During a day that might prove to be the first true “Knockout Saturday” of the 2014 college football season, TCU is one vicious haymaker landing flush on the jaw of its opponent away from “officially” taking its place in college football’s main event in January.
Six campuses from across the country will feature games between ranked teams on Saturday – from Baton Rouge to Tempe, East Lansing to Salt Lake City and Norman in between. All of these get-togethers feel more like The Hunger Games, with the losers of the contests essentially eliminated from College Football Playoff contention. (Hey, better than being completely wiped out of existence, like in the popular fictional series.) But on one campus, in Fort Worth, Tex., where No. 6 TCU resides, the home team may actually come away from its weekend ordeal knowing that they would have cleared their last real hurdle on their way to College Football Playoff dreamland.
Of all of the one-loss teams in college football, TCU, in this scribe’s opinion, has the most impressive collection of victories so far among them (sorry SEC West apologists), winning against then-No. 4 Oklahoma at home, blasting then-No. 15 Oklahoma State by 33 points two weeks later and eking out a last-second 31-30 road victory in Morgantown against then-No. 20 West Virginia last week. The latest College Football Playoff Top 25 sees the Horned Frogs at No. 6, currently ranked behind three one-loss teams, including SEC juggernauts Auburn and Alabama.
Given the way the schedules for TCU, as well as the teams in the SEC West, play out from here on in, the Horned Frogs couldn’t be placed any better at this moment.
This month, which started with last week’s win by Auburn over Ole Miss by the length of the football, should feature frequent occurrences of “SEC West on SEC West crime,” and, as it pertains to TCU’s hopes for being in the Top Four at the end of the season, three of the teams ranking ahead of TCU in the Playoff rankings – No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Alabama – each have to play one or the other (or both in Alabama’s case) before the regular season is through. Yes, it’s possible that Mississippi State and Auburn both run the table, keeping out TCU from the “Final Four” as long as Florida State and Oregon kept on winning as well. But with Mississippi State and Auburn heading to Tuscaloosa this month, it’s hard to envision the Crimson Tide losing two home games in a month. (In case you’re wondering, Alabama has lost two home games in the same month only once in the Nick Saban era, and that came in his first year in Tuscaloosa, 2007, when LSU and Louisiana-Monroe both defeated the Tide in November of that season.)
This by no means is a way for any of us to overlook TCU’s home game on Saturday against a ninth-ranked Kansas State team sitting along in first place in the Big 12 with a 5-0 conference record and sporting an impressive win at Oklahoma last month, along with fighting Auburn tooth and nail before dropping a six-point decision to the Tigers in September. Despite that, the Wildcats face a tough challenge in beating the Horned Frogs in Forth Worth, where TCU has averaged 47.8 points per game at Amon G. Carter Stadium so far. After Kansas State, TCU will travel to take on a Kansas team that’s probably more excited for watching basketball games in Lawrence than suffering a likely thrashing on the football field. Texas follows for TCU on Thanksgiving Day, a tough game that TCU should win given the Longhorns are in rebuilding mode. The regular-season finale is against Iowa State, and if the Horned Frogs are one win away from a College Football Playoff appearance by that time, it would be hard to see TCU not trying to put 100 points on the board in that game. Hey, they hung 82 on Texas Tech, so anything’s possible!
“Knockout Saturday” may turn out to be one of the most influential weekends in recent college football memory. Delivering a TKO to Kansas State on Saturday may turn out to be the most memorable regular-season football game in TCU footballing history.
The A Lot of Sports Talk‘s College Football Top 25 rankings is always a knockout, and, as always, we thank our esteemed committee for producing the poll that’s quickly gaining respect across the country. Once again, let’s welcome our weekly sextet: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional, WJPZ Alumni Association President), Pavan Sandhu Eckhart (Texas A&M graduate, Sales Rep at Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Dallas), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous assistant coach who once coached at a Division I-FBS school. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you, as always.
Props to those who can correctly guess the nickname of Mississippi State’s opponent on Saturday, the University of Tennessee-Martin, in the next two seconds. OK, time’s up!! The Skyhawks. Something tells me the Skyhawks won’t be flying too high on Saturday in Starkville. (Adesina Koiki)
The Seminoles took a huge punch from Louisville, shook it off and found their way back to win. Barring a disaster in November and in the ACC Championship Game, we’ll see them in the Playoff. (T.J. Basalla)
Royce Freeman is a name that most of the county may not know yet… but they will. The true freshman brings the Ducks their best combination of power and speed since Jonathan Stewart and should be right in the middle of Heisman talk in 2015. (Sandy Weintraub)
If Auburn’s last two games (nail-biting wins over South Carolina and at Ole Miss) are any indication, expect thrills, spills and a nerve-wracking ending to War Eagle’s game against Texas A&M, even with the Aggies playing without suspended quarterback Kenny Hill. (Adesina)
I think Alabama is really good. How good? We don’t know yet. The two best teams they’ve played so far have been West Virginia and Ole Miss, and they split those two games. Up next for the Tide: LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. I think we’ll know about this team soon. (T.J.)
