With the season just over a week away from starting, coaches, players, administrators, boosters and fans all have dreams of making the College Football Playoff. For the Big 12, I believe you can make an argument for six teams having that magical season that ends up in either to Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl this year. Over the next several days, in no particular order, I will make that case for each of those six teams, which are, alphabetically:
Kansas State Wildcats
Oklahoma State Cowboys
TCU Horned Frogs
West Virginia Mountaineers
Let’s get things started with the TCU Horned Frogs.
The Horned Frogs have to get revenge for their double-overtime last season and beat Arkansas this fall. Unfortunately, this time they have to do it in Fayetteville. TCU can, and should, absolutely win this game, but if they don’t they can likely say goodbye to their College Football Playoff hopes. Arkansas is not expected to compete anywhere near the top of the SEC West. In fact, many believe Brett Bielema is on the hot seat. This will be a great early season test to see where exactly the 2017 Horned Frogs are in comparison to the 2016 version that was inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Kenny Hill gets to face a competent, SEC secondary, but it’s the running game that should have a field day against a run defense that allowed a school-record 39 rushing touchdowns last season. Also, the offense gets a test from a quality quarterback in Austin Allen. But if the Horned Frogs don’t beat Arkansas in September, they’re likely in for another mediocre campaign.
Hot start to Big 12 conference play
TCU has one of the toughest starts to conference play of any team in the Big 12. They play at Oklahoma State, home against West Virginia, and then on the road against Kansas State. All three of those teams are on our list with aspirations of winning the Big 12 conference and two of them are on the road. That’s as tough an opening stretch as it gets. If the Horned Frogs are not clicking early, then any hopes of even sniffing the College Football Playoff will be a distant memory by early October. TCU does not have time to try and gel if its serious about having that special kind of season.
Red River Rivalry
What do I mean by this? Of course the Horned Frogs aren’t a part of the legendary match up held at the Cotton Bowl each fall. But TCU plays Texas (at home) and Oklahoma (road) in back-to-back weeks in early November. The Horned Frogs’ schedule eases up after it’s brutal three-game stretch to open Big 12 play with games against Kansas and Iowa State. But they can’t let themselves get into a lull because Texas and Oklahoma in two-straight games will be brutal. Either or both teams could also find themselves in contention for the Big 12 championship game, so expect a very difficult back-to-back stretch.
No rest for the weary
The Horned Frogs’ bye week comes much earlier than any coach would like: September 30th. After that TCU plays eight-straight Big 12 games, with the last one, Baylor, coming on a short week. Tough. Heck, if they make the Big 12 championship game, that would be nine games in nine weeks, including a short week mixed in. This is far from how a coach wants his season to play out on paper.
Win the Big 12 Championship Game
TCU learned this the hard way in Year 1 of the College Football Playoff. If you’re not a blue blood, your margin for error is smaller than say, Ohio State, Alabama, etc. The Horned Frogs can make the Big 12 championship game, but regardless of whether or not they have zero losses or one loss, they can’t lose the game. TCU cannot give the College Football Playoff committee a reason to leave them out of the four-team event. If they give them a reason to, the committee will gladly take it. TCU is a great program and fantastic university, but the committee looks at dollars, cents and eyeballs. They’re human. This plays a factor, whether they admit it or not. The Horned Frogs would need to go into Jerry’s World and beat whoever they are playing for the Big 12 title to have a legitimate chance of hearing their name be selected on Sunday, December 3rd.
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