU take control against the Cyclones early, perhaps we end up seeing both QBs this weekend.
- Now is not a good week for Texas Tech to have question marks in its secondary. Per Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalance-Journal, five DBs have gone down in the past two weeks and there's uncertainty about which ones will return in time to face Baylor. At least cornerbacks Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel II (both true freshmen) are good to go against the nation's No. 4 passing offense. It's too bad linebacker Mike Mitchell isn't available to help this defense, because the Ohio State transfer has been wowing in practice.
- There seems to be lots of love and respect between rival coaches Bill Snyder and Clint Bowen this week. In fact, Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World reports Snyder talked to Bowen about an opening at Kansas State when he returned to coaching in 2009. Snyder had nothing but praise for the interim coach going into his final audition for the head coaching gig. He's seeing more motivation and enthusiasm out of KU since Bowen took charge. If Bowen does keep the job, it's clear they won't exactly be hated rivals.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Baylor had a big weekend, hosting a pair of its 2016 commits in four-star running back Kameron Martin and four-star receiver Tren'Davian Dickson. 2015 ESPN 300 wideout Devontre Stricklin was in McLane Stadium for the Oklahoma State game as well. The Bears also bolstered their trenches for 2015 by snagging a commitment from 6-foot-7, 300-pound City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Dominic Desouza, who had offers from Big 12 foes Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College defensive tackle Demond Tucker visited Iowa State over the weekend. Tucker holds offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Big 12 rival Kansas State. He would be a huge pickup for the Cyclones, who badly need to fortify their defensive line.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks are in a battle with Minnesota for three-star Kansas City, Kansas, inside linebacker Colton Beebe. Two weekends ago, Beebe visited Minnesota, and though he’s visited Kansas unofficially several times, Beebe has indicated he will set an official visit with the Jayhawks after they name a head coach.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have a big visit coming up this weekend in junior-college wideout DeDe Westbrook, who was at Oklahoma this past weekend and Oklahoma State the weekend before that. With Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton both set to graduate, Westbrook would fill a big firepower void at receiver for K-State.
Total commits: 15
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners got some much needed junior college cornerback help with William Johnson of Rochester (N.Y.) Monroe Community College committing after visiting Norman over the weekend. Oklahoma, however, missed out on one of its top targets, as 4-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South stayed in state and committed to UCLA on Sunday.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Oklahoma State had a tough week on the trail, as the Cowboys parted ways from ESPN 300 cornerback Jaylon Lane after he was arrested. Earlier in the week, three-star safety Kenneth McGruder decommitted from the Pokes and reopened his recruitment. Oklahoma State turned McGruder’s spot into a commitment from Kilgore Junior College safety Jordan Burton, who had previously been committed to Memphis.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: TCU remains in the mix for the top wide receiver in Texas in Cedar Hill’s DaMarkus Lodge. The former Texas A&M commit is also looking at Baylor, Ole Miss, LSU and USC and might not pick a school until signing day. The way the Horned Frogs have been throwing the ball around this season hasn’t hurt their chances with Lodge.
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 9
The latest: Cistercian (Irving, Texas) quarterback Matthew Merrick committed to Texas, but will grayshirt and delay his enrollment by a year. Merrick had offers from Colorado State and Nevada. Merrick would give the Longhorns a fourth quarterback for 2016, along with starter Tyrone Swoopes, redshirting freshman Jerrod Heard and incoming freshman Zach Gentry.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: After missing the last month with a broken hand, Texas Tech QB commitment Jarrett Stidham returned with a vengeance Saturday, throwing for 318 yards, rushing for 193 and accounting for nine touchdowns in leading Stephenville to a 69-60 win over Estacado in a playoff game.
Total commits: 22
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: Former Iowa State defensive end commit Larry Jefferson could be on the cusp of pledging with the Mountaineers. His Itawamba (Miss.) Community College defensive end teammate Xavier Pegues has already made that switch, and the two have indicated they want to continue playing together.
This past weekend brought little change to the Big 12 FPI data.
After beating Oklahoma State 49-28, Baylor remained at No. 4. The Bears now have a 70.6 percent chance to win out, and a 72.7 chance to be the Big 12's representative champion. FPI also gives Baylor a 94 percent chance to beat Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.
TCU's chance of winning out, meanwhile, stands at 64.2 percent, but FPI gives Texas a 33 percent chance of upsetting the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving night. The Horned Frogs stayed at No. 11 in FPI rankings after having the weekend off.
