Ah, it’s the lovely part of the year where the shadow government of college football takes over to conspire and put the little guys like TCU down as much as possible, as according to college football fans across the Internet and water coolers.
With the first releasing of this year’s college football playoff rankings, TCU started at No. 8, dramatically lower than its No. 2 preseason rank in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and five spots lower than its current ranking in the Coaches Poll - clear and resounding evidence that committee hates everyone and ESPN just wants money, as fans say.
So what happened in that hotel in Dallas? TCU’s done nothing but win, yet has done nothing but drop in the rankings and polls. Surely this means that there’s a campaign against the Frogs, and that committee’s just out to sink everyone that’s not in the SEC, right?
Maybe, maybe not. But we’ve seen this act before though, and we know that things got a bit more sorted out by the end.
Consider the first-ever rankings that came out last season. Just like this year, they weren’t pretty, nor even close to perfect, and somehow, they fit more SEC teams in the last go-round. The inaugural rankings of the College Football Playoff had Mississippi State, FSU, Auburn and Ole Miss as their 1-4. Baylor was all the way down at 13, while Ohio State was at 16.
In case the memory needs a jog, Ole Miss finished at 9, Baylor at 5, Auburn at 19, Mississippi State at 7 and Ohio State ended up winning it all.
Given the short history of the rankings, it’s highly improbable that LSU, Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are going to finish in the same spot by the time bowl season comes around. And luckily, that means the Frogs probably aren’t going to be held at No. 8 for the remainder of the season either.
For a surprising source of hope, consider the changes from last year’s ranking to give hope for the Horned Frogs. Yes, yes, 3 to 6, the committee is flawed, harrumph harrumph, etc. Just hang with this line of logic for a moment and know why TCU’s in the unquestionable driver’s seat when it comes to the playoffs.
In the first rankings last year, TCU started at No. 7 with a loss to Baylor being its only blemish. Frog fans know how that story ended as Boykin and co. went to the Peach Bowl, but there’s a distinct difference for TCU this year when it comes to the playoff rankings.
Last year, TCU had a final slate of games including Kansas, Iowa State and a middling Texas, which severely hurt them when it came to the committee. As fans denounced the committee for dropping TCU three spots and wailed for the BCS like the Israelites cried back for slavery in Egypt, TCU’s dropping after a 50+ win over the Cyclones had much less to do with TCU dominating a 2-10 team with no conference wins as much as it did with other great teams having indisputable dominations of better opponents.
A blowout against a terrible Big 12 cellar dweller is just simply not as good when teams like Ohio State curb stomp No. 11 Wisconsin in the final week of the season. It’s also not as good as watching Florida State remain the only undefeated team after beating an Orange Bowl winning Georgia Tech, FSU’s 12th victory over a P5 school. It’s not comparable to watching Oregon avenge their loss to a Top 10 Arizona team, and not as good as watching Baylor manhandle a highly ranked Kansas State team to close their season.
But this is where the great news comes in for the Frogs this season - that lack of late-season marquee scheduling is not going to be the case this year.
TCU is lined up to play a gauntlet of a November billing, which will make for great football and a prime-time window for the committee to look at TCU’s getting the best competition they can get. Starting with this week, TCU plays undefeated Oklahoma State this week on the road, the first major test for TCU, matching the firepower of big games like LSU-Alabama and FSU-Clemson.
TCU then benefits from a game against a hapless Kansas Jayhawks squad at home, similar to how several SEC teams get their FCS “tune-up” game before playing their rivals near Thanksgiving. After that contest, TCU gets a highly-touted Oklahoma team on the road and finishes the year with what should be the de facto Big 12 Championship.
And if TCU and Baylor keep playing the way they’ve been playing, what a un-ignorable spectacle that will be.
The 2015 incarnation of The Revivalry should have a record Amon G. Carter crowd, a captive national audience on a Black Friday night and an over/under with triple digits. More importantly, it should have a playoff ticket on the line, as the Frogs are primed to have games that deeply matter in November.
Things don’t look great for TCU right now, sure. But as the meat of the Frogs’ schedule comes up, their staying power can’t - and won’t - be ignored.
Take that, shadow government.