Big 12: TCU Horned Frogs
AUSTIN, Texas -- Fifth-ranked TCU took care of business Thanksgiving night, knocking off Texas 48-10 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to improve to 10-1 on the year. Here's how the game was won:
How the game was won: TCU smothered Texas' offense from the start, shutting down its running backs (29 yards on 21 carries) and pressuring Tyrone Swoopes into committing five of the Longhorns' six turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Horned Frogs' offense finally got rolling in the second half against a typically stout Texas defense.
Game ball goes to: Josh Doctson and Paul Dawson. Two of TCU's best stepped up in a big way. Dawson racked up 10 tackles and an interception, and was all over the place. Doctson had two of the game's biggest catches, a 38-yarder to set up TCU's first offensive score and a 22-yard TD. He finished with 115 yards on seven catches.
What it means: TCU, now 2-0 in Thanksgiving games at Texas since joining the Big 12, got some good revenge for its 23-point loss to the Horns last year and got a chance to make a statement in front of a national TV audience. Quarterback Trevone Boykin (283 total yards, three TDs) was challenged by this Texas defense but had some nice moments that will help his Heisman hopes.
Playoff implication: There will be a lot of folks comparing Baylor's 28-7 win over Texas on Oct. 4 to this game. Both teams did shut down Texas' offense from start to finish. TCU's showing felt a bit more dominant -- Texas trailed 13-0 after one quarter and never really stood a chance after that -- and a 38-point road win over a team that had won three in a row definitely will look good on the résumé.
What's next: Texas finishes its regular season 6-6. Facing an SEC team in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl or the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, both on Jan. 29, appears to be the Longhorns' most likely destination. TCU has one game left, a home finale against Iowa State on Dec. 6 that could feel a lot like a victory lap for at least a share of the Big 12 title.
We'll have coverage of tonight's critical Big 12 bout between TCU and Texas. But until then, it will be a light day on the Big 12 blog. I plan on spending the afternoon fighting through a turkey coma.
Today is a day to be thankful -- especially for all the TCU and Baylor fans out there who have gotten to enjoy two fabulous seasons. We hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends.
The No. 5 Horned Frogs will put their College Football Playoff hopes on the line against a surging Texas team that enters its senior night on a three-game win streak. TCU, fresh off a bye, can move to 10-1 and exact a little revenge after losing to the Longhorns 30-7 last year
Below, Max Olson and I break down this critical Big 12 matchup:
How TCU can control the game: Get off to a quick start. An early lead would not only give TCU immediate control, it would put pressure on Texas to throw the ball more than it would like. The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 in forced turnovers by a wide margin. If they can force Texas into obvious passing downs, opportunistic playmakers like linebacker Paul Dawson and safety Chris Hackett will have their chances to produce game-changing plays defensively, as they have all season. -- Trotter
How Texas can control the game: Charlie Strong will always answer this question with defense, and his has been responsible for allowing just 16.1 points per game in Big 12 play. The bye week gave his staff more time to find ways to confuse and pressure Trevone Boykin. Takeaways and responsible run defense are a must this week. On offense, a patchwork line has to continue progressing and find a way to win more battles than it loses up front. -- Olson
TCU's X factor: The interior offensive line trio of center Joey Hunt and guards Brady Foltz and Jamelle Naff. They will be facing off against one of the top defensive tackles in the country in Malcom Brown, who has the talent to blow up the middle of opposing lines. The Horned Frogs need to keep Brown at bay so the rest of the offense can function on schedule. That tall task will fall on Hunt, Foltz and Naff, who will have their biggest challenge of the season on Thursday. -- Trotter
Texas' X factor: Tyrone Swoopes, of course. Texas has a few speedsters up its sleeve in Daje Johnson and Armanti Foreman, who change the game in an instant. Keep an eye on them. But ultimately, Texas' hopes of pulling the upset will hinge on Swoopes stepping up in big moments and avoiding costly mistakes and turnovers. It might take an A-game from him to beat these Frogs. -- Olson
What a win would mean for TCU: This will be the final chance for TCU to impress the playoff selection committee. A win, especially a dominant one, would leave a lasting impression in the minds of those 12 committee members. A win would also put TCU a home win over Iowa State away from gaining at least a share of the Big 12 title. -- Trotter
What a win would mean for Texas: A home win over one of the nation's best probably wouldn't greatly alter the Longhorns' bowl destination, but it could be a total game-changer for Strong and his rebuilding efforts. In terms of recruiting, fan support and offseason morale, beating TCU to finish the Big 12 season on a four-game win streak would be monumental and set Texas up to take the next big step in 2015. -- Olson
But the gravest threat to the Frogs of Fort Worth and the Bears of the Brazos for playoff inclusion appears to reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The playoff selection committee released its weekly rankings Tuesday night, and TCU held steady at No. 5 despite having the week off. After dispatching Oklahoma State and its plucky true freshman quarterback, Baylor remained ranked seventh.