Despite beating West Virginia on the road last week, Kansas State remained 18th in FPI. The Wildcats' chances of knocking off Baylor in the season finale, however, bumped up slightly to 25 percent.
Oklahoma State was better offensively at Baylor with freshman QB Mason Rudolph than it had been the previous month, making the Cowboys the Big 12's biggest riser in this week's FPI. Still, the metric only gives the Cowboys an 8.3 percent chance of upsetting Oklahoma on Dec. 6.
Iowa State tied Kansas for the Big 12's biggest FPI drop of the week. The Cyclones fell three spots after losing at home to Texas Tech. FPI only gives Iowa State an 18.7 percent chance to get off its Big 12 winless schneid this Saturday at home against West Virginia.
Max will be in Waco this weekend covering Oklahoma State-Baylor. I will be in Norman to see if Kansas can give another ranked team a scare.
Now, on to the 'bag:
Trotter: I don't think so. Nobody in the top eight plays a noteworthy opponent.
@Jake_Trotter if the top 8 win on Saturday, is there any movement in the standings?— Mike G (@mikefrogit) November 21, 2014
Trotter: The one thing to keep in mind is the playoff committee has said that it's viewing teams individually and not through the prism of what conference they play in. In other words, the committee is examining Ohio State when it does these rankings. Not the Big Ten. So in the eyes of the committee this is about TCU and Baylor vs. Ohio State. Not the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten. What can TCU and Baylor do? Annihilate their upcoming opponents and hope for the best.
@Jake_Trotter the Big10 got beat up in non-con play this year, but still in a better position to make the playoff. What can the Big12 do?— Nathan Quinn (@NateQuinn11) November 21, 2014
@Jake_Trotter Bowl projection and possible opponent for OU?— Casey (@CaptainRiceCake) November 21, 2014
Trotter: Russell Athletic Bowl against Notre Dame?
@Jake_Trotter what are the chances Stoops moves on after this season. Florida? Michigan? NFL? Rumors have been around awhile now.— Nick Heimann (@nick_heimann) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I put it at less than 10 percent. But the only place Stoops would ever leave for would be Florida. And if he was ever going to do it, it would be now. He loves the weather there, he always talks fondly of his time as a defensive coordinator at Florida and he has a great relationship with Florida AD Jeremy Foley. That said, my money is on him staying at Oklahoma. He has the full support of the president and athletic director. He has 100 percent job security. He has his brother Mike coaching with him. He just built a multimillion dollar home. His kids are coming up on high school age. And I'm not sure he wants to coach all that much longer. Going to Florida would prolong that. I'm not sure that's something he wants at this point.
Trotter: Without a doubt. Texas has played excellent football the last three weeks. The defense has been dominant. The offensive line continues to get better. This will be a very tough test for TCU, whether the playoff selection committee realizes it or not.
@Jake_Trotter what year will Texas be the big 12 favorite in the preseason?— Bears and Brews (@BaylorObserver) November 21, 2014
Trotter: This is an interesting thought. It won't be next year. TCU, with QB Trevone Boykin back, will probably be next year's preseason favorite. But by 2016? Yeah, Texas would have a chance to be the preseason favorite, if it continues on the current trajectory we've seen from Charlie Strong's bunch this season.
@Jake_Trotter will the conference look at adding more teams? Will the big 12 still be a conference 5 years from now?— Chris Cruz (@realchriscruz17) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I've been told that the only way the league would look at expansion is if it got left out of the playoff year after year. That could happen this year. If it happened a couple more times, the league would be forced to rethink its current format.
@Jake_Trotter say Gundy does leave, can't you see some Bad-A like Derek Dooley coming in and taking OSU to the top?— Travis Guidry (@TGuidry25) November 21, 2014
Trotter: I sense you're being sarcastic. But if Mike Gundy did bolt after this season, Oklahoma State would be in a position to court several viable candidates. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris would make a bunch of sense. Memphis coach Justin Fuente is an up-and-comer with ties to the state. Gundy's coaching tree includes Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken (who is very popular in Stillwater), North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. The Cowboys would also have an in-house candidate in Glenn Spencer, who has flourished as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator. The Cowboys would have intriguing options.
