No one at TCU likely was surprised Tuesday night that Alabama, like a late-to-market freight train, roared past the Horned Frogs in the latest vote by the College Football Playoff committee.
After all, the Crimson Tide knocked off Mississippi State, previously ranked No. 1, whereas the Frogs found themselves pushed to the wire by lightly regarded Kansas.
“I told my guys earlier that it probably wouldn’t have mattered even if we had won 55-10,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said after the rankings were announced.
He knew that the Alabama win would have a thundering effect on the top five spots. But the mild surprise — no doubt warmly acknowledged by the Horned Frogs — was that the committee could have dinged TCU for only winning 34-30 but decided not to.
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The Frogs fell only from fourth to fifth. And maybe more significantly, Ohio State climbed from the No. 8 position and passed Baylor into sixth.
Once again, in other words, we’ve been reminded that real people, with real eyeballs, are determining the poll positions, not coaches or computers.
There are no hidebound protocols, as The Associated Press voters in recent years have stooped to follow — i.e., nobody moves up unless somebody ahead of you loses.
And there are no apparent political pressures, like the ones that eternally guide the coaches’ votes.
As soon as the playoff committee’s vote is announced each week, in fact, there is chairman Jeff Long, explaining the voters’ reasoning on ESPN.
“We feel like Alabama might be the most complete team right now — offense, defense and the kicking game,” Long told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “We put all those things together, and we felt like Alabama is No. 1 for now.”
For now, he said.
Long left the impression that even if every one of the top seven teams wins the rest of its games, there is no guarantee that places wouldn’t be swapped by the time the final poll is released Dec. 7.
Patterson was working in his office Tuesday night and didn’t even watch the announcement of the latest poll.
“My reaction is the same as it was to being ranked fourth,” he said. “We’ve got to finish the journey. We’ve got to win out. Until then, I’m not worried about it.
“If I don’t beat Texas, it’s not going to make a difference, anyway.”
For the Baylor Bears, meanwhile, the weekend without football came with a price. The idle Bears remained in seventh place, but were passed by Ohio State.
Baylor was one of the teams that needed TCU to fall more than one place.
Looking at it another way, TCU probably only needs one team ranked ahead of it to stumble, provided the Frogs finish with victories over Texas and Iowa State.
Baylor probably needs three teams to lose.
Stranger things have happened, of course. In 2007, Missouri and West Virginia began the final Saturday ranked first and second, respectively. Both lost, including the Mountaineers, 28-point favorites over Pitt.
Ohio State and twice-beaten LSU vaulted into the top two spots and played in the BCS title game.
Even Patterson, who says his only thoughts are on Thanksgiving night in Austin, agrees that anything can happen.
Alabama and Mississippi State have to face in-state rivals. One of them will likely then have to beat a tough Georgia team in the Southeastern Conference title game. Oregon is expected to have its own title game test in the Pac-12 against Arizona State.
The No. 4 berth in the playoff looms as the one that’s up for grabs.
At least real people, with real eyeballs, will be watching.