Unlike Baylor, the Buckeyes have no wins over another playoff contender.
Unlike TCU, the Buckeyes have a loss against an unranked opponent.
And unlike Baylor and TCU, Ohio State does not compete in one of the three best conferences in college football.
But going into the final two weeks of the season, the Buckeyes seem to be the apple of the committee’s eye for the lone playoff spot currently up for grabs.
If the season ended today, Mississippi State would be in the playoff over TCU, Ohio State and Baylor. But following Ole Miss’ 30-0 loss at Arkansas last weekend, the Egg Bowl has lost its luster, robbing the Bulldogs of a chance to boost their relatively thin résumé with a victory over a Top 10 team. Mississippi State has only one victory over a Top 25 team (Auburn) to go along with a nonconference slate of Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin. Assuming that Alabama wins the Iron Bowl, Mississippi State would not represent the West Division in the SEC title game, either.
Committee chairman Jeff Long stressed Tuesday night that “conference championships will be a tiebreaker factored in at the end of the season.” And if Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor are all as close in the minds of the committee as Long has suggested, Mississippi State, based on that tiebreaker disadvantage, would be the odd dog out.
That brings us back to the Buckeyes.
The committee seems to be giving Ohio State a pass for its 35-21 loss in Columbus on Sept. 6 to 5-6 Virginia Tech. Long even quashed the premise that Virginia Tech constituted a bad loss for Ohio State. (He must have missed the Hokies’ 6-3 double-overtime loss to lowly Wake Forest over the weekend.)
With the committee inexplicably overlooking the Virginia Tech loss, the Buckeyes seem to be in prime position for the fourth spot. Ohio State is ranked ahead of Baylor, and if both teams won out, there’s no reason to believe that would change. Sure, the Bears have No. 12 Kansas State next weekend. But the Buckeyes potentially would have No. 14 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Beating the Badgers at a neutral site would seemingly offset a Baylor victory over K-State in Waco.
The Buckeyes would still have to jump TCU. But if a victory over Wisconsin alone weren’t enough to catapult Ohio State past the Horned Frogs, the addition of the Big Ten title in a 13th game probably would. Sure, TCU would technically be co-champs of the Big 12. But the committee would likely favor a sole champion of one conference over a co-champ of another that would also have a tiebreaker problem with the other co-champ.
All of this, of course, is just speculation with games still to be staged. Much can still happen in these final two weeks.
Oregon could lose the Civil War and Alabama could lose the Iron Bowl. Florida or Georgia Tech could beat Florida State and Wisconsin could topple the Buckeyes.
Heck, Minnesota could still even win the Big Ten title, which would be quite the early Christmas present for the folks in Fort Worth.
So both Baylor and TCU remain very much alive in the playoff hunt.
But Big 12’s biggest roadblock to the fourth playoff spot lies not in Starkville.
But rather, smack in the heart of Ohio.
Why TCU will win: This is going to be a back-and-forth, physical fight in which Texas will throw everything it's got at TCU. All the pressure is on the Frogs -- not that they can't handle it. If Charlie Strong's D can slow down Trevone Boykin, it's anyone's ballgame. A difference that might matter: the kicking game. TCU's Jaden Oberkrom can be trusted with a game-winning kick. Can Texas' Nick Rose? TCU 20, Texas 17 — Olson
Why Texas will keep it close: Defense. The Longhorns have the Big 12’s best unit, and their disruptive front will make life hard for Trevone Boykin. UT just won’t score enough points to cement its upset bid. TCU 28, Texas 27 — Chatmon
Other unanimous selections
Baylor over Texas Tech: The Bears won't aim for 82, but they know they need to score a bunch of points. In addition to having a brutal run defense, Texas Tech's secondary is also banged up this week. So, you know, moving the ball should not be terribly difficult for Bryce Petty and his many weapons. Tech can keep up early, but for how long? Baylor 52, Texas Tech 24 — Olson
Kansas State over Kansas: The Wildcats have focused on resuscitating their running game, and their instate rival might provide the perfect tonic. The Jayhawks are still reeling from giving up an FBS record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine last week. K-State won't get that many on the ground. But the Wildcats will have a big day offensively to prime their trip to Waco in the season finale. Kansas State 38, Kansas 13 — Trotter
West Virginia over Iowa State: The Mountaineers will get the losing taste out of their mouths because of their superior offensive firepower, no matter whether Clint Trickett or Skyler Howard is behind center. West Virginia 42, Iowa State 28 — Chatmon
- Trotter: 61-7
- Chatmon: 60-8
- Olson: 58-10
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: Thursday at Texas
Reason for optimism: The Horned Frogs stayed where they were despite having the week off. Minnesota also jumped seven spots all the way to No. 18, giving TCU one of the best nonconference wins in the country. The Horned Frogs now have three top-25 wins, which compares favorably against fourth-ranked Mississippi State, which has only one. TCU also kept its distance from Baylor, preventing the Bears' head-to-head advantage from coming into play.
