Put down those sharp objects, TCU football fans.
Your team’s impending drop in Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings does not have to be dream-altering.
And hang in there, Baylor fans. Your time is coming, although it would be hard to imagine a bigger “winner” Saturday among teams that did not take the field than the seventh-ranked Bears.
This much is certain: No. 4 TCU, coming off Saturday’s 34-30 escape from outmanned Kansas, should prepare to fall to the No. 5 spot in Tuesday’s updated CFP rankings. That would match Sunday’s position in both the Associated Press and coaches polls.
Once there, the Horned Frogs (9-1) can expect to find Baylor (8-1) breathing directly down their necks. The Bears should get a boost because No. 6 Arizona State ignored the golden role of playoff candidates making road trips in November:
Just win, baby.
TCU did that against Kansas (3-7), albeit without style points. But that’s more than the Sun Devils can say after blowing a double-digit halftime lead in Saturday night’s 35-27 loss to Oregon State.
The unranked Beavers (5-5) eliminated any remaining playoff hopes for Arizona State (8-2), where fans would give anything today to be gnashing their teeth about an “ugly” November win … like their TCU counterparts have been doing since Saturday.
At this stage, pressure mounts on teams in the playoff mix. Games become harder to win, even against unranked opponents. For proof, check Saturday’s results for TCU, Arizona State, No. 2 Florida State (30-26 comeback over Miami) and No. 14 Arizona, which needed a field goal as time expired to outlast Washington 27-26.
No. 18 Notre Dame even managed to lose a home game 43-40 to a team with a losing record: Northwestern (4-6). In all, 10 of the Top 25 teams in the CFP rankings lost Saturday. That underscores the challenge of surviving college football’s separation process in its final stages.
Without question, each November stumble will cost a playoff wannabe some respect with the CFP folks. But it beats a November loss, which eliminates all postseason opportunities for one-loss teams. TCU will learn Tuesday how much respect it lost in Kansas … if any. That’s right: if any.
Because of circumstances, there is a good chance TCU, even with a lopsided victory over Kansas, would have backtracked this week in relation to No. 5 Alabama when members of the CFP selection committee convene Monday and Tuesday in Grapevine.
While the Frogs struggled with Kansas, Alabama took down top-ranked Mississippi State 25-20. The value of the Crimson Tide’s victory probably would have trumped a 40-point rout by the Horned Frogs because CFP committee chairman Jeff Long identified MSU as the “clear choice” as the nation’s top team while unveiling last week’s rankings.
Rest assured, any team that takes down the CFP’s “clear choice” at No. 1 is going to move up in the next round of committee deliberations. Because Mississippi State fell by only five points, do not expect the Bulldogs to tumble out of the projected four-team playoff bracket.
That means TCU likely would have dropped this week, win or lose in Kansas, because Alabama collected a signature victory and MSU did not embarrass itself. The bigger question, at this point, is whether TCU falls only one spot in the wake of its lackluster performance.
Baylor fans would lobby for more, citing the Bears’ 61-58 victory in the schools’ Oct. 11 meeting in Waco. It probably won’t happen Tuesday.
But realize that the longer the Bears remain within shoulder-rubbing distance of the Frogs in the CFP rankings, the greater the value of Baylor’s head-to-head victory as a tiebreaker in the minds of committee members. Do not be surprised if that card is played by Dec. 7 when the four-team bracket is finalized.
Also, realize Saturday’s results mean these truths apply heading into Tuesday’s updated CFP rankings:
• Both TCU and Baylor benefit from the playoff demise of Arizona State because the Sun Devils’ schedule offered lots of potential to sway CFP voters with late-season, high-profile victories.
• Both TCU and Baylor should remain ahead of No. 8 Ohio State after the Buckeyes’ sloppy 31-24 victory over No. 25 Minnesota in a battle of Big Ten contenders.
• Both TCU and Baylor need a loss from one of these four teams to feel confident about their playoff hopes: Mississippi State, Florida State, Oregon or Alabama.
• Both TCU and Baylor need Oklahoma (7-3) to rejoin the CFP rankings, providing both teams an additional Top 25 triumph for committee members to count during crunch time.
• The significance of TCU’s 30-7 victory over Minnesota, cited by CFP officials as a signature nonconference triumph, is in the process of being discounted. The Gophers (7-3), who have remaining road games against No. 16 Nebraska and No. 20 Wisconsin, easily could finish 7-5.
408 Rushing yards by Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon in Saturday’s 59-24 rout of Nebraska, breaking the FBS single-game mark held since 1999 by TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson (406). After the game, Tomlinson posted this message on his Twitter account, @LT_21: “That kid @Melvingordon25 bad!! Congrats on breaking the NCAA single game rushing record. #respect”
CFP bracket chaos: For a second consecutive week, fans should expect a significant shakeup in Tuesday’s CFP rankings. Ten of the 25 ranked teams fell Saturday, including No. 1 Mississippi State (9-1), No. 6 Arizona State (8-2) and No. 9 Auburn (7-3).
Military academy in Armed Forces Bowl: Army lost Saturday to Western Kentucky 52-24, meaning the Black Knights (3-7) cannot win enough games to become bowl eligible. That opens the spot reserved for Army in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Jan. 2 in Fort Worth. Under bowl contracts, the Big 12 gets the first shot at providing a replacement team this season.
Key games this week
No. 11 UCLA vs. Southern California: The winner is well-positioned to emerge from a four-team tie atop the Pac-12 South Division and face No. 2 Oregon in the Dec. 5 league title game.
No. 13 Kansas State at West Virginia: A Thursday victory would keep the Wildcats (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) tied in the loss column with No. 4 TCU (9-1, 6-1) and No. 7 Baylor (8-1, 5-1) in the league standings.
No. 14 Arizona at No. 23 Utah: Another matchup among frontrunners that will add clarity in a crowded Pac-12 South Division race.
Here’s a projected playoff bracket, based on games played thus far and Tuesday’s anticipated rankings (including playoff seeds):
Semifinal: Oregon (No. 1) vs. Mississippi State (No. 4)
Semifinal: Florida State (No. 2) vs. Alabama (No. 3)