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Texas A&M Football

Around CFB: Frogs' path to playoff likely requires an undefeated finish

October 25, 2022

TCU is one of just six teams to remain unbeaten in FBS college football.

Can TCU be one of four teams to reach the playoff?

The Horned Frogs legitimately can, but history shows that would require they finish undefeated.

Recall 2014 when TCU went into the final weekend of the regular season ranked third in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Horned Frogs then demolished Iowa State, 55-3.

But a week later, when the CFP committee announced the four-team field, TCU slipped to No. 6. Ohio State was elevated to No. 4 to join No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State in the playoff field.

The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship. Still, there were thoughts that TCU had gotten jobbed only because Ohio State was and is a bigger national brand.

That’s all water under the bridge now, but TCU has to finish undefeated or risk getting hosed again.

A one-loss TCU would unlikely get into the playoff ahead of a one-loss Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, USC, UCLA or Oregon.

Those teams all have good chances to finish with one loss or less. All are bigger brand names than TCU.

“I think we have been playing with a lot of confidence. I think our guys enjoy playing, and there is no sense of panic, which gives you a chance when you always believe that you can figure out a way to win.”
- TCU head coach Sonny Dykes

Fortunately for TCU, at least two of the other five remaining unbeaten teams are guaranteed a loss. Georgia and Tennessee play next weekend. Ohio State and Michigan play in late November.

So, if TCU wins out, the Frogs would be one of only four teams — at best — to finish unbeaten. That should clinch a spot in the playoff field.

Fortunately for the Horned Frogs, the prospects of an unbeaten season also seem legitimate.

They’ve already beaten Oklahoma State and Kansas State, who are tied for second in the Big 12 standings.

TCU’s remaining Big 12 schedule appears manageable. The greatest remaining challenge would seem to be a Nov. 12 trip to Texas, which last week fell to Oklahoma State.

TCU would also have to win a probable rematch with either Oklahoma State or Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Horned Frogs aren’t looking that far ahead, though. They’re focused on a trip to West Virginia on Saturday.

First-year coach Sonny Dykes is well aware the Horned Frogs have lost five of their last six games against the Mountaineers. Three of those losses have come in Morgantown.

“I know West Virginia has been a really unfriendly place to win football games,” Dykes said after the win over Kansas State. “We are just going to have to do what we've done; just to continue to have a great week of practice and just focus on going to try and win a game.

“I think we have been playing with a lot of confidence. I think our guys enjoy playing, and there is no sense of panic, which gives you a chance when you always believe that you can figure out a way to win. More often than not, you are going to.”

The Horned Frogs certainly need to keep finding ways to win.

With one loss, they will likely find themselves out of the playoff picture.

Heisman watch (If my ballot was due today)

Saul Young/USA Today Network
A Volunteer has finished as a Heisman runner-up four times but never won the award. Hooker is likely to be the first UT finalist since Peyton Manning in 1997.

1. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee, QB: Tennessee has never produced a Heisman winner. Hooker is very much looking like he could and will be the Vols’ first. Last week, Hooker passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns in an easy win over Tennessee-Martin. He’s fifth in the nation in total offense with 2,408 yards. He has passed for 2,093 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has thrown just one interception. Hooker has also run for 315 yards and three touchdowns.

2. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, QB: Stroud was instrumental in yet another Buckeyes blowout. He passed for 286 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-10 thumping of Iowa. It was the fifth game in which Stroud threw at least four touchdown passes. Overall, he has passed for 2,023 yards and 28 touchdowns. He has thrown four interceptions.

3. Drake Maye, North Carolina, QB: The redshirt freshman had an off week. Last week, he passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 70 yards in a 38-35 victory over Duke. He leads the nation in total offense with 2,661 yards. Maye has passed for 2,283 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has thrown just three interceptions. He has also rushed for 378 yards and three touchdowns.

4. Bryce Young, Alabama, QB: Young was more efficient than spectacular in a 30-6 victory over Mississippi State. He passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, he has passed for 1,906 yards and 18 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He has also rushed for 137 yards and tree touchdowns.

5. Max Duggan, TCU, QB: Again, Duggan starred in a key TCU victory. He passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns as the Horned Frogs defeated Kansas State 38-28. He has now passed for 1,871 yards and 19 touchdowns with only one interception. Duggan has also rushed for 274 yards and four touchdowns.

Predicted playoff participants

1. Georgia: The Bulldogs have only been threatened once. They probably won’t be challenged by Florida this week, either.

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are ranked among the nation’s top five in scoring offense and scoring defense. They also get Michigan at home.

Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
Dykes is in his first season at TCU after stops at Louisiana Tech, Cal and SMU.

3. Clemson: The unbeaten Tigers have a favorable remaining schedule. Their last four opponents — Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami and South Carolina — are a combined 16-12. They travel to Notre Dame, but the other three are at Death Valley.

4. TCU: The Horned Frogs were once snubbed with one loss. It’s doubtful they will be snubbed if they’re undefeated. They have a great chance to finish unbeaten. TCU already has victories over Oklahoma State and Kansas State, who are tied for second in the Big 12 race.

Games to watch

No. 2 Ohio State at No. 13 Penn State: The Nits are Ohio State’s only real challenge until the Nov. 26 collision with Michigan.

No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Kansas State: Cowboys and Wildcats are tied for second in the Big 12 race. A rematch with TCU in the conference title game is likely at stake.

No. 19 Kentucky at No. 3 Tennessee: Kentucky is not bad, but the Wildcats shouldn’t be able to beat Tennessee. That is unless the Volunteers are caught looking ahead to a huge clash with Georgia next week.

No. 17 Illinois at Nebraska: Who had Illinois getting this far with only one loss? Liar. Even more bizarre is Nebraska is still in the Big Ten West divisional race.

No. 7 TCU at West Virginia: The Horned Frogs are surging after consecutive victories over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. They must be careful not to ease up on a road trip to Morgantown.

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Around CFB: Frogs' path to playoff likely requires an undefeated finish

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