His Horned Frogs are perpetually on the move in the unpredictable College Football Playoff rankings, from seventh to sixth to that oh-so-coveted No. 4 spot. Now they’re No. 5. Everything this team has done and everything that comes next will be held up to extreme scrutiny. Every margin of victory now matters. So does the impending threat of Baylor moving ahead of TCU and that still-treacherous path to a Big 12 championship.
That’s plenty of fodder for an AD to worry about and overanalyze. How’s Del Conte handling it? He’s trying his best not to get too high or too low when the rankings are unveiled each Tuesday night. You can’t let a poll stress you out.
Del Conte recognizes these are great problems to have for a team that was 4-8 in 2013 and projected to finish seventh in the Big 12 this year. You’re not going to get him to complain about where TCU ranks this week. He’s enjoying this season too much to fret.
“We’re 9-1! It's awesome!” Del Conte said. “Yeah, KU was cold and we won by 4. We're 9-1! And yet I'm down at Walgreens buying Pepto-Bismol. That's ridiculous. In the old system, you're down at a local bar ordering a round of champagne for everybody if you're 9-1. These days, you've got to order a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.”
He might want to stock up. The Horned Frogs could be in for an extended stay in the no man's land right outside fourth place so long as they keep winning.
TCU coach Gary Patterson told the AP last week he knows Baylor earned the Big 12 tiebreaker, but "you still get a trophy for being co-champions, and that's the one thing that I can control." His boss is handing these uncertain times just fine, too, no matter which bowl game ends up taking the Frogs.
“The playoff committee has been good for college football,” Del Conte said. “It's been stressful a lot of times, because you're up and down, in and out, who's going where? It's an interesting dynamic. I do like the fact the playoff talks about your total body of work -- nonconference schedule, conference schedule, when you played it, how you played, where you played, rank of teams -- and I think they're doing as good a job as they can possibly do right now.”
Baylor AD Ian McCaw told ESPN.com earlier this month he’d prefer an eight-team playoff in the near future. Del Conte said he hasn’t thought much about it, but mentioned that a system with five conference champions and three at-large selections could eventually become a discussion point.
“But by that time, you'll be talking about not Nos. 5-6-7, but about Nos. 9-10-11. That's always going to be the case,” Del Conte said. “Right now, I think because you have five great conferences for four spots, it creates a different sense of urgency and a different set of circumstances. So I can see why that would be a possibility.”
All he can hope for right now is that his Frogs take care of business on Thanksgiving night at Texas and in their regular-season finale against Iowa State. He'll cross his fingers that, by Dec. 7, the playoff committee has a thorough appreciation for the season this TCU team put together. Del Conte will try to lay off the Pepto until then.
"We've got a chance. We've got to go out and play a great Texas team first," he said. "They're surging at the right time. Tough team. They've got a defense that's loaded and it's going to be a typical Charlie Strong team and we've just got to go down to Texas and see what we can do.
"Our main objective is just taking care of business next weekend against Texas. If we do that and do what we need to do against Iowa State, I feel great about our résumé."
Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney, Kansas State safety Dante Barnett, Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings and TCU linebacker Paul Dawson made the list.
Who was the biggest snub? Plenty of top-notch playmakers found themselves on the outside looking in.
Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is hard to overlook, even with the Cowboys falling apart around him. The redshirt sophomore leads the Big 12 in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (16.5). He’s even turned it up during OSU’s current four-game losing streak with five sacks in his past four games. His team’s horrible recent stretch has overshadowed Ogbah’s excellence.
Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker has been a terror at times and has been taken out of games at other times. The junior has 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss this season but just three tackles for loss and two sacks in OU’s past four games. When he’s at his best, Striker is second to none coming off the edge, constantly forcing offensive coordinators to build their game plans with him in mind.
Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman sets the tone for the Bears defense and backs it up with terrific production. He has 12.5 tackles for loss and ranks third in the Big 12 in tackles for loss per game (1.39), and he’s fourth in the Big 12 at 0.67 sacks per game (six total sacks).
TCU safety Chris Hackett seems to make a big play for the Horned Frogs every week. The junior leads the Big 12 with six interceptions including an interception in each of TCU’s past four games. Hackett has added 66 tackles, including 45 solo stops.
Other potential candidates include Texas Tech’s Pete Robertson, Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks and Kansas State linebacker Jonathan Truman.
Which Big 12 defender was the biggest snub? Vote now and leave your comment below.