Cause for concern: The Horned Frogs only have one last real chance to impress the selection committee, Thursday night at Texas. Will that be enough to vault them ahead of Mississippi State and stave off Ohio State and Baylor? TCU can't afford another lackluster performance like the one two weeks ago at Kansas.
Whom they'll be rooting for this week: Go, Gophers, go! Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is one of Gary Patterson's best friends off the field, and the Gophers are TCU's best friend on the field. If Minnesota can beat No. 14 Wisconsin this weekend, it will give TCU a victory over the Big Ten West champ. An Ole Miss win over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, an Auburn win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl and/or a Florida win over Florida State wouldn't hurt, either.
Record: 9-1 (6-1)
Playoff committee rank: No. 7
Next big obstacle: Dec. 6 vs. Kansas State
Reason for optimism: Committee chairman Jeff Long reiterated the difference between No. 4 Mississippi State and No. 7 Baylor was small. The Bears also remain one spot away from the head-to-head advantage with TCU likely kicking in. Baylor also has the chance to land a third top-25 win in a week when No. 12 Kansas State comes to Waco.
Cause for concern: The Bears are still behind Ohio State, even though the Buckeyes struggled at home vs. Indiana. Long curiously also said the committee didn't view Ohio State's early-season defeat to 5-6 Virginia Tech as a bad loss. If that's the case, Baylor might have a tough time jumping the Buckeyes, who still have the Big Ten championship game ahead.
Whom they'll be rooting for this week: Wisconsin to thump Minnesota. That would damage the profile of TCU and Ohio State, the two teams ranked immediately ahead of Baylor. The Bears will also be pulling for Auburn, Oregon State, Florida, Ole Miss, Texas and Michigan. If any of those six could pull an upset, it would push Baylor one step closer to playoff inclusion.
TCU remained at No. 5; Baylor stayed at No. 7.
As a result, nothing changed from last week's bowl picture.
Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team that can still play its way to bowl eligibility. But the Cowboys will have to upset Oklahoma in Bedlam on Dec. 6 to get to six wins.
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
Baylor: Baylor leads the FBS in points, yards and first downs per game, but the Bears’ remarkable ability to protect the football really stands out. BU ranks fifth among FBS teams and No. 1 in the Big 12 with a 6.0 turnover percentage. The top five teams in the FBS in that category-- BU, Rice, Oregon, Georgia and Northern Illinois -- have combined for 44 wins this season.
Iowa State: The Cyclones' defense will need to be much better on third down if ISU hopes to knock off West Virginia. ISU is allowing conversions on a Big 12-worst 47.1 percent of opponent’s third-down attempts. But last week’s 34-31 loss to Texas Tech proves some hope as ISU held the Red Raiders to 36.4 percent on third-down conversion attempts, which was a season low for Cyclones’ opponents.
Kansas: Big plays have been lacking for Kansas’ offense for much of the season. The Jayhawks have gained 10 or more yards on 16 percent of their plays this season, ranking last in the conference and No. 115 among FBS teams. New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau has helped increase that number with some personnel changes, but KU will need several big plays if it hopes to upset Kansas State.
Kansas State: Is Jake Waters the Big 12’s top clutch signal-caller? The senior has a Big 12-best 79.8 raw QBR on third down. He completes 63.1 percent of his passes, averages 12.42 yards per completion and is sacked just 2.3 percent of the time on third down. Waters is a key reason the Wildcats’ offense is so efficient and productive.
Oklahoma: Baylor, TCU and Kansas State are well renowned for their offensive firepower. Yet Oklahoma sits atop the conference rankings in yards per play. The Sooners 6.72 yards per play has been built upon a running game that is averaging 265.4 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry to lead the Big 12 in both categories.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys averaged 1.87 points per possession in Mason Rudolph’s first start. With the true freshman at the helm, OSU’s offense was far more explosive in the 49-28 loss to Baylor than its previous four games. TCU (0.6), West Virginia (0.71), KSU (0.5) and Texas (0.58) each held the Cowboys below one point per possession in OSU's four losses before last weekend.
Texas: Opponents have converted just 5 of 30 third-down conversions against Texas’ defense in the Longhorns last two games. West Virginia (3 of 17) and Oklahoma State (2 of 13) struggled to continue drives. Winning the third down battle could be key if the Longhorns hope to slow Trevone Boykin and TCU on Thanksgiving night.