You don’t think we’ll know how good Alabama is when they also play Western Carolina on Nov. 22, in between the Mississippi State and Auburn games? How dare you leave out the Catamounts, T.J.! (Adesina)
A lot of credit to goes to Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie for the TCU offensive rebirth, but don’t forget that they have some real players on that side of the ball. Nebraska transfer Aaron Green was a guy that was recruited by everyone in the country, B.J. Catalon is a guy that could play for anyone in the Big 12, and they’ve got some real speed on the outside. When you add in the fact that Trevone Boykin has a whole bunch of starts under his belt at quarterback, they combine to make a pretty potent offense. (Anonymous one-time FBS coach)
Another Playoff elimination game this week, this time in East Lansing. (T.J.)
Don’t forget that the Bears handed TCU its only loss of the season, and Baylor still has to play Kansas State at home to end the season. Along with trying to win in Norman on Saturday, Bears fans should be pulling for Kansas State against TCU and hope a 10-1 K-State team visits Waco on Dec. 6 with the Big 12 title at stake. (Adesina)
TCU and Baylor are getting all the attention in the Big 12. This may be your Big 12 Playoff representative instead. (T.J.)
I have a hard time ranking Notre Dame because they really haven’t beaten any formidable teams; Stanford is down this year, Michigan is way down this year, and North Carolina is having a hard time stopping anyone. It’ll be really interesting to see how they do this week since Notre Dame has some pretty embarrassing losses after playing Navy recently (2007 vs. Air Force, 2008 vs. Syracuse, 2010 vs. Tulsa, 2009 and 2013 vs. Pittsburgh). Just ask Ohio State how they did after playing Navy this season. If you happen not to know/remember, they lost by two touchdowns at home to Virginia Tech. (Anonymous one-time FBS coach)
The Sun Devils get Notre Dame in the desert this week. They win and we’ll start talking about Todd Graham’s team in the Playoff. (T.J.)
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Ohio State this year. After their game against Virginia Tech, I thought it was a game of one eventual 8-4 team beating another. I was way wrong about both the Buckeyes and the Hokies. J.T. Barrett has really matured and offensive coordinator Tom Herman (who is a member of MENSA, making him legitimately a genius) has really turned into a hot name to watch for as head coaching positions open up this offseason. (Anonymous one-time FBS coach)
About a month ago, the Tigers had no quarterback consistency, were giving up rushing yards at an alarming rate and were looking as if they were going to finish in the lower half of the SEC West this season. All of a sudden, they’re a home win against Alabama away from being a Top 10 team. That’s so Les Miles, isn’t it? (Adesina)
I cannot think of a more painful, heartbreaking loss for a team than what transpired last week in Oxford vs. Auburn. (T.J.)
It’s a good thing the Huskers have a bye this week before their big clash at Wisconsin so Heisman candidate running back Ameer Abdullah can have more time to recover from a sprained MCL suffered last week. No Ameer may mean no chance for victory for Big Red at Camp Randall. (Adesina)
Remember, over the past few years, the Sooners, despite being relatively disappointing, have done very well playing the spoiler role. They’re in that role this week at home vs. Baylor. (Adesina)
Every week it seems as if the Bruins are in chaos, and yet they keep finding ways to win. (T.J.)
Over the past few weeks, the Utes have become strictly a one-dimensional offense, only throwing for 413 yards combined in the last four games (compared to 816 rushing yards in that same span). On one hand, trying to win while being one-dimensional against Oregon could lead to disaster. But since Oregon has had its troubles against power-running teams in the recent past, the potent Utah ground game could end up being the key to victory against the Ducks on Saturday. (Adesina)
College football is the best. The Georgia-Florida result should have never happened. But it did, and it was amazing…well, for the Gators, at least. (T.J.)
Despite the loss to UCLA, the Wildcats still are in a position to end the year very well, with three of their last four games coming in Tucson. (Adesina)
The Blue Devils are really benefitting from an easy schedule. They didn’t play anyone with a pulse out of conference and are avoiding both Florida State (for now) and Clemson. I don’t think they mind, though, as it might result in an Orange Bowl bid. (Anonymous one-time FBS coach)
Despite East Carolina losing to Temple last week, Marshall still did not crack the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings this week. As a matter-of-fact, no team from outside the Power Five conferences made the poll. The waiting game continues for The Herd. (Adesina)
The Tigers are on track to making their third Orange Bowl in four years, and, unlike the other teams that ended their seasons in Miami Gardens, this Clemson team is led by its defense. (Adesina)
If quality losses carried much weight, West Virginia ranks up there at the top of the heap in terms of playing well against top teams in defeat. WVU plays in Austin this weekend, a game they should win. But, if they switch off even just a little, the Longhorns could pull off the upset. (Adesina)
The Trojans are on a much needed bye, as they will end up playing three games in a 16-day span against California (home), UCLA (“away”) and Notre Dame (home) to end the regular season. (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Wisconsin (4 points), Colorado State (4), Georgia Tech (4), Missouri (3), Boise State (1), Georgia Southern (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Zane Gonzalez/Arizona State) courtesy of Ralph Freso/Getty Images]