- The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton gave his thoughts on the 2015 Big 12 schedule being released. Carlton noted Baylor's November slate, which, while brutal, will also give the Bears an opportunity to impress. The Bears travel to Kansas State (on a Thursday), Oklahoma State and TCU (on a Black Friday) and then play host to Oklahoma before welcoming Texas the first week in December. Whatever happens, the Bears won't be flying under the radar against that stretch.
- The West Virginia and K-State defenses will be in the spotlight tonight, notes the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman. K-State is tough against the run. West Virginia is second in the Big 12 in pass defense. Hickman believes that whichever defense limits the big plays in Morgantown will give its team a win in a Big 12 matchup that will go a long way in determining the bowl fates of both sides.
- The Tulsa World's Bill Haisten reported that Oklahoma State QB Daxx Garman was able to practice Wednesday. According to Haisten, Garman had been rendered inactive by what is believed to have been concussion symptoms. What will be interesting is if Garman is ruled out this weekend at Baylor. The Cowboys could pull the redshirt off freshman Mason Rudolph with only two games left in the season. The Cowboys would obviously like to avoid that, and end the season with Garman behind center. But finally getting the chance to see what Rudolph can do will would be intriguing.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson said the College Football Playoff selection committee has a hard job, and he’s trying to make it harder. “I just want to make it tough on them,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Carlos Mendez. “I want to win the next two, be 11-1, and let them decide. That’s all I can control. I just want to finish the journey.” All the Horned Frogs can do is beat Texas. But there's still a lot of ball to be played around the country. And Patterson seems to realize, if college football has taught us anything over the years, we could be in for a major upset or two.
- Kansas coach Clint Bowen told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that he's been hearing the voices of support, including from Patterson and from Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who both suggested that Bowen deserves the permanent job. “Anytime someone says something positive about you, obviously you notice,” Bowen said. “And it means a lot." Bowen has done everything possible to show the Kansas administration he deserves the permanent job. A strong finish these final two games will only help, too.
- Great read today by Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News on Texas' beloved loudmouth, cornerback Quandre Diggs. The senior four-year starter gets called an old soul by his family and teammates, which is an apt label. He grew up fast and has always brought a mature presence to this Texas team. Referring to Diggs as his team's "conscience" is spot-on. He's the kind of hard-nosed competitor Charlie Strong would love to have a lot more of at UT.
- Two years ago, we got Collin Klein vs. Geno Smith in Morgantown. This time around, the QB showdown of Jake Waters vs. Clint Trickett promises to be a good one. The second-year starters have more in common than you might think -- both are transfers who've raised their game now that they're more at ease operating their respective offense. Keep this in mind, too: Among Big 12 teams, only WVU, KSU and TCU have managed to avoid starting multiple QBs this season. Excited to see how two of the league's most efficient passers respond in coming back from crushing losses.
- Texas Tech is wondering whether left tackle Le'Raven Clark will be back next season. The junior, a three-year starter, could pursue the NFL draft this spring if he gets good feedback from the league. Clark admits he wouldn't like to leave Tech behind after this season, but Kliff Kingsbury and his coaches went through this with Jace Amaro last year and will support Clark no what matter what he decides. The fact that Clark is versatile and experience at playing multiple spots on the line should help his cause.
But which coaches in the conference provide the best value for the dollar? Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top five coaches in terms of value -- i.e. cost per win -- in 2014.
1. Art Briles, Baylor: Not only did Briles lead Baylor to its first Big 12 title a year ago, he’s still bringing terrific value to BU at $391,893.25 per win (eight wins). His salary of $3,135,146 makes him the nation’s 22nd-highest paid coach.
2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: The veteran coach brings terrific value at $414,285.71 per win (seven wins) as his Wildcats still have hope to secure their second Big 12 title in three seasons if they can win out. His salary of $2,900,000 makes him the nation’s 29th-highest paid coach.
3. Gary Patterson, TCU: He’s really earned his money this season with his decision to revamp the offense, potentially at the expense of his defense, during the offseason. As a result, Patterson has brought great value at $445,350 per win (nine wins) this season. He’s the nation’s 11th-highest paid coach at $4,008,150 in 2014.
4. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: After seeing WVU’s bowl streak snapped a year ago, Holgorsen’s squad has responded with six wins thus far this season, making him one of the Big 12’s top values at $513,333.33 per win. Holgorsen’s salary of $3,080,000 makes him the nation’s 23rd-highest paid coach.
