One of the biggest debates prior to and after the release of the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday centered around Big 12 foes TCU and Baylor.
Both teams are 8-1, both are coming off strong wins against Kansas State and Oklahoma, respectively, and now both are fighting for one of the coveted top four spots in the playoff.
TCU is ranked No. 4 this week, Baylor is No. 7 and both teams have three games remaining. Of the two, Baylor has the tougher remaining schedule, but it still might not be enough to place the Bears ahead of the Horned Frogs if both teams finished 11-1. Of course, Baylor still holds the advantage in head-to-head after coming from behind to beat the Horned Frogs 61-58, but College Football Playoff committee chairman Jeff Long said that doesn’t necessarily matter.
“We're going to look at the total body of work... if they're the same, the head‐to‐head comes into effect,” Long said during his teleconference Tuesday night. “But, for example, TCU's loss is to No. 7 Baylor, and Baylor's loss is to West Virginia, who's not ranked in the Top 25.
“All those things are brought into the discussion and weighed and then decisions and votes are made.”
Here’s the Catch-22 of the way the committee is measuring teams: Long noted that TCU has two wins over teams in the Top 25 and Baylor has one. Baylor doesn’t get the credit for beating a then-Top 25 Oklahoma team because, by virtue of the Bears victory, the Sooners were knocked out of the rankings (TCU doesn’t get that Top 25 win either, by the way). Also, Long mentioned that TCU had an advantage because it lost to a team in the top 10 (Baylor) while Baylor lost to a team outside the rankings (West Virginia). So, if you’re following along, Baylor is actually getting punished somewhat for both its win against Oklahoma and its win against TCU.
A conference title game might be the solution to all this, but since the Big 12 doesn’t have one, that’s a moot point. In fact, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby maintained that because every Big 12 team plays every other one, that should be just as good as a title game.
"You don't have to guess how teams would play against each other," Bowlsby said Sunday. "In other conferences, maybe you have missed the top teams in the other division. This year, the SEC West is carving each other up, but we go through that every year."
If Baylor and TCU finish deadlocked, the conference designates the winner by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker, but the College Football Playoff committee isn’t bound by those same rules. While Long said it would take into account the conference winner, it still might determine TCU is the better team.
However, none of this debate will matter if one or both teams don’t win out and, in TCU’s case, win convincingly. Since TCU's final three games consist of teams without winning records (as of now), the Horned Frogs have to make pretty strong statements against those teams.
TCU coach Gary Patterson knows all too well the ups and downs of the final month. During the Horned Frogs undefeated 2010 season, a season in which they defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, they defeated No. 5 Utah by 40 points and had to rally for a win against San Diego State the following week. That win dropped TCU behind Boise State in the rankings and nearly cost the Horned Frogs a shot at a BCS game.
"We thought it was over, then Boise gets beat in Reno, then we're back in the Rose Bowl," Patterson said. "What I learned out of that experience was you just better take care of you, because that's all you have.
“We've just got to be able to be the best football team we can possibly be, especially knowing that nobody even thought about us eight weeks ago, maybe even four weeks ago."
For more Baylor news, visit SicEmSports.com.
For more TCU news, visit PurpleMenace.com.
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