Now they wait.
Until the College Football Playoff Committee makes announces its four playoff teams on Sunday morning, it’s going to be a very stressful time for TCU head coach Sonny Dykes, his players and the Horned Frogs fanbase.
TCU’s undefeated run came to an end in the Big 12 championship game as Kansas State was able to avenge its 38-28 loss in Fort Worth in late October. The 31-28 overtime defeat to the Wildcats was the doomsday scenario as the program’s playoff hopes rests in the hands of the committee.
Even after the loss, Dykes said there was little doubt that TCU should be in the final four.
“For sure I do,” Dykes said. “We went through the Big 12 12-0, we’ve been able to figure out how to win games like this all year. Today we weren’t able to do it. I think we’re certainly deserving, I think this is one of the best leagues in the country and we went through it undefeated.”
After what happened to the Horned Frogs in 2014, dropping three spots in the final CFP rankings despite blowing out Iowa State in their final game, you can understand the sense of dread permeating around Fort Worth.
“TCU’s been through this, lost a close game to Baylor and didn’t have a conference championship game,” Dykes said. “I really do believe that this is a different time in college football. I believe the Big 12 is in a different place. I’m concerned obviously, but I’ve got faith in the committee. I know we deserve to be in.”
Let’s break down why Dykes is right about TCU deserving to be in, step by step:
First, with the loss of No. 4 USC in the Pac-12 championship game, the Trojans playoff spot has gone to No. 5 Ohio State. The Buckeyes would’ve had a compelling case against TCU with wins over Notre Dame and top-10 Penn State.
The comparison, if there is one, will come down to No. 6 Alabama. Judging the resumes of the two, it’s pretty clear why TCU should be in the field.
The Horned Frogs have more wins and one fewer loss. The loss TCU does have came against a team it already beat by 10 points.
Kansas State will also move up a few spots in the final CFP Top 25 which actually only enhances TCU’s resume.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s best wins are over No. 20 Texas and No. 24 Mississippi State. As we all know, TCU also beat Texas and they did in more impressive fashion.
The Crimson Tide needed Quinn Ewers to exit the game early with an injury and a late field goal to beat Texas and hobbled back up quarterback Hudson Card.
The Horned Frogs held Texas under 200 yards and shut Texas out in the first half. Both games were in Austin, both games were in front of more than 100,000 fans. TCU did to Texas, what we expected Alabama to do and that has to matter.
The decision between a TCU team that finished at the top of the Big 12 standings vs. an Alabama team that didn’t win its own division shouldn’t be hard.
“I don’t think we should be punished for coming to the Big 12 championship game,” Dykes said. “I don’t think that’s the way this stuff is designed, I don’t think the conference championships are designed to punish teams and prevent them from getting to the playoffs. We were No. 3 last week, my hope is we’ll stay No. 3.”
The only reason this is a conversation is because the committee opted to place Alabama one spot ahead of No. 7 Tennessee. Yes, the same Volunteers team that beat Alabama head to head.
Tennessee got beaten soundly by South Carolina and lost quarterback Hendon Hooker as a result, but shouldn’t head-to-head be the main criteria when teams have the same exact records?
Apparently not and now Alabama is in a position to sneak into the playoff simply because it’s the University of Alabama and nothing more. The Crimson Tide deserve to be in the playoff as much as a two-loss Penn State or Washington does.
The argument for the Crimson Tide is that they lost by a mere four points to Tennessee and LSU on the road and that’s why they deserve to get in. Though that reasoning ignores that LSU lost a bad Texas A&M team and was smoked by the Vols at their home stadium.
It’s frustrating to think about, because there’s no other brand or program that would get the benefit of the doubt. TCU opened the door to this possibility and that can’t be ignored.
In overtime, with two chances at the one-yard line, Dykes opted to go with Kendre Miller instead of keeping it in the hands of Max Duggan, who willed TCU for the game-tying score and set up the potential touchdown.
“Kendre’s got in for us all year. He’s been really, really good in converting those those short-yardage situations,” Dykes said. “We have a lot of confidence in him. Obviously if we had to do it over again, we’d do it differently.”
Kudos to Dykes for being honest in the situation, most coaches probably wouldn’t be.
If the decision ends up keeping the Horned Frogs out of the playoff then it will haunt Dykes and Fort Worth even worse than 2014. But Dykes remained optimistic after the loss.
“We were literally an inch away from winning the game, or having a chance to and being 13-0,” Dykes said. “My hope is they see the same way I saw it. The resume is good enough and we deserve to be apart of it.”
Things would’ve been much easier, much simpler had TCU gotten that inch or maybe a review call on Miller’s third-and-goal run that looked he got into the endzone.
Now all the Horned Frogs have is hope that common sense and facts play out in the final discussions with the committee.