5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Even with his squad in the midst of a four-game losing streak, Gundy finds himself in the top half of the conference in terms of value. OSU is paying Gundy $700,000 dollars per win (five wins) in 2014. His salary of $3,500,000 ranks him 15th among college coaches this season.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is the Big 12’s highest-paid coach and the nation's third-highest paid coach at $5,058,333 in 2014. You can find the entire list and where each Big 12 coach lands here.
Baylor: The Bears' defense was supposed to take a step backward after losing several starters from its 2013 unit. Instead BU ranks among the conference leaders in several categories and leads the Big 12 by forcing a punt on 50.8 percent of opponents possessions and could see that number increase this weekend with a hapless Oklahoma State offense visiting McLane Stadium on Saturday.
Iowa State: The Cyclones will need to improve their sack percentage if they hope to slow down Texas Tech’s passing attack. ISU’s 3.5 sack percentage ranks last in the Big 12 as the Cyclones have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks outside of defensive end Cory Morrissey’s five sacks.
Kansas: Beware of the Jayhawks coming out of the halftime locker room. KU has a plus-8 turnover margin in the third quarter, which leads the Big 12. Clint Bowen’s squad could need some turnovers to upset Oklahoma in Norman, so an opportunistic defense could be the Jayhawks' key against OU.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are tough to stop once they get rolling. K-State scores on 66.2 percent of its drives that begin with an initial first down. In other words, a three-and-out is the best bet to slow the Wildcats’ offense, so West Virginia should take heed.
Oklahoma: The Sooners' running game has been impressive but their ball protection has been even more impressive. OU is averaging 240.9 rushing yards per game yet has lost a fumble once in 408 rushes. That’s a 0.7 fumble percentage, best in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' offense is trending downward and the offensive line is a big reason why. Negative plays have become the norm for Mike Gundy’s team with 36.2 percent of their plays resulting in negative yardage. Only Iowa State (37.9) has a worse percentage in the Big 12.
Texas: With a date with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin on the horizon, the Longhorns might be the best equipped to handle the conference’s top dual-threat signal-caller. UT’s 9.3 sack percentage is the best in the Big 12 with Baylor (8.4) as the only other Big 12 team with a sack percentage higher than 8 percent.
TCU: The Horned Frogs do a good job of adjusting their approach at halftime. Their average of 8.39 yards per play in the third quarter is first in the Big 12 and nearly two yards better than second-ranked K-State (6.68 ypp).
Texas Tech: Even with Tech’s uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Red Raiders' defense is at the heart of the struggles for Kliff Kingsbury’s team. Tech is allowing 3.04 points per drive, last in the Big 12 and No. 123 among FBS teams. The Red Raiders' offense hasn’t helped the cause with 22 turnovers but the defense has been unable to overcome those mistakes.
WVU: The Mountaineers' defense has played a huge role in the improvement of Dana Holgorsen’s team. WVU’s pass defense has been much improved with the Mountaineers allowing 6.06 yards per pass attempt, ranking second in the Big 12. Last season, WVU ranked last in the conference at 7.88 yards allowed per pass attempt.
But the fourth edition of the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night confirmed a sobering possibility: instead of either/or for the Big 12, it could be neither/nor.
After a near-fatal trip to Kansas, the Horned Frogs fell one spot to No. 5 in the rankings; Baylor remained stuck in the mud at seventh, still weighed down by its pillowy nonconference schedule.
And so, the primary playoff storyline for the Big 12 is no longer which of the two longtime foes will represent the Big 12 in the playoff, but rather whether the league will have representation in college football's biggest bash at all.
Earlier Tuesday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said during a radio interview with SiriusXM that he still prefers the Big 12's path to the playoff without a conference championship game. But that path also could leave the league in the cold when the four teams are finally determined.
Without a championship game, neither TCU nor Baylor could possibly catch Mississippi State, which currently owns the coveted No. 4 spot, and still has the all-time biggest Egg Bowl looming in two weeks against eighth-ranked Ole Miss.
Without a championship game, TCU might be unable to stave off the budding Buckeyes, either. And Baylor might not be able to pass Ohio State, which surged past the Bears to No. 6 this week. Ohio State also still has the Big Ten championship game, which could feature a top-10-ranked Wisconsin on the other side.
With a championship game of their own, TCU and Baylor could finally settle their bickering on a neutral site, while giving the winner a monster victory that not only would trump wins against Ole Miss, Wisconsin or anyone else for that matter, but catapult the victor into the playoff.
