In his weekly, post-poll media conference Tuesday night, chairman Jeff Long was asked to enlighten America on what exactly has made the College Football Playoff committee so fond of TCU.
“I can’t say it’s one thing,” Long said, unapologetically.
In the season-long tug-of-war between the Horned Frogs and the Baylor Bears, the committee has considered many things, the chairman said.
Stats. Schedules. Scores. Sweat glands exerted.
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But the most meaningful explanation came when Long reminded that 12 human beings — not 12 computers, not 12 sports writers and not 12 current college football coaches — weigh the merits of the contending teams.
“Certainly our coaches and others in the room look at the way the game is played,” Long said. “They evaluate the games, evaluate the competition. That’s what this committee, a human committee, does.”
There’s no app for this, in other words. There’s not some computer geek in his Indiana basement crunching code to spit out the top four.
It’s a beauty contest, of sorts, not a spelling bee. And clearly, it should be obvious now, even in Waco, that the committee likes what coach Gary Patterson and his TCU Horned Frogs are doing.
In one, somewhat stunning leap, the Frogs landed in the poll’s No. 3 spot Tuesday, vaulting over even undefeated, defending national champion Florida State.
“The committee is increasingly impressed by TCU’s résumé, including last week’s win at Texas,” Long said.
With one game to go, TCU’s playoff fate appears to rest in its own hands. As long as the Frogs win comfortably at home Saturday over Iowa State, it seems unlikely that TCU would fall two places in Sunday’s final poll.
If the final four remain the same, TCU will face the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Old grads have to be fainting. What are the odds that TCU, orphaned by the Big 12 two decades ago, might soon be playing in its second Rose Bowl?
The final vote, granted, doesn’t come until Sunday morning, after Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State all play conference championship games.
Baylor’s anguished cries about beating the Frogs in October have made little headway with the human committee. The Bears “head-to-head” argument now probably has to hope that at least two teams lose this weekend.
TCU, in the meantime, is “still improving,” Long said. While Baylor was nearly pushed into overtime by Texas Tech — a team that TCU beat 82-27 — the Frogs traveled to Austin and easily decisioned Texas 48-10.
If the Bears were going to gain any ground on TCU, there were two chances — when the Frogs struggled on the road at Kansas and again when TCU had the weekend off before Thanksgiving.
But the Frogs dropped only one place after the Kansas game, and they remained fifth after the bye week.
Clearly, the 12-member committee likes what it’s seen of Patterson’s team.
Again, it’s a beauty contest, not a spelling bee. And that’s not a bad thing at all. Committees have been selecting the fields and seeding teams for the NCAA basketball and baseball tournaments for years.
The increased scrutiny this time comes because only four teams will win the final CFP vote.
The best team, maybe even the champion, of one of the so-called Power Five conferences will not make the first playoff field.
The Bears may not be the only ones howling Sunday.