TCU: Gary Patterson’s team has outgained opponents by at least 330 yards on four different occasions this season, joining Alabama as the only FBS team to achieve this feat. The Horned Frogs outgained FCS opponent Samford (412), SMU (369), Oklahoma State (418) and Texas Tech (339) by that margin. It has been a part of a damatic change in TCU’s offensive fortunes under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.
Texas Tech: The inability to finish has handcuffed the Red Raiders this season. Tech has converted 58.8 percent of its goal-to-go attempts into touchdowns, the worst percentage in the Big 12 and tied for No. 115 among FBS teams. With Baylor on the horizon, Tech will need to capitalize on every single scoring opportunity it gets.
West Virginia: Dana Holgorsen’s team heads into its final game with six wins and bowl eligibility, a pretty remarkable feat for the Mountaineers considering their carelessness with the ball. WVU has a minus-15 turnover margin, worst in the Big 12 and tied for No. 120 among FBS teams. No FBS team at minus-15 or higher has more than three wins this season.
Which was more impressive, Samaje Perine's 427 rushing yards or Baylor's 21-point comeback vs. TCU?
Max Olson: I have to agree with Brandon on this one. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the chances of Baylor pulling off its 24-point rally were only 2 percent. That game should have been over. It took a perfect sequence of events for the game to fall apart for TCU. The odds of Perine breaking Melvin Gordon's FBS single-game rushing record one week later are probably near-impossible, sure, but this was the No. 94 total defense in FBS and 300 of his rushing yards came on eight plays. Baylor needed 41 plays to pull off the comeback.
Jake Trotter: The Baylor comeback was stunning. But I have to go with Perine's record-breaking day. That was a record that had stood for 15 years until Gordon topped it the week before. Think about all the great running backs that have come through college football who haven't come close to sniffing 400 yards. Think about all the great Oklahoma running backs over the years who had never even touched 300 yards. Gordon's record may have lasted just a week. But if history before that is any indication, Perine's 427-yard day will be remembered for a very long time.
Who has the tougher road to 11-1, Baylor or TCU?
Chatmon: TCU’s trip to Texas won’t be easy. Baylor’s home finale against Kansas State is even tougher. Bill Snyder’s program has more to play for than the Longhorns, with a Big 12 title likely to remain within reach in their first trip to McLane Stadium. The Wildcats were the first team to make Baylor’s offense look somewhat human in 2013 and will bring the same sound defense to Waco on Dec. 6.
Olson: As weird as this sounds, I actually think Texas has a slightly better chance of beating TCU than K-State does of pulling the upset in Waco. The Horns have momentum, a bye week of extra prep, play great defense and are playing at home. So for that reason, I'd say the Horned Frogs have a little tougher path.
Trotter: Winning on the road is always tougher than winning at home. And even though K-State is better than Texas and could give Baylor a fight in Waco, I think TCU has the tougher road. Texas has quietly been playing good football the last month to get bowl eligible. The offensive line has come together, while the defensive line has emerged as the best in the league. The Longhorns will be a difficult out for TCU on their home field on Thanksgiving night.
Do you still consider this season to be a successful one for West Virginia, in light of the three-game losing streak?
Chatmon: Since competing for a championship should always be the goal, successful is not the word I would use. But the Mountaineers, without a doubt, have taken several steps towards becoming a force in the Big 12. The defense is much improved, and the overall depth on the roster is light years ahead of where it was when WVU entered the Big 12 in 2012. Dana Holgorsen shouldn’t be satisfied with the Mountaineers return to a bowl game, but he should be pleased with the direction his program is heading.
Olson: It's an important question. Let's be honest, though. There are a bunch of people (and I might've been one of them) who wondered if a step in the wrong direction this season would've spelled the end of Holgorsen's stint in Morgantown. I think he has proven himself to some extent in 2014. He's building something good, and this season still feels like a positive step.
Trotter: Provided the Mountaineers win at Iowa State, yes. The season might feel disappointing to West Virginia fans at the moment. But remember, this was a team nobody gave much of a chance of getting to a bowl game before the season. The Mountaineers not only achieved that, they were ranked for a good chunk of the year, hosted College GameDay and came within a hair of sweeping Baylor and TCU to become a serious factor in the Big 12 title race. After slugging it out against such a brutal slate, West Virginia has run out of steam this last month. But if the Mountaineers rally to beat Iowa State and win a bowl game, they will finish 8-5, with momentum going into 2015. In August, every rational West Virginia fan would have taken that.
- 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.
There will be teams left out who can make perfectly compelling cases to be playoff participants. There will be voices raised and criticisms leveled regarding which program truly deserved the final spot in the playoff. This much is a certainty.
But which teams have the best chances of cracking the field? It still seems to be a matter of conjecture beyond the top three teams: Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.
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."