Without a championship game, the Horned Frogs are left hoping the committee will reward them for beating unranked Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving night. And without a championship game, Baylor is left praying Kansas State will keep winning to set up the possibility for a marquee triumph the final week of the season.
But if Tuesday’s rankings were any indication, neither potential victory figures to be enough.
Sure, while the committee is pummeling Baylor in the rankings for its nonconference schedule, Mississippi State seems to be getting a free pass for a creampuff out-of-conference slate that comprised the fearsome foursome of Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin.
And sure, while TCU is getting punished for its fourth quarter in Waco, Ohio State's embarrassing home loss to Virginia Tech seems to be getting swept under the rug because it happened in September in redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett's second career start.
But one of the 12 committee members I am not.
Meaning TCU and Baylor could require losses from those ranked above, below and in between. Either from Alabama or Oregon or Florida State. Or from the Bulldogs or Buckeyes. Yet if the final month of college football has taught us anything over the years, it's that no one is safe. Especially when pressure begins to mount.
Alabama still has the tricky Iron Bowl and the SEC title game either against Missouri or Georgia, the latter sure to provide a formidable roadblock.
The Ducks have the Civil War at plucky Oregon State, then the conference title game against whomever emerges out of a convoluted Pac-12 South.
And the serendipitous Seminoles have Florida, which will at least be galvanized to send Will Muschamp out with a memorable win.
If Kansas can almost beat TCU, then any of those underdogs can win, too. So it's no time for the Bears or Horned Frogs to panic. Not yet, at least.
It is time, however, for both to put aside the bickering. The rankings showed it's no longer about TCU or Baylor, but rather, without a conference championship game, whether either will be in the playoff at all.
Here's a deeper look at what those rankings mean for the Big 12's remaining two playoff contenders:
TCU Horned Frogs
Record: 9-1 (6-1 Big 12)
Playoff committee rank: No. 5
Next big obstacle: Nov. 27 at Texas
Reason for optimism: The Horned Frogs dropped only one spot after their lackluster performance at Kansas. TCU also kept a sizable lead over Baylor in the eyes of the committee, preventing Baylor's head-to-head advantage from coming into play. Oklahoma returned to the rankings at No. 21 and Minnesota remained at No. 25 despite losing, giving the Horned Frogs a trio of top-25 wins. TCU still has a chance to land another quality victory on the road at Texas on Thanksgiving night.
Cause for concern: The Horned Frogs might not control their destiny. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State appear to be the committee's clear top three, leaving only the fourth spot up for grabs. With Mississippi State also sticking in the top four even after falling at Alabama, the Bulldogs could stave off TCU by beating eighth-ranked Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl in two weeks.
Whom they'll be rooting for this week: Minnesota to beat No. 23 Nebraska. As long as the Gophers remain in the top 25, TCU's nonconference résumé will get a boost. It wouldn't hurt if Arkansas knocked off Ole Miss in Fayetteville, either. If Ole Miss went into the Egg Bowl with three losses, then beat Mississippi State, the SEC West would be left with the Crimson Tide as its only real playoff possibility.
Record: 8-1 (5-1)
Playoff committee rank: No. 7
Next big obstacle: Dec. 6 vs. Kansas State
Reason for optimism: At least the Bears didn't go down in the rankings this week, despite coming off an open weekend. Committee chairman Jeff Long also said the difference between No. 4 Mississippi State and No. 7 Baylor was "narrow." Baylor is also now only two spots behind the Horned Frogs. Conventional wisdom would suggest that if the Bears can climb within one spot of TCU, the head-to-head advantage would kick in, and catapult them past the Horned Frogs as well.
Cause for concern: Ohio State jumped Baylor, and considering the Buckeyes still have the Big Ten championship game against No. 16 Wisconsin looming, it might be tough for Baylor to jump Ohio State back. The committee can't get over the Bears' weak nonconference schedule, which is why Baylor ranks behind all the one-loss teams. A lot can happen in three weeks. And it remains to be seen how the committee will factor in conference championships at the end. But at this juncture, it's hard to see the Bears getting into the top four without help.
Whom they'll be rooting for this week: Kansas State to beat West Virginia on Thursday night. Though that would make Baylor's loss in Morgantown look worse, it would give the Bears the chance for a statement win against a potential top-10 team Dec. 6. Nebraska beating Minnesota also would kill two birds with one stone, damaging the playoff profiles of both TCU and Ohio State.
TCU dropped one spot to No. 5 after struggling to a 34-30 win at Kansas. Baylor remained at No. 7 after having the week off. Both teams remain very alive in the playoff hunt. But for now, we project them to miss the cut.
The outcome of Thursday night's game between Kansas State and West Virginia, meanwhile, could a long way in determining their bowl destination fates.
And with its 28-7 win at Oklahoma State, Texas produced its sixth win to lock up a bowl spot somewhere.
Oklahoma State is the only other team not bowl eligible at the moment that could still get there. But the Cowboys will be major underdogs at Baylor and Oklahoma. So we're still projecting the Cowboys to miss out on a bowl.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: TCU
VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia
Cactus Bowl: None eligible
With the unveiling of the fourth set of College Football Playoff rankings only hours away, we wanted to dive once again into which team is most deserving of that coveted fourth spot. With the assumption that Oregon, Alabama and Florida State will take the top three spots, SEC reporter Alex Scarborough, Big Ten reporter Austin Ward and Big 12 reporter Jake Trotter debate which team has earned the final berth to this point.
Is it Mississippi State? Ohio State? Or Big 12 contenders Baylor or TCU?
Take 1: Scarborough -- Mississippi State
It was odd looking back on Saturday's loss at Alabama. Down 12 points with around three minutes remaining, Mississippi State's offense wasn't moving with a sense of urgency. Granted, getting the initial touchdown to make it a one-score game was important, but what was the point if there wasn't enough time left to attempt an onside kick and make another run at the end zone?
But today I'm reminded of the final score, 25-20. After thinking about it, a five-point loss on the road to the No. 5 team in the country isn't that bad. It might sound good enough to be deemed a "quality loss," whereas a double-digit defeat might not be looked upon so kindly.
In fact, seeing as Ohio State and Baylor both fell to unranked opponents, I would say that Mississippi State and TCU have the clear edge in the "best loss" debate -- even though it's hard for me to stomach TCU giving up 61 points to anybody.
I'll concede that Mississippi State's nonconference schedule is weak, but so is Baylor's, and is that really enough to make you ignore three straight wins against top-10 teams? If you're going to move past the losses Baylor, Ohio State and TCU suffered in September and October, why should Mississippi State be penalized for a loss in November? Why is that any worse?
If Mississippi State beats Ole Miss and finishes with four wins against ranked opponents, that would be more than Baylor and Ohio State and tied with TCU. If you want a tiebreaker for later, there's still the possibility that Mississippi State makes it to the SEC championship game with an Alabama loss to Auburn.
Take 2: Ward -- Ohio State
The flaw in the résumé isn't hard to find, and there's no question Ohio State figures to have the ugliest blemish of any one-loss team vying for the final spot in the College Football Playoff.
But that's not the only factor the selection committee will be considering when the field is set. If it focused only on the early misstep, the committee would be overlooking a truly impressive body of work and a compelling case that the Buckeyes are currently playing the finest football in the nation.
For starters, if winning a conference championship is going to be valued, claiming the crown in the Big Ten is nothing to be scoffed at, particularly in a league that had five teams in the top 25 a week ago, a total topped only by the SEC. Over the past two weeks, the Buckeyes have knocked off a pair of ranked opponents on the road in poor weather, showing off a high-powered offense that is complemented by an opportunistic, aggressive defense, with both units showing marked improvement since that loss in Week 2 to Virginia Tech. At that time, J.T. Barrett was making just the second start of his career after being thrust into action in place of Braxton Miller, and neither the redshirt freshman nor a handful of other new starters was ready for the big stage.
Look at the Buckeyes now instead of where they were then and it's easy to see they have earned one of the last tickets to the playoff.
Take 3: Trotter -- Baylor or TCU
After the SEC, the Big 12 has been as good as any conference in the country this season. After the SEC, only the Big 12 still has two teams alive in the playoff chase. The Baylor vs. TCU debate can be saved for another time, but whoever emerges from that conversation deserves playoff inclusion. Neither team has a bad loss, especially TCU. And both teams have great wins, especially Baylor.
Ohio State has surged in recent weeks, but the Buckeyes lost their only nonconference bout with a Power 5 opponent. Ohio State also has only two wins against top-25 teams, which is sure to be trimmed to one win tonight when Minnesota is bounced from the top 25. With only one noteworthy win and the horrible loss in Columbus to Virginia Tech, Ohio State's overall résumé doesn't stack up.
Mississippi State's body of work is only slightly better. The Bulldogs opened SEC play by toppling LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Those wins looked impressive then. They don't look so impressive now. Those three teams have a combined 11 losses. Only Auburn figures to remain in the top 25 when the selection committee updates its rankings. The loss at Alabama carries no shame. But Mississippi State's nonconference schedule of Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee Martin should. Much has been made of Baylor's soft nonconference schedule, and rightfully so. But Mississippi State's is even worse because it includes four cream puffs as opposed to three.
Unlike Mississippi State or Ohio State, Baylor defeated a team up for the playoff debate in TCU. The Bears also handed Oklahoma its worst home loss of the Bob Stoops era.
The only flaw on TCU's résumé, meanwhile, is a disastrous fourth quarter on the road against another playoff contender. The Horned Frogs otherwise have mostly been stout, with a victory over Minnesota that trumps anything Ohio State or Mississippi State accomplished in the nonconference slate and wins against Oklahoma and K-State.
The TCU vs. Baylor debate will rage on. But for now, one of the two should be in the committee's top four.
Team of the week: The Texas Longhorns are bowl-eligible after hammering Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 28-7. Three weeks ago, it didn’t look like Texas would get there. But the pass rush has become dominant, the offensive line has gradually improved and quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has settled in. Getting to a bowl game might not seem like a big deal for a program the stature of Texas. But the way this season began, it gives Charlie Strong plenty to build on going forward.
Disappointment of the week: Even with all their offensive struggles, the Oklahoma State Cowboys had a prime opportunity to get that coveted sixth win at home coming off an open week. Yet once again, the offense no-showed, and Oklahoma State was blown out of its own stadium. The Cowboys had just 51 yards of offense in the first half, which was the lowest total of the Mike Gundy era. With road trips to Baylor and Oklahoma left, the Cowboys will likely miss out on a bowl for the first time since Gundy’s first season in 2005. With one of the youngest teams in college football, this was always going to be a rebuilding season for the Cowboys. Even so, it’s been a disappointing one.
Big (offensive) man on campus: In the spring, Kansas coach Charlie Weis announced a three-way quarterback competition that included Montell Cozart, Jake Heaps and T.J. Millweard, and not Michael Cummings. But since taking over at quarterback, Cummings has been a revelation, and he delivered his best performance yet in the Jayhawks’ narrow 34-30 loss to TCU. Cummings threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another score. The Horned Frogs were so nervous about Cummings beating them at the end of the game they went for a fourth-and-one instead of kicking a field goal and giving him the ball with a chance to score a touchdown and win the game on a potential two-point conversion. Honorable-mention honors here go to Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine, who rumbled for 213 yards and three touchdowns to key the Sooners' 42-30 comeback win at Texas Tech. Perine could become Oklahoma's first freshman running back to earn All-Big 12 honors since Adrian Peterson in 2004.
Big (defensive) man on campus: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown obliterated yet another offensive line. This time it was Oklahoma State’s. Brown finished with three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble as the Longhorns put the clamps on Oklahoma State’s anemic offense that had only two first downs until late in the second half. After another strong performance, Brown is making a strong push for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Special-teams player of the week: With TCU trailing 27-24 late in the third quarter, Cameron Echols-Luper hauled in a punt, then weaved through the Jayhawks for a 69-yard touchdown to give the Horned Frogs the lead. The Echols-Luper return wound up being the difference in the four-point game.
Play of the week: Midway through the third quarter, Kansas wideout Nigel King hauled in an acrobatic one-handed grab off a tip, then raced 78 yards down the sideline to give the Jayhawks a 27-17 lead. When the Jayhawks recovered the ensuing kickoff, it looked like it was actually going to be their day. But Kansas couldn’t capitalize off the turnover, and TCU scored 17 straight points to regain control of the game.
Stat of the week: Via pistolsfiringblog.com, Oklahoma State has either punted or turned the ball over on 50 of its past 59 offensive possessions dating to halftime against Kansas on Oct. 11. The Cowboys now rank last in the Big 12 in total offense in conference games.
Quote of the week: "They thought it was cold. I told them it wasn't cold." -- Texas coach Charlie Strong, who had his players remove their cold-weather gear before the game in